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Select FCU Hosts Sicredi Interns
Thursday, October 2, 2014 6:55 AM

Sicredi group at Select FCU with President/CEO Belinda McDaniel
Sicredi group at Select FCU with President/CEO Belinda McDaniel

San Antonio's Select Federal Credit Union, a full-service financial institution with 23 employees, 7,000 members, and assets of $35 million, hosted four of the 12 Sicredi interns for two days in September while they learned about the U.S. credit union system. The internship was part of an initiative between the World Council of Credit Unions, the Cornerstone Credit Union League, and Sicredi.

The 12 delegates were split into three groups and shadowed the staff at host credit unions of various asset sizes throughout the region, including Select FCU.

Juan Garcia, marketing and business development for Select FCU, reported, "It was a privilege to host the group. Our employees and the Sicredi interns had some great conversations about the similarities and the differences between their financial institutions."

"Our branch isn't very big, so we made sure the interns spent time with each department," Garcia said. "The interns shadowed our employees in member services, lending, and business development areas. In the loan area, they were able to sit in with actual members opening accounts."

Sicredi group at Select FCU with Big Red
Sicredi group at Select FCU, experiencing their first Big Red sodas.

Garcia adds that Select FCU members were very impressed and excited to learn the credit union had interns visiting from abroad to experience how we do things here. "Our membership is very close. We have about 7,000+ members, so we personally know most by name. The Sicredi interns were impressed by how personable everyone at the credit union is. In their entire system, Sicredi has two million members, so it was quite the contrast."

The Select staff and Sicredi interns compared general loan types and procedures, members' needs, interest rates, and auto-loan financing. In Brazil, Garcia was told, borrowers have not one but two auto loans on the same vehicle.

"Borrowers are paying on the auto loan and a separate loan for the interest itself," he said. "The value of a car here would be about three times the value there. And it's that way across the board. For instance, one of the interns had purchased an iPad in the U.S. for $400. Back in Brazil, it would have been $1,000. Interest rates are extremely high there as well. They start off with a 50 percent interest rate."

Sicredi group outside Select FCU
Sicredi group at Select FCU, outside the main credit union location.

Some of the things Americans take for granted, such as drive-through service windows, are basically unheard of in Brazil. "They were blown away," Garcia said, "because drive-throughs don't exist for them. They're too dangerous due to robberies and related crime. The interns had tons of questions about that aspect of credit unions. They worried that the drive-throughs might not be safe."

At the end of the two days, the interns and staff also compared mobile apps, products, and services. Garcia said it was interesting to see the shared challenges. "The Sicredi interns are trying to find a way to attract 18-35 year-olds, just like we are."

The interns took lots of Select FCU's literature with them, like take-one brochures for members and promos for the Best Financial Friend (BFF) referral program. "They really liked that when our members refer others to our credit union, they are entered into a drawing for a gift card," Garcia said.

Of the overall experience, Garcia was quick to say, "We would definitely do this again. If the opportunity came up, we would like to be a part of it." As to whether the U.S. credit union staff would like to go to Brazil to do the reverse internship, Garcia said, "Going there would be amazing! Folks here would be ready for that opportunity—despite the 20-hour flight."

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About Sicredi

Sicredi is one the major cooperative systems in Latin America, and is distributed in 10 Brazilian states. To fully meet needs of members, Sicredi credit cooperatives are structured regionally into offices and receive strategic and technical expertise of Sicredi Confederation, Sicredi Cooperative Bank, Sicredi Credit Foundation and their holding company, which is the entity responsible for determining among other things compliance ethics and audit policies. Sicredi has a unified brand, as well as standardized policies, procedures and bylaws. Despite their shared identity, every Sicredi cooperative is still a unique and local institution, just like credit unions in the U.S.