Seven credit union executives from the Cornerstone Credit Union League region have returned from a two-week internship in Brazil. They were among 12 chosen to participate in the World Council of Credit Union’s (WOCCU) International Credit Union Leadership Program. The group interned with Sicredi, one of the most important cooperatives in Brazil. Through WOCCU, the Cornerstone Credit Union League signed a “People to People” partnership with Sicredi in 2010.
Nancy M. Croix-Stroud, CUDE, SCMS, president and CEO First Class American CU, was one of the seven interns and says it was an incredible experience.
“Sicredi is a true example of a financial cooperative who improves each members lives financially, teaches cooperatives to its youth in its school programs,” notes Croix-Stroud. “Sicredi has an incredible program supporting each of its cooperative partners from its agri-business coops, grocery coops, just a few of its cooperative partners.”
Croix-Stroud adds that Sicredi’s philosophy of “People Who Cooperate Grow” is truly the philosophy that guides their business model and how they serve their membership.
“Not only does each employee believe and live their philosophy, but it is also how they serve their membership and guide their members’ financial successes. We have
much to learn from our Brazilian neighbors,” Croix-Stroud continues.
Taylor Richardson, marketing coordinator with Amplify CU, couldn’t agree more.
“We should really take a step back and ask ourselves how we can better cooperate with our fellow credit unions within the same town, city, region, state, etc.,” Richardson says. “Imagine the level of efficiency that could be achieved if marketing, software development, human resources, internal auditing, or even IT were deployed from a centralized location. That means having larger budgets as well as the ability to employ more people that can accomplish more. If local credit unions can achieve that level of cooperation, we may able to put more of a focus on community programs geared toward the youth and underserved populations.”
Tiffany Greenway of TruService Community FCU was equally impressed with the level of cooperation that exists within Sicredi.
“I learned a great deal from Sicredi, but what stood out the most is the emphasis on the cooperative spirit. Sicredi uses the phrase, “A vida e melhor quando e cooperative,” which means ‘Life is better when it is cooperative.’ Sicredi regional offices work with their members in small groups, taking them through a member and financial education course with a graduation ceremony,”
recalls Greenway. “Members learn to take pride in their ownership of Sicredi because they know that they will need Sicredi in the future for additional loans and services that are simply too expensive or unavailable at banks.”
Karl Wasserleban, vice president/branch manager with Tinker FCU, says he was impressed with how Sicredi has made it possible for so many of their members to succeed both professionally and personally.
“We were given the opportunity to visit the more rural parts of the state and Sicredi brought products and services to the community that wouldn’t exist without them. They have a tough environment to operate in with the governing rules they must follow,” observed Wasserleben. “A competitor of theirs is actually the government and yet they still find a way to co-exist with them and make a difference in their membership’s life. They truly are people helping people.”
Terry McCoy with Amplify FCU says it was an amazing experience. While there was so much to be impressed by, McCoy says what impressed him the most is the level of involvement members have with Sicredi.
“Members are very involved and take their voting rights very seriously. Some of the smaller towns and smaller credit unions have anywhere from 80 to 100 percent attendance at their meetings, whether it is
the annual meeting or the representative meetings (the nucleus),” says McCoy. “The meetings aren’t just social events; they represent the commitment to their community and their future financial success.
The International Credit Union Leadership Program brings emerging leaders from around the world to various credit unions. Participants travel to a different country to spend time with a credit union there to broaden their professional experience. The seven credit union executives chosen from Cornerstone-affiliated credit unions include:
Valarie Brittain, CY Fair FCU
Nancy M. Croix Stroud, First Class American CU
Tiffany Greenway, TruService Community FCU
Joey Griffith, Communication FCU
Terry McCoy, Amplify Credit Union
Taylor Richardson, Amplify Credit Union
Karl Wasserleben, Tinker FCU
To be selected by WOCCU for the program, participants were required to submit an application with an essay, pass an interview and be available for two full weeks away from their credit union. Applicants had to demonstrate personal commitment to the credit union industry, including the ability to have significant influence, have a career trajectory within the industry and exhibit the potential to advance the credit union system.