The Maryland & District of Columbia Credit Union Association recently signed a partnership agreement with a newly formed credit union federation in Colombia to help the organization develop best practices, policies and procedures.
A delegation of Colombian credit union representatives recently traveled to Columbia, Md., to sign the partnership agreement with MDDCCUA through the World Council of Credit Unions' International Partnerships Program.
The Colombian delegates represented the board of directors of the newly established credit union federation, Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito Financieras, one of the World Council’s newest members.
“We look forward to sharing how the league system in the U.S. can be a framework to expand programs and services to FECOLFIN's member credit unions in Colombia," said John Bratsakis, MDDCCUA president/ CEO.
The creation of FECOLFIN is an important milestone for the Colombian credit union movement, according to MDDCUA. Although Columbia has one of the highest rates of cooperative membership, the FECOFIN was established to give a credit union voice for its members before legislators and the government. The new federation will also seek to improve collaboration among credit unions in the country.
"Currently, regulations in the country are either inconsistent or lacking detail, and credit unions do not have a seat at the table during talks about regulatory changes," explained Jaime Chavez, FECOLFIN chairman. "The credit unions in Colombia need to come together with a unified voice to help tell our story and convince the regulators that credit unions need to be treated differently than banks."
The first phase of the partnership will focus on providing advocacy assistance to the Colombian credit union sector through workshops for credit unions and visits with government officials. The partnership will also seek to help FECOLFIN develop an array of educational and other services relevant to its membership.
MDDCCUA hopes to learn from Colombian credit unions about the needs of South American immigrants living in the Maryland and D.C. area, as well as service strategies particular to that population that can be shared with MDDCCUA member credit unions.
The Columbian delegation also visited three member credit unions: $90 million Montgomery County Employees Federal Credit Union and $273 million Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union, both of Germantown, Md., and $195 million PAHO/WHO Federal Credit Union in Washington.
During the credit union visits, delegates focused on learning the characteristics of a U.S. credit union's balance sheet and the regulatory challenges American credit unions face.
The World Council's International Partnerships Program currently facilitates 19 international partnerships throughout Central and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Pacific.