Woccu 2021 statistical report reveals credit union priorities

Digitisation remains the top priority for the sector, while attracting younger members is a challenge for most credit unions

The World Council of Credit Unions (Woccu) has published its Statistical Report for 2021, providing data on the global credit union movement.

Through a global member survey, Woccu found that 81% of respondent credit union associations ranked digitisation at or near the top of their priorities. Around 66% identified membership and asset growth as another top priority, including 83% in Europe, 80% in Africa and 57% in Asia. 

Some credit unions were also concerned with regulatory reforms – a priority for 51% and a top priority for respondent credit union associations in North America (100%) and the Caribbean (80%).     

The global credit union sector includes 87,914 credit unions across 118 countries, the report finds, with 393,871,631 members and US$3.48tn in assets.

Membership and assets growth vary across regions. Credit unions in Africa and Latin America saw the most substantial growth in terms of membership and assets while Europe witnessed a decline in assets and Australia and New Zealand both saw declining membership. Africa experienced the largest spike in assets – 42% – and Latin America witnessed the biggest growth in membership at 16%.  

“Despite the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to impact credit unions across the globe in 2021, they still managed to increase membership by 5% and grow assets by 9%,” said Elissa McCarter LaBorde, Woccu president and CEO. “For Woccu to ensure that type of growth continues, and credit unions are able to reach even more underserved populations, we need to gather more specific data from national credit union associations than ever before.

“While some data sets in this report are more complete than others, this is just the first step in our plan to offer a continuously clearer picture of the challenges and opportunities credit unions face in each region of the world.”

The survey also identified key concerns for the sector. Around 60% of respondent credit union associations identified macroeconomic uncertainties as a top risk, with Australia and many associations in Africa, Europe and Asia listing it as a major concern; 53% identified technology, led by Africa (100%), Latin America (67%) and Asia 57%.   

According to the report, the ability for credit unions to access or offer certain products and services varies greatly by region. If credit unions in Australia and North America have full access to payment systems, that is only the case for 50% of the credit union systems in Latin America. Furthermore, over 50% of respondent credit union associations in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean reported no such access. 

Similarly, there are disparities in the ability of credit unions to offer credit or debit cards depending on where they are located. All credit unions in Australia, North America and Latin America at least have the ability to offer these payment cards, but those numbers drop substantially in the rest of the world – to less than one-third of credit unions offering them in Europe and Asia.

The report also looked at different tax regimes around the world. Almost of the countries in the survey exempt credit unions from taxes, with the other half levying taxes. All credit unions pay taxes in Australia, as do 80% of credit unions in Asia and 73% in Europe. By contrast, just 17% of respondent credit union associations in Latin America reporting that their credit unions pay taxes – and none in the Caribbean countries with associations that responded to our survey.

The report also includes information on membership demographics and the percentage of women CEOs. Around 71% of credit union members are aged 45-64, meaning that attracting younger members remains a challenge for most credit unions. In terms of female CEOs, 31% of credit union CEOs are women with the figure varying considerably from 66% in Europe to 17% in the Caribbean.

The full Statistical Report is available on Woccu’s website.