Digitisation in spotlight at Woccu conference in the Bahamas

Credit unions can share cost of investing in and providing new technology, says Woccu’s Brian Branch

Delegates at the World Credit Union Conference in the Bahamas have heard from industry experts on ways to make best use of technology.

They learnt about best practices, new trends, and methods adopted by credit unions to connect members and make a positive community impact.

“No doubt, the entire financial services sector is at an important crossroads,” said World Council of Credit Unions (Woccu) board chair Steve Stapp who also serves as president and CEO of Unitus Community Credit Union in Portland, Oregon.

Connie Dieken, founder of Influence360˚ and strategic advisory firm Dieken Group, was a keynote speaker at the conference. She gave delegates top tips for how to lead in their organisation by connecting, conveying and convincing their teams.

“Why is influence so important? Because influencers shape the future, whereas persuaders maintain the status quo,” she said.

Ms Dieken then asked attendees to identify a positive change they can influence in their credit unions and walked them through the process of making it happen.

Woccu president and CEO Brian Branch told delegates the organisation’s goal for 2025 was the global digitisation of the credit union system.

“It’s difficult for small financial institutions to be able to afford this technology,” he said. “That’s one of the advantages we see across the globe in co-operative systems.

“The ability of co-operatives to share the cost of investing in and providing that technology, and those high-skilled human technical resources to provide credit unions across the country with that digital technology.”

Patrick Schwerdtfeger delivers his presentation at the conference (Photo: Woccu)

Delegates also heard from Patrick Schwerdtfeger, founder of Trend Mastery and the host of the Strategic Business Insights video. He warned that the future of credit union payments and transactions will look radically different as blockchain becomes more prevalent.

Telling credit unions to “stay on the offensive”, he said the sector needed to “aggressively go after the change” and implement it as fast as possible within their organisations.

“I think there’s a huge opportunity in the financial services industry to use a blockchain-based system for title insurance,” said Mr Schwerdtfeger, providing a list of examples where it could be used. “I understand a lot of credit unions are making big in-roads with refugees – which is a perfect fit for credit unions to begin with – and blockchain can help in that space.

“There are all sorts of possible KYC (know your customer) applications.”

In her keynote address, economic trend forecaster Pippa Malmgren told credit unions to prepare for radical change in the financial world.

Ms Malmgren, who served as an advisor in the George W. Bush White House and on his National Economic Council, expects new types of digital currency and payments to transform the way credit unions do business.

“China has announced they want to launch their own, sovereign cryptocurrency. The European Union has announced that they want this. I think the American authorities are looking at this very carefully. The British are, too,” she said.

She added that credit unions also needed to consider using data analytics to better understand member needs as well as attract new members.

“Whatever assumptions you have about where economic opportunity is occurring, leave them to the side, because it’s moving—and it’s moving with data,” said Ms Malmgren.

The conference was presented in collaboration with the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions (CCCU).