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Angel Castro Recognized for Worldwide Advocacy of CU Philosophy with 2018 Herb Wegner Memorial Award
Wednesday, November 8, 2017 6:40 AM

Angel Castro

Foundation Recognizing Castro with Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement

In recognition of his 50 years of service as a worldwide voice for the credit union movement and his tireless work in creating stable financial systems in Latin America, the National Credit Union Foundation is pleased to announce Angel V. Castro, president of Castro y Asociados, as the recipient of a 2018 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement.

Castro’s award will be one of four Herb Wegner Memorial Awards presented at a special fundraising event hosted by the Foundation at the Marriott Marquis Washington on Feb. 26, 2018, in conjunction with the Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference. Registration for dinner tickets and sponsorships will be available on the Foundation website (ncuf.coop) later this year. 

"Our committee was unanimous in their praise and admiration for Angel's commitment to the credit union system worldwide," said John Gregoire, chair of the Foundation's Wegner Awards Selection Committee and president of The ProCon Group. "Angel also has a special place in his heart for this award as he actually worked with Herb Wegner in Panama, later even helping bring Wegner to CUNA."

Extending the Credit Union Movement to Latin America

From the beginning of Castro’s experiences in Latin America’s cooperative sphere, he realized that the U.S. model of consumer credit-based poverty reduction would not fit the needs of the people he interacted with. His willingness to revisit the underlying assumptions of CUNA’s original strategies was crucial to their success in the region.

In Ecuador, working in the rural sector rather than the urban became the new emphasis and priority attention was to go to a new system component focusing on the organization of credit unions offering member access to credit for agriculture and other productive endeavors. By homing in on the need to focus upon activities that would better address the income generating ability of members, Castro and his colleagues adapted their operating model to the environment surrounding them. Additionally, Castro, while working with the CUNA Latin America Regional Office located in Panama, developed new credit union system components focused on centralized liquidity management and a computerized accounting data processing outsourcing service referred to as COFAC.

Throughout his career, Castro has created, fostered, and implemented activities that have sought to establish credit union services and programs that have impacted the financial lives and improved standards of living for millions of members not just in the U.S., but in the entire western hemisphere. In 2000, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), which is the highest honor an individual or organization can receive from WOCCU.

“Angel Castro was one of CUNA’s first representatives to work in the Latin America region to spread credit union services to many under-served populations throughout the region,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU president/CEO. “Angel scaled up his impact from local to regional levels, first working with a community credit union, then national federations of Ecuador, Panama, Dominican Republic, and Mexico and then across the Latin America region through the regional confederation. Angel connected the Latin American credit unions systems to the U.S. and Canadian systems and brought updated models to Latin America to build more integrated systems”

Dedicated to Worldwide Credit Union Education

Castro’s work with the Latin American Credit Union Confederation (COLAC) consistently advocated for robust training activities for credit union leaders and management personnel. In 1976, Castro headed the project initiative to organize FECOLAC, a nonprofit foundation specializing in offering cooperative education and credit union operational training to credit union leaders and managers from all the Latin American countries.

While working as a volunteer in Ecuador, he trained many on the basis of the established principles at that time, which had a significant flaw given that they were critical of the concept of profit. By 1979, he realized that clarifications were needed to avoid interpretations that all positive financial results of a credit union should be distributed to members and that the concept of reserves was not relevant to the operations of a financial cooperative.

His creative participation in the process of drafting the credit union principles adopted by the World Council of Credit Unions in 1982 was particularly important to teaching people about credit union operations with a more financially sound and sustainable approach.

Castro has consistently led and supported training activities which emphasize the understanding and disciplined application of credit union principles. He supported the concept of carrying out assessments to determine whether local, national, and international level entities are operating in accordance with the seven credit union operating principles.

“In all cases, Angel demonstrated true leadership in guiding executive and staff personnel to solutions leading to more efficient and effective operations for the benefit of the credit union movement and its members,” said John Heard, retired director of the Office of Voluntary Cooperation at USAID. “Angel was ultimately persuasive because of his passion for the cause and his inexhaustible base of knowledge and understanding. He was generous to a fault and always ready to spend time on assisting the humblest staff and members to find answers to questions and problems.”

Credit Unions Helping Credit Unions

For over four decades, Castro has been heavily involved in the Mexican Caja Popular movement, a cooperative financial services network first promoted by the Catholic Church in the early 1950s. More than 500 Cajas Populares were organized as informal financial services providers under the umbrella of private nonprofit organizations over the following 50 years.

In 1991, the Mexican Federal Government established a regulatory framework which listed the Cajas Populares as legally recognized savings and credit financial institutions; 131 Cajas Populares later merged under one corporate umbrella and sought authorization to operate with these services. In December 1992, Castro was contacted by the National Confederation (CMCP) for consultation and project management to merge these Cajas.

Initially, Castro was unsure that the leaders fully understood the monumental effort and resources required for such a feat. However, he opted to provide his services and orientation to a project group, define a project strategic plan, and provide intensive technical oversight. Over the more than 20 years since, Castro has steadily monitored and assisted the resulting Caja Popular Mexicana.

By the end of 2016, Caja Popular Mexicana had over 2.3 million members, more than $2 billion in assets in a national network of 474 branch outlets, complemented by 200 automated tellers. The financial situation is steady and demonstrates positive operational performance under the supervision of the federal banking regulator authorities. Caja Popular Mexicana is recognized as the largest credit union operating in the Latin American Region.

“Over the years I have engaged consulting services many times, and have also been hired a few times to provide such services,” said Pete Crear, retired former president and CEO of the World Council of Credit Unions. “I cannot identify another instance when a fairly simple short-term assignment became a twenty-year mission that effectively transformed a bunch of not-particularly effective lending windows into a large scale, well-conceived financial services system with broad outreach.”

About the Herb Wegner Memorial Awards

The awards are named in honor of the late Credit Union National Association CEO Herb Wegner, whose tireless dedication, innovative ideas and deeds truly revolutionized the ways that credit unions serve their communities.  The awards that bear Wegner’s name recognize his spirit of “innovative, creative, risk-taking” leadership. View past award recipients here.

About the National Credit Union Foundation (ncuf.coop)

The National Credit Union Foundation (the Foundation) is the charitable arm of the U.S. credit union movement and works as a catalyst to improve people’s financial lives through credit unions. Through grants and programs, the Foundation is strengthening financial well-being, igniting passion and instilling knowledge about the credit union difference, and uniting resources to help credit union people during disaster. Donations to the Foundation ultimately enable credit unions to help their members reach life-changing goals and achieve financial freedom.