Caribbean credit unions in spotlight at Woccu conference

The sector is providing vital services to underbanked communities across the Caribbean region, said prime minister Hubert Minnis

Delegates at the World Credit Union Conference in the Bahamas heard from the country’s prime minister, Dr Hubert Minnis, who highlighted the role of credit unions in the country’s development.

Dr Minnis said credit unions provide vital services to underbanked communities across the Caribbean region.

“The local movement has impacted the lives of their members in many meaningful ways,” he said, “including home ownership, higher education, small business development and favourable investment opportunities.

“Indeed, credit unions offer some of the more competitive interest rates on savings in the country.”

Credit unions in the Bahamas also work with the Department of Co-operative Development as part of the School Co-operatives programme, which enables young people to learn about co-operative principles, financial literacy and how to set up their own enterprises.

“Credit unions must pay attention to the increasing regulatory requirements associated with operations,” added the prime minister.

But he warned that his country faced serious challenges from global warming, which was bringing rising seas and more frequent and severe storms.

“Of urgency is the grave and existential threat posed by a heating climate, which will have devastating consequences on the poorest in our countries,” he said.

Conference organiser the World Council of Credit Unions (Woccu) recently launched Project Storm Break, an initiative to help credit unions respond immediately to natural disasters. Woccu will provide financial support, supplies and technical expertise to help credit unions in the impacted areas get back on their feet and help the communities they serve.

A dozen credit unions have already donated to the fund contributing a total us US$107,000. With financial backing from credit union members, Woccu provided disaster relief efforts in Dominica, after Hurricane Irma ravaged the Caribbean nation in 2017.

Conference co-host, the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions (CCCU), serves 289 credit unions with 2.6 million members, US$6.2bn (£5.11bn) in savings, US$4.9bn (£4.04bn) in loans, and assets totalling US$7.6bn (£6.26bn).

The prime minister praised Woccu for its development programmes in various countries across the world, adding that CCCU was one of its partners in various development projects.

The conference also featured a roundtable hosted by the Caribbean Credit Union Managers Association, which looked at the impact of disruptive technology on the customer service experience.

During the roundtable, technology strategist Bevil Wooding told participants that many credit unions and community banks were struggling to keep up with their members’ expectations, which continue to be driven by technological advances. He argued that while implementing new technologies might seem too expensive, not acting could cost credit unions more.

He advised credit union executives to develop a digital transformation strategy, taking into account customer service differentiators such as mobile payments and self-service options.

The conference took place on 28-31 July at the Atlantis Resort.