MADISON, Wis. – As CUNA Mutual celebrates 40 years of serving credit unions internationally, it says it is on the cusp of some exciting new ventures in two countries. Currently CUNA Mutual's International Division operates in 20 countries with offices in Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Puerto Rico and a rep in the Dominican Republic. Despite its reach, the division's revenue isn't exactly earth shattering. Lon Sprecher, CUNA Mutual's Senior Vice President for International Divisions, said it brings in about $100 million in revenue each year, with profits of about $7 million. However, revenue has been growing from 16 to 22% over the last two years, and there may be two very bright spots on the horizon. Sprecher said the company is hoping to make inroads into China and South Korea. It already has an office each in Beijing and Seoul. "We're looking to set up a joint venture with the Korean League for product development opportunities," said Sprecher, including getting 50% reinsurance to CUNA Mutual. "We're in the contract drafting stage now. It looks to be a very viable market and an underserved market in terms of credit life and disability. We're looking at eight million members," he said, noting that the company is hoping for a Jan. 1 kickoff. He said it could bring in somewhere from $20 to $25 million in revenue a year. The China picture is not as clear, but could be a major source of new business. "China is an opportunity, but not one without its potential pitfalls. We are working with the People's Bank of China," said Sprecher, which he noted is the equivalent of this country's Federal Reserve Bank. He said CUNA Mutual is hoping to serve four eastern provinces that contain rural cooperatives structured like U.S. credit unions. Together they represent approximately $32 billion in assets. "It's a little premature about exactly what's going to happen in China. We're setting up a joint-venture company. The market is huge (15 million members)," he said. CUNA Mutual's International Division is comprised of what Sprecher describes as "a very hardworking core staff of 18 people" in Madison. There are about 375 international reps, with 200 in Canada. Canada is CUNA Mutual's largest foreign market, followed by Australia and the Caribbean region. CUNA Mutual recently made a big move in Australia. Effective July 1 it will become the sole owner of what are current jointly-owned insurance services subsidiaries with the Credit Union Service Corporation of Australia (CUSCAL). In many countries CUNA Mutual is simply repackaging products it sells in the U.S., namely credit life and disability. However it also offers products unique to the International Division, such as a family protection plan that covers funeral expenses for six members. It offers that everywhere except Australia. "It's a very successful product in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico," said Sprecher. Some people also think it would be successful in this country amongst the Latino market in the Southern U.S., said Sprecher. Another unique product is a life savings instrument, known as the Golden Harvest Plan. It allows members to save over many years for pre-determined goals such as a child's education or retirement. He compared it to the 529 plan in the U.S. CUNA Mutual oversees the division in Madison, but has outside legal counsel in most of the countries, and in-house legal counsel in its bigger market countries like Canada and Australia. "We like to run a very lean operation in the U.S. We've pushed a lot of the operations, finance, sales and marketing to the local country managers and reduced the size of the Madison staff," said Sprecher. Sprecher noted that typically the people it hires in the various countries are native to that country. "There are cultural differences. It makes a lot more sense to have someone from that country." CUNA Mutual has events planned throughout the year to recognize the 40th anniversary. During its annual Marketing and Leadership Development Conference (Aug.19-23) it hosted reps from Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and Great Britain. Food from these countries was on the menu at the Credit Union Center campus. Ironically, Sprecher said two of the division's reps that cooked during the event had last names of Cheese and Bacon. "When they were making the uniforms, the embroider called back," to check the names. Andr Goindoo the finance manager for CUNA Mutual Group/CUNA Caribbean traded his office in Trinidad & Tobago for a week in Madison. He offers some perspective on the melting pot in the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago. "My parents represent East Indian and African cultures. You can meet someone who looks like you and has a Chinese or British cousin. Go to the local pub and any afternoon you could meet someone from Germany or Lebanon," said Goindoo. For his part in the festitivies, Goindoo shared the recipe of chicken with curried chamba which was served at the Credit Union Center. "There is no curry elsewhere that can match the curry we have in Trinidad & Tobago," he said. Also part of the celebration was the World Council of Credit Unions presenting the Credit Union Ambassador Award to the division in recognition of its work serving credit unions worldwide. [email protected]

Continue Reading for Free

Register and gain access to:

  • Breaking credit union news and analysis, on-site and via our newsletters and custom alerts.
  • Weekly Shared Accounts podcast featuring exclusive interviews with industry leaders.
  • Educational webcasts, white papers, and ebooks from industry thought leaders.
  • Critical coverage of the commercial real estate and financial advisory markets on our other ALM sites, and

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.