As the world turns, so does bridging credit union gaps

By Mike Reuter, Executive Director, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions

In my work, I often think about what the world would look like, be like without credit unions. A scary thought for all of us, I know.

I’m by no means a “glass-half-empty” guy or start every day with dark thoughts such as these, but in my daily work and interactions with credit union folks across the country and the world, I feel more urgency to always have this question top of mind.

Why? Well, it goes without saying that we are more connected as a world than ever. Technology, transportation, and a thing called the COVID-19 pandemic has proven this.

There are numerous, shared global challenges or “gaps” as we call them, that all of us, as part of the international credit union community, need to be consistently aware of and cooperating on. These gaps also keep our peers and members from growing, prospering. Digital transformation, young member growth, DEI, climate … the list of challenges is robust.

I truly believe that credit unions can change the world, one member at a time. It’s in their DNA. Credit union unicorns exist, I’ve seen them. They are intentional about being an engaged local and global credit union citizen with their brand, staff development and social responsibility strategies.

With the everlasting purpose of the World Council and its Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions to grow credit unions and financial inclusion across time zones, we rely on the time, talent and treasure of our partners to execute complex work. WFCU leads in engaging the U.S. credit union system in seeing value, impact and purpose by engaging in international credit union work.

This work takes many forms, and there are numerous opportunities to help address complex, global credit union challenges, but sharing with you the success of our work, one life, one voice at a time hopefully brings clarity to you that we are addressing the same challenges worldwide that you are at home.

Four credit union gaps were our focus in 2021 and still need to be bridged further into 2022:

Bridging an Inclusion Gap: This goes without saying. At last count, 1.7 billion people worldwide are still without clear, easy access to financial services. Where banks and other competitors are nowhere to be found, credit unions are formed, bringing stability and hope to many. Case in point: Yargelis Herrera, a beneficiary of our current Economic Inclusion Program in Peru & Ecuador faced insurmountable hardships after fleeing her homeland of Venezuela but due to credit union support, she has rebuilt her marketing business and her life.

Bridging a Safety Gap: Natural disasters will never end, and it is entirely possible that COVID-19 challenges will persist. We are the first line of defense in responding with relief to help respond immediately to international credit unions and their member’s challenges in the days and weeks following a calamity. Case in point: Haitian credit unions were damaged or destroyed completely by an earthquake. Our Project Storm Break fund immediately sent $45,000 of support, helping get operations up and running from emergency tents and serving members again.

Bridging a Gender Gap: Global Women’s Leadership Network, GWLN, remains the only initiative dedicated to advancing credit union women in leadership worldwide. GWLN plugs into many of the domestic women’s leadership initiatives that are doing tremendous work identifying gender inequality within credit unions and their communities. Worldwide, GWLN brings tremendous value to women like Josie Cardona, CEO of a credit union in the Philippines who uses the GWLN network to help advance her and her peer’s leadership development.

Bridging a Leadership Gap: It is smart to always have an eye toward the future and our young professionals are it. Worldwide, YPs in credit unions are leading or playing a vital role in helping grow young member demographics by leading unique community engagement programs. But often these efforts are not heard about or shared. Our World Council Young Credit Union Professionals, WYCUP, program brings these YP networks together to form one, global YP community. By offering scholarships and a virtual networking platform, WYCUP intentionally brings YPs together to help grow credit unions but also giving each YP greater leadership relevance. Our entire global movement depends on it.

Our role at Worldwide Foundation is as a convener, a gatherer of the best ideas, innovations, and credit union champions who share an energetic spirit that transforms the communities they serve at home as well as those places they’ve never seen or visited.

So in 2022, we’re running back our Bridge the Gap Engagement and Fundraising campaign with the intent of growing our global credit union champion community to help us continue to bridge these critical credit union gaps. Our global movement has more work to do, so to all the credit union unicorns out there, saddle up and join us on this transformational journey growing and offering credit unions to everyone.

Let’s do global good together. #BridgetheGap

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