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U.S., Canadian and Australian Industry Leaders Discuss Collaborative Solutions to Common Challenges
Thursday, October 17, 2013 5:25 AM

Seventeen credit union leaders representing Credit Union Central of Canada (CUCC), the U.S. Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Australia's Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA) and the World Council of Credit Unions convened in Sydney, Australia, last week to collaboratively explore solutions to shared industry challenges.

The weeklong leadership workshop delved into U.S., Canada and Australia key issues of regulatory burden and advocacy challenges, credit union branding, payments and system evolution.

"The challenges are similar, the answers are sometimes different and participants gain new insights from this engagement to apply to their own credit unions and national systems," said Brian Branch, World Council president and CEO. "They also provide World Council with valuable lessons that we can share with the rest of the credit union world who face common regulatory, branding and payments challenges."

Participants presented their country's top advocacy challenges including taxation, Basel III, anti-money laundering, Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), member business lending and capital. The group identified mutually reinforcing positions and strategies for supporting each other in engaging their respective policymakers. The group collectively discussed directions for World Council's international advocacy efforts to achieve a better legislative and regulatory outcome for credit unions worldwide.

The group reviewed the evolution of the credit union brand in each country and assessed strategies for deeper and quicker popular identification with the credit union brand.

CUNA representatives explained the U.S. vision that Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner, through removing barriers to the current charter, creating awareness and fostering service excellence. The Australian mutual sector includes credit unions, mutual building societies, mutual banks, cooperative banks and friendly societies. The multinational delegation visited Bank MECU and Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank in Melbourne, two of Australia's largest credit unions to change their name to a mutual bank. Australians explained the history of consumer attitudes and regulatory pressures, which have led to side-by-side operation of credit unions and mutual banks in the cooperative financial institution space. Under the same legislative, taxation and regulatory framework and subject to decreasing consumer awareness, larger Australian credit unions have taken on the name "mutual bank" and share the common theme of "customer owned banking."

Credit union ability to provide payment solutions that respond to consumer demands is a top challenge faced by World Council members and credit unions everywhere. The multinational team workshop reviewed the work of Australian payments agent, Cuscal, to discuss strategies of collaboration or piloting to help position credit unions in payments services to credit unions.

The delegation also examined how shared pressures of regulatory compliance, consumer demands for technology and payments, non-traditional competitors, governance challenges and sustainability of small institutions influence the evolution of each system. They participated in roundtable discussions with the CEOs of the largest five mutuals of the Australian system.

"Consumer awareness and appeal to youth populations have become some of our top challenges everywhere. All three systems are developing outreach, branding and payments strategies to expand market share. By sharing the pressures, challenges and strategic decisions with each other, we are stronger as a global network," Branch said.