The World Council of Credit Union’s 2011 World Credit Union Conference got off to a colorful start as more than 1,700 delegates from 62 countries came together in Glasgow, Scotland.
Flags of those 62 nations, including first-time appearances by Afghanistan and Haiti, unfurled in parade on Sunday to help open the conference, co-hosted by the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd. at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre.
In his welcoming remarks WOCCU Chair Barry Jolette, president/CEO of Redwood City, Calif.-based San Mateo Credit Union, shared with attendees that the “World Council is a remarkable organization that does incredible things to change people's lives. You all are a part of that effort in helping your own members."
Jolette, who ends his two-year term as chair, is one of two WOCCU leaders stepping down at this year's conference. Credit union industry veteran Pete Crear, who has led WOCCU as its president/CEO since 2005, is retiring following the event.
On Monday, Crear discussed WOCCU’s overall success with a focus on the growth seen in the past decade where credit unions have been built in such troubled areas of the world as Africa, South America and Afghanistan.
He added that credit unions have helped the peace process by bringing rival factions to the negotiating table to discuss financial service needs supported by WOCCU and credit union volunteers around the globe.
Looking ahead to WOCCU’s future, Crear introduced his successor, Brian Branch, current WOCCU executive vice president/COO, during the general session.
Branch outlined his growth strategy, citing mobile technology as the future for rural efforts bringing credit unions to members rather than the traditional brick and mortar model. He added that credit unions must share services to mitigate the increasing cost of operations.
Focusing on the future was a theme reinforced by keynote speaker, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who focused on the morality of managing money and the need for principled standards for financial services.
“Co-operatives are always created out of need. Part of the world economy’s need right now is a better ethic for doing business, and co-operatives are a natural place to provide that. The UK’s co-operative movement founded Fair Trade in the 1990s on that basis, and has flourished as a result," Brown said.
"Credit unions have an ethical competitive edge in that they provide affordable credit, and strengthen their community and increases that community’s resilience to economic shocks,” he said.