Woccu appoints its first woman CEO

Elissa McCarter LaBorde has led development non-profit Vitas Group since 2009

World Council of Credit Unions’ board of directors has selected Elissa McCarter LaBorde as the organisation’s new president and CEO.

Woccu says Ms LaBorde brings more than 20 years of experience leading organisations in “delivering financial services to underserved communities across the globe”.

Board chair Rafał Matusiak said: “Elissa went through a long selection process with the best results and was unanimously selected by the Woccu board of directors.”

Since 2009, Ms. LaBorde has served as CEO of Vitas Group, a for-profit holding company she established under Global Communities, an international development and humanitarian aid organisation that operates in 27 countries.

Vitas has become the largest commercial retail microfinance operation in the Middle East. It reports that over the last decade, its subsidiaries have disbursed over $3bn at a less than 1% annual default rate to small business owners. Vitas employs over 1,300 local professional staff in Romania, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq and Egypt, with a dedicated IT Hub in Serbia.

Under Ms. LaBorde’s leadership, Vitas established three major initiatives – Vitas Values Equality, on promoting gender diversity, Vitas Ventures, an early-stage fintech venture investment portfolio, and Vitas Lab, part of an ambitious long-term shift to a data-centric, digital-first lending model. 

For the past 16 years, Ms. LaBorde has also served as Global Communities’ vice president of development finance, overseeing the non-profit organisation’s strategy, investment and fundraising efforts, and thought leadership in financial inclusion. In that role, she is the principal liaison to the US Development Finance Corporation (formerly OPIC) for loan guarantee facilities worth over $550m, with commercial banks in Jordan, Egypt, Kenya and Malawi. She also participates in business development efforts with key US and international donors.

Ms. LaBorde has lived and worked in five countries (France, Benin, Armenia, Turkey and Zimbabwe) and has traveled to over 70 countries around the world. She is a published author of two books, as well as academic journals and essays that span a number of topics related to financial inclusion and economic development. She also serves as an adjunct professor at John’s Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, a position she’s held for 10 years. 

She said: “World Council of Credit Unions is a well-known and respected organisation with massive reach and the potential to truly deliver next-generation financial products and services to last-mile customers all over the globe.

“I am honoured to join its work in expanding the credit union footprint and its mission to improve the lives of its vast network of members, especially in lower-income and disadvantaged communities. The opportunity to lead and rethink how we scale financial services by leveraging technology and building on the trust that credit unions uniquely have in so many places is exciting.”

Ms LaBorde, who takes up the role in August, will be the first woman to serve as Woccu’s president and CEO. She will succeed Brian Branch, who announced his retirement earlier this year.