World Credit Union Conference gets under way in Glasgow

With one in three residents a member of a credit union, Glasgow is an important city for the British credit union movement

Over 1,600 credit union practitioners are meeting in Glasgow on 17-20 July for the annual conference of the World Council of Credit Unions (Woccu).

Hosted this year by the Association of British Credit Unions (Abcul), the conference opened with a flag ceremony, which featured 57 countries.

Welcoming delegates, Woccu chair Rafal Matusiak (Poland) talked about the challenges faced by credit unions in recent years, from the Covid-19 pandemic to remote work and the war in Ukraine – with delegates holding a minute’s silence in the memory of those killed in the conflict.

Mr Matusiak said global challenges meant credit unions were more important than ever. “No technology can replace real community,” he added. “Thank you for being there and for doing what you are doing.”

Rafal Matusiak (credit:Woccu)

He mentioned the role of credit unions in the Solidarity movement in Poland, which led to the fall of the country’s communist regime. The Polish credit union sector celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

“Thank you for making many people’s dreams become reality through your work every day,” he said.

Abcul president Paul Norgrove thanked credit unions for their response to Covid-19 and for supporting their members. “You and your teams proved the co-operative service strong,” he said.

Paul Norgrove (credit:Woccu)

Mr Norgrove is an alumnus of the WYCUP scholarship programme led by Woccu, and talked about the need to invest in new talent, support the next generation of credit union leaders and encourage those leaders to share their knowledge with their colleagues.

“The new connections that you make are going to be integral to your career going forward,” he said.

With one in three residents a member of a credit union, Glasgow is an important city for the British credit union movement. Glasgow city councillor Bailie James Scanlon said Scotland was home to one the world’s strongest credit union communities – he is himself a member of a credit union.

Initiatives by his council include a move to encourage young savers to use credit unions, by giving them £10 savings accounts.

Related: Ian Khan shares tips on how to become a future-ready credit union

Mike Reuter, executive director of Woccu’s Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, provided an overview of the organisation’s Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund, which has to date raised US$1.4m (€1.3m, £1.1m) for Ukraine. The fund will be used to support immediate relief and long-term recovery efforts.

Mike Reuter (credit: Woccu)

“This has been raised from over 1,600 donors, comprised of individuals, institutions, national associations and generous entities outside of the credit union industry,” said Mr Reuter. “To our fund donors and their institutions in the audience and with us at WCUC, thank you. Even amid war, credit unions stand strong, serving as financial first responders to those in need.”

Addressing the conference via video message, the deputy governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, Sergiy Nikolaychuk, talked about the challenges faced by the country’s 190 credit unions. He said the bank adopted a new law on credit unions to expand the list of people who can join and the products and services they can offer. The law has already passed the first reading in parliament. It is also working to introduce a deposit guarantee scheme for credit union members.

“Today, 20 credit unions are located in the territories temporarily occupied (by Russia) since 24 February, while 17 credit unions are in combat zones, and another 34 do not perform any activities because most of their staff have evacuated,” he said.

He mentioned the work of Woccu’s CAP project in Ukraine, which provided logical assistance to credit unions.

“It is obvious that credit unions need this time of assistance,” he said, thanking representatives of the global credit union system who donated to the Credit Union Displacement Fund.

The conference will feature a range of credit union and industry experts. The full conference agenda is available here.

Read more Co-op News reports from the 2022 World Credit Union Conference here.

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