Another successful World Credit Union Conference (WOCCU) has come to a close. What a fantastic experience, interacting with attendees from 61 countries around the world. Alison and I learned a lot and have a lot to share. Our biggest takeaway: the importance of diversity, development, and dedication.
In the United States, diversity is an increasingly significant focus for credit unions and a common theme in most of the strategic planning sessions we facilitate. The diversity present when global credit union leaders gather is breathtaking to behold. Passion for members and communities is high, and the ideas generated and shared are broad and relevant across very diverse geographic landscapes. This diversity made conversations richer and more meaningful.
At the conference, there were several sessions focused specifically on the importance of diversity. We were fortunate to hear from our credit union friend Tonita Webb, EVP of Seattle Credit Union, as she shared her credit union’s experience and key lessons on creating an institution-wide focus on diversity, inclusion and equality, including how the credit union was able to recruit a diverse (age, gender, ethnicity) group of board members to fill retiring positions, and how leadership’s example has set the tone throughout their organization. Tonita’s main point: “a credit union cannot have inclusion without diversity.” This message is not only timely but critically needed in our country’s credit union system.
We also had the opportunity to spend valuable time with Kathy Chartier, CEO of Members Credit Union. Kathy’s credit union is a best practice for how even small credit unions can set the bar high for diversity and inclusion. Her small-but-mighty team hails from six different countries and speaks two languages. Kathy’s secret? A compelling purpose centered on financial inclusion. That message has attracted greater diversity at the board, leadership, and staff levels. The result for both credit unions? Growth, relevance, and impact.
The World Credit Union Conference provides for an abundance of development and growth opportunities – development at a personal level and development for our credit unions. During the conference, Alison played a key role as part of the World Young Credit Union Professional (WYCUP) program (Alison was a 2006 WYCUP winner), and also participated in the Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN). Collectively, these two programs have created significant opportunities for women and young leaders across the globe to develop and advance.
Energy, enthusiasm, and engagement are just three words to sum up the amazing group of young leaders attending this year’s WYCUP program. The purpose is simple: transform the future of the credit union industry and establish life-long global credit union champions through strengthening purpose and mission-driven leadership, exemplifying diversity and inclusion, and amplifying the voice of the next generation. With 19 years of successful engagement, this program has changed the lives of 700 individuals from 43 countries. If you consider the ripple effect, the number is in the tens of thousands. Sixty-three percent of participants have received a promotion during the past five years, and 27 percent have advanced to a C-level position or Board of Directors role. This program is truly changing lives. And when we talk about the future of credit unions, there is no doubt in our minds that credit unions are in great hands.
We were honored to collaborate with WOCCU in the development of the World Small Credit Union Forum, focused on how credit unions can collaborate and cooperate to serve their members and communities better. More than 200 credit union leaders from around the globe participated in this best-practices panel, learning from their peers how to work together and achieve more. Examples of cooperation included small credit unions from Dominica that banded together to share resources. Talk about market share. Aylmer Irish, CEO of National Co-Operative Credit Union in Dominica, shared that his membership total is now 47,000 in a country with a population of only 74,000!
CEOs from Ironworkers USA and Providence FCU shared how they collaborate on issues ranging from staff and board training to mortgage origination. Teri Robinson, Ironworker’s CEO, shared how collaboration supported a five-year annual average ROA of more than 2 percent! And Shirley Cate, Providence FCU’s CEO, shared how it’s been able to grow, expand geographically, and even form CU APPS, a Fintech CUSO! (Friends, innovation isn’t only found at large credit unions.) For me, this session reminded me that credit union challenges and opportunities are very similar, regardless of location.
We kicked off our WOCCU experience with a full day at the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions Development Educators Jamboree. If we could bottle up the spirit and energy from Caribbean credit union leaders and sell it to leaders when they need a pick me up – wow! The pure joy for what they do and their manner of collaboration is infectious. Seriously, if the credit union day-to-day doldrums have got you down, talk to any credit union leader in the Caribbean and your spirits will be lifted. Truly, these leaders know “why” they exist, and it drives all their focus.
The cooperative spirit we experienced reinforced our belief that the credit union collective is a movement and not an industry. Seriously, at the World Credit Union Conference, people hold their heads a little higher and walk more proudly. This does not represent foolish pride, but happiness for doing something that really matters and making the lives and the communities they serve a better place to live.
Why it matters
On Sunday night, July 28, 2019, more than 2,100 credit union leaders from 61 countries gathered together under one roof to kick off three days of learning, sharing, networking, and community. Unlike other global movements or groups, this group was gathered with one focus: people helping people, and the credit union international operating principles. I hope American credit union leaders will remember that the world doesn’t revolve around them, but that they are part of a worldwide movement that continues to develop people, families, and communities. If there’s one thing this world needs today, it’s a not-for-profit movement committed to people helping people.
To Brian Branch, Paul Treinen, Mike Reuter, Melvin Edwards, and the WYCUP and GLWN organizers and volunteers, thank you for an amazing experience! And if you’ve never been to the World Credit Union Conference, make sure to mark July 19-22, 2020 on your calendar. See you next year in Los Angeles!