British and Romanian credit union professionals visit co-ops in Italy

The exchange is part of a two-year project which brings together groups of credit union employees from the three countries

In October representatives from British and Romanian credit unions took part in a study symposium in Trento, Italy, where they learnt about the country’s co-operative banks.

The exchange is part of the two-year Fincare project, which brings together groups of credit union employees from the three countries. The first trip visited Liverpool in June and the third is scheduled for 2019 in Romania. The project is funded by the European Union through the Erasmus+ programme.

While in Italy, participants looked at issues around governance, director training and the financial education of members. The group was hosted by Federazione Trentina Della Co-operazione, the province’s federation of co-ops, which supports around 500 businesses who, in turn, support a community of 280,000 people in the region.

Policy and regulatory compliance officer at the Association of British Credit Unions (Abcul), Daniel Arrowsmith, took part in the journey. He said: “The Federation’s focus on making the region a ‘co-operative district’ reverberates with what credit unions aspire to be in the UK. As we celebrated International Credit Union Day alongside our Romanian and Italian colleagues, it was a great reminder of how much value there is in credit unions sharing and co-operating on both a national and global level.”

One of the topics explored during the training sessions was the current transformation of the Italian co-operative banking sector. Participants looked at upgrading to new technology, developing training programmes for directors and staff, and taking into account co-operative values and principles when implementing changes.

Local co-operative banks in Italy are also engaged in the financial education of young people, an issue credit union delegates were interested to learn more about.

Fincare aims to help Romanian credit unions that take part to strengthen financial education programmes and enable staff to be better equipped to help members from disadvantaged communities and promote financial inclusion. The scheme was developed to build on the expertise of the Italian co-operative banks in financial education and that of UK credit unions in terms of governance.

Romania has over 1,400 credit unions with 1.2 million members and 3,163 employees.

Wine co-op visit
Credit union members visiting an Italian wine co-op

Participants met with representatives from the Rural Banks of Trento, Rovereto and Valsugana Tesino, and paid visits to agricultural co-op Mondo Melinda, the social co-operative Progetto 92 and wine co-op Cantina di Mezzacorona.

Mr Arrowsmith added: “Visiting the local co-operatives was a great experience to understand different ways co-operatives develop and strengthen the communities they serve. Co-operation between co-operatives is essential to the credit union ethos and this programme builds on that ethos this at both local and international levels.

“This has been a really inspiring visit for everyone who joined the study group, with so many great ideas and innovations we can learn from in the UK.”

The project partners are Asociația Laboratorul de Solidaritate and National Union of Romanian Credit Unions (Uncar) from Romania, the Co-operative Family Credit Union, and Liverpool John Moores University from the UK, and Federazione Trentina della Cooperazione and Formazione Lavoro from Italy.

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