WOCCU Conference opens in Vienna

Chair Daniel Burns discussed the challenges facing the movement from increased regulation and new technology

The World Credit Union Conference opened yesterday in Vienna with more than 1,800 representatives from 58 countries attending the opening ceremony at the Austria Center.

The opening ceremony featured introductions from credit union leaders, as well as a welcoming speech by Kurt Sturzenbecher, member of the Vienna City Council. The ceremony started with a flags parade and ended with a performance by Austrian folk dancers and musicians.

WOCCU chair Daniel Burns talked about his credit union journey, which started 25 years ago at a credit union in Vancouver.

The movement had changed since then, particularly after the 2008 financial crisis, he said. He explained how the banking crisis had put in place two forces that were threatening and transforming the co-operative model in finance.

Flags at the conference opening ceremony

The first challenge is the regulatory burden on credit unions. Mr Burns said that before the crisis credit unions used to worry about their own risks, such as the liquidity market or credit risks – an issue discussed at previous World Credit Union conferences.

With the crisis leading to more regulation for credit unions, their main concern has become how to cope with the barriers this has created, he argued.

“Financial success does not require regulation to control greed but maintain stability,” he said. “Regulation regulates risks but stifles the co-op model. And 240 million credit union and financial co-operatives members enjoy democratic financial inclusion around the world today. Credit unions are the answers for non-banked, under-banked and exploited people.”

Mr Burns added that WOCCU had won a number of arguments over the Basel Committee agreement, as well as on other regulation.

The second risk faced by credit unions, he said, is the development of financial technology which can empower but also threaten credit unions. With fintech companies partnering with banks, credit unions should also look to use technology as a leveller to bring more people on board.

“WOCCU is best positioned to facilitate exchange of experience and knowledge. We were the original sharing economy,” he added.

Last year’s World Credit Union Conference, which took place in Belfast, boosted the city’s economy by £3.7m.

The four-day event, which takes place on 23-26 July, is organised every year by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). Delegates will explore three key topics: millennials, cyber security and digital trends.

In addition to the keynote speakers, the conference includes over 30 educational sessions on the latest trends and best practices from top industry professionals.

More information about the sessions and the extras as well as the schedule are available on the conference’s website.

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