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  • Writer's pictureKelsie Papenhausen

WOCCU International Advocacy Demonstrates Global Financial Inclusion Reach of Credit Unions at GAC


Panel cites examples of success in Colombia, Ukraine and United Kingdom


WASHINGTON, D.C.—World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) International Advocacy showed how credit unions are expanding financial inclusion in innovative ways to reach underserved communities in both developing and established economies during its Tuesday breakout session at America’s Credit Unions’ 2024 Governmental Affairs Conference.

Erin O’Hern, WOCCU’s International Advocacy and Regulatory Counsel, gave examples of how advocacy work can be integral to expanding financial inclusion efforts. She highlighted the work done through the USAID/WOCCU Credit for Agriculture Producers’ (CAP) Project in Ukraine to ensure credit unions there could serve small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through an expanded field of membership.


“To be able to go in and work with their regulators, work with their national government and say – ‘this is what other credit unions are doing in the global system, this is how other regulations work—look at the success that other credit unions have had at serving legal entities, at serving SMEs to be able to reach small farmers trying to get off the ground with needed capital and other financial services. Look at that success that could be done here.’ And I think there was just tremendous work done to make sure that those regulations were adjusted to be able to support financial inclusion throughout the country," said O’Hern, who also shared examples of WOCCU’s previous work to expand financial inclusion to Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Colombia.


But credit unions aren’t only expanding financial inclusion in developing economies.

“The majority of our members would be deemed financially excluded. In the U.K., there’s lots of unemployment, there are barriers to housing and we are right in the heart of community,” said Karen Bennett, CEO of Enterprise Credit Union, based in a borough of Liverpool she portrayed as one of the three most economically deprived in the entire United Kingdom.

Bennett described one program at Enterprise Credit Union that requires every member to save at least £34 (pounds) per week.


“We call it a lifetime savings account. And the whole idea behind it is that it is such a small amount of money that is coming in and being saved, but it’s building up over the years, so in five or ten years they have £1000. And for some of our members, they’ve never had that access before, so, it’s been very popular,” said Bennett.


Andrew Price, WOCCU's Senior V.P. of International Advocacy and General Counsel, said his team’s work in advocating for credit unions in front of the international standard setting bodies has resulted in them issuing guidance to national-level regulators that allows for greater financial inclusion and provides tools credit unions can consult to implement such programs.


“The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), they actually have some really wonderful guidance on financial inclusion, and particularly language in there that says regulation should never get in the way of someone having access to financial services,” said Price. “And I urge you, if you’re doing financial inclusion, to look at that because there are a lot of examples of the ways you can reduce all of the regulatory requirements that you have to do at account opening, a lot of guidance on digital identity that includes proportionality, and ways that you can de-risk populations and be able to serve them by cutting down on the regulatory burden that gets in your way sometimes.”


World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development platform for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.


World Council has implemented 300+ technical assistance programs in 90 countries. Worldwide, 82,758 credit unions in 97 countries serve 404 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.

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