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  • Writer's pictureW.B. King

World Credit Union Conference Takeaways Include NorthPark Community CU's Digital Growth Award

By W.B. King

Finding its home in Glasgow, Scotland this July, the Annual General Meeting at the World Credit Union Conference (WCUC) brought together approximately 1,600 people and 30 vendors from 51 countries.

Attendees at the opening day of the World Credit Union Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo credit: Alan Peebles.

“One of the goals of the WCUC is to hold it in a different area of the world each year, so we can focus on the great work being done by our member credit union associations in different regions, but also so that more credit union professionals can participate,” World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) Director of Communications Greg Neumann told Finopotamus, adding that the three-day event was also held in Glasgow in 2011.

“It can be difficult for someone from Asia to get to a WCUC in Latin America and vice versa. But by moving the conference to different locations each year, we allow for more global participation,” he continued. “For Scotland specifically, the Association of British Credit Unions Limited (ABCUL) is one of our strongest direct member organizations and we look forward to partnering with them whenever we can.”

Greg Neumann

In effort to return to normalcy, the conference was an in-person event only, Neumann noted.

“We wanted to encourage face-to-face participation, after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of our 2020 WCUC planned for Los Angeles and forced us to move WCUC online in 2021,” he said, adding that this was the third conference he has attended.

“I think the thing that stood out most to me [this year] is how many new topics of interest there were compared to just three years ago in The Bahamas,” he continued. “Issues like sustainable finance, climate resilience, empathy in business show how much value the World Credit Union Conference provides in helping industry professionals learn about emerging opportunities and challenges so they can stay ahead of the curve.”

NorthPark Community Credit Union and Sicredi Earn Top Tech Awards

For the second straight year, the WCUC presented a Digital Growth Award. The $45 million Indianapolis-based NorthPark Community Credit Union took top honors for its virtual branching initiative.

“We cannot underserve the underserved and we have to meet them where they are,” NorthPark Community CU President and CEO Carma Parrish noted. “And I have so much respect for meeting people where they are, not where we are.”

In June 2022, Parrish spoke with Finopotamus on how this initiative, which began before the pandemic, resulted in the closing of its three branch locations.

“We educated our members on how to do virtual branching, voluntarily getting them to want to do it before being told they had to do it. This was achieved one member at a time,” Parrish explained, adding that the credit union serves roughly 5,000 members who live or work in 19 counties located in central Indiana.

WOCCU President and CEO Elissa McCarter LaBorde (left) and NorthPark Community CU President and CEO Carma Parrish (holding the Digital Growth Award).

The results have been encouraging. “We saved more than $200,000 in operating expenses from March 2020 to November 2021 and softened the potential blow of announcing we were staying virtual by giving a $65,000 profit-sharing dividend back to our members,” she said.

With regard to new direct loan volume, she added: “There was an 80% increase in 2020 over 2019, another 30% year-over-year increase 2021, and another 60% increase year-over-year in 2022. We are on target to double what we booked in 2021.”

Sicredi, the largest credit union system in Brazil, also received a Digital Growth Award for CPR Facil, the organization’s first 100% digital agribusiness product, which allows members to take out loans using a mobile phone.

“CPR Facil is making such a difference to build a better society and also changing our members’ lives. We hope that this case can be spread to other credit unions down the road,” said Estefane Chaves, a rural credit analyst who accepted the award on behalf of Sicredi.

Neumann explained that the Digital Growth Award was created to recognize member credit union associations or individual member credit unions working toward World Council’s Challenge 2025 goal of expanding digital transformation in the global credit union system. The criteria for nomination include a solution that is inclusive, innovative and scalable.

This year the judges were AdVision Partners Managing Partner Diana Cazacu, FinTech Futures Editor-in-Chief Tanya Andreasyan and former Digital Growth Award winner Kaya Payment Platform’s Manager Evangeline Lopez.

Speaking to NorthPark Community Credit Union’s win, Neumann said the judges were “extremely impressed” with how the credit union identified innovative ways to serve more of the “underserved parts of their communities by getting rid of brick-and-mortar branches and focusing solely on an online, virtual branching model.”

He added, “They were equally as impressed with how that idea was implemented and ultimately executed in such a successful fashion.”

WCUC: Looking Ahead

For those U.S.-based credit union executives deciding whether attending a WCUC event would be worthwhile, Neumann said the response from attendees speaks volumes.

“The U.S. credit union professionals who attend the World Credit Union Conference almost all tell us afterwards that they leave with new perspectives and ideas to bring back to their institutions, largely because they meet so many people who are doing so many interesting things at their credit unions in other parts of the world,” he continued. “There are also so many people who say that meeting with credit union professionals from smaller credit unions in developing nations really gives them a renewed sense of purpose in what the cooperative credit union model is all about.”

Looking forward to next year, Neumann said the 2023 WCUC event will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, in partnership with the Canadian Credit Union Association.

“My advice would be to definitely plan on attending, especially if you are based in the U.S. or Canada,” he said. “It is convenient to you and promises to bring a lot of credit union professionals in, specifically from North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.”

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