Supporter Updates


Setting the Framework for Global Digitization in Kuala Lumpur

The global credit union system reached the Vision 2020 target of 260 million members at the end of 2017, three years early. Yet not all credit unions or country systems grew equally. Those credit unions that offered their members robust online and mobile channels grew, while those that did not showed stagnant growth. Smaller country systems that used shared payment platforms showed growth, while others without digital channels lost market share and displayed little growth. The next challenge is not a new number for membership growth, but instead, addressing the channels for feeding membership growth for the future.

Challenge 2025 became the digitization of the global credit union system: automation of back office processing, digital online and mobile channels of access and integration into the national payments ecosystem.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stepped in to support us in piloting the implementation and development of a map for digitizing credit union systems in The Philippines and Indonesia, specifically including research and design for credit union-owned interoperable digital payments systems.  As we assessed the various credit unions and associations in both countries, we met in Kuala Lumpur to share our lessons and map the next steps. We also looked at other credit union systems that were well down the road to digitization with access to a wide variety of digital partners and nationally-common interoperability like the US, Kenya and Canada or via shared innovative platforms such as those in Australia, Brazil, Korea, Ecuador and Guatemala. 

World Council Project Development Officer Grace Vottero (far left) and President/CEO Brian Branch (second from left) join panelists at the 2019 Asian Credit Union Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last month to talk global digitization. 

As we move forward, we identified the common lessons to date:

  • Consumers want to be free. If we do not respond to their expectations, they leave us for others who do meet their expectations.

  • Members want to access services via mobile and online channels. Today consumers do their communications, social networking, news access, payments and commerce via digital means. It is only natural that they want to access financial services via digital means.

  • It is important to have a system strategy. We are still small market share players in many countries and dwarfed by the investments that large stockholder financial institutions can make in technology. A strategy requires leadership to look at the bigger picture of how the country can pool resources to afford technology, negotiate as a group with vendors and offer seamless consumer experience connected to the national payments system.

  • We need partnerships. This is not about fighting the Fintechs for control of our members. The Fintech players are multiple; some are potential allies and some are competitors. Some can be our partners to enhance our members’ experience, while some can be exploitative and bad for our members. This is about how we find experience and expertise in the market to enhance our services to respond to the demands of the members. 

  • Credit unions have a unique value proposition. We, as credit unions and as credit union associations, are specialized in financial services, economic empowerment and relationships. For us, financial services are more than a commodity. We, as credit unions and as credit union associations, are specialized in financial services, economic empowerment and relationships. For us, financial services are more than a commodity. We can leverage digitization to expand on the strengths of our movement.

  • Different players have different roles. We want to be competitive at what we do best. Our advantage is not in writing or maintaining software. We look to partners for this. We do not necessarily need to own the software. There are others that have this experience.

  • We have to assess risk. As we open up to other players in the marketplace, we do so by assessing:

    1. Is it good for members?

    2. What is the risk of doing so?

    3. Is it cyber secure?

  • We partner with national systems. The national associations and the regional confederations are the aggregators. They organize joint negotiations with vendors, and bring scale and interface with the regulator. Most importantly, they need to bring leadership.

  • Connect with the National Payments System. Consumers want money to be free.  People want to seamlessly move their money through payments from one institution to another, not simply within or among the credit unions. This is the importance of interoperability – to allow members to use their credit union accounts to support their other economic activities through open loop systems.

  • Build on existing initiatives. Our partners have done a lot of work to date to build their digital channels and systems. We do not look to replace it all with something new but rather to build upon the existing infrastructure, improve it and gain scale.

This is one of the most challenging tasks we have taken on at a global level and one of the most stimulating and fun. We are grateful to all of you for your support in enabling us to engage with the Gates Foundation for this and for those of you who have engaged as volunteers to take this to credit union systems around the world.

Safe travels,


Brian Branch

President & CEO

World Council of Credit Unions

Credit Union Resilience Disaster Response Engagement in Puerto Rico

In August, we flew back in to San Juan, Puerto Rico, with our colleagues from California, North Carolina, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas and Colorado to share the lessons learned from credit union responses to disasters around the country. 

Study and Service in Puerto Rico: Launching "Operation Stormbreak"

We will return to Puerto Rico August 1-6, after the World Credit Union Conference (WCUC) July 28-31 in The Bahamas. During WCUC, the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions will launch “Operation Stormbreak” — the establishment of a forward-prepared fund to respond immediately when a natural disaster happens.

Rebuilding Shattered Lives in Kurdistan

We traveled to Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, at the request of former military personnel, to explore a credit union approach for serving refugees. Can credit unions help refugees in the camps find a way to build assets, re-engage in a productive economy, and move from relief dependency to self-sufficiency?

Keeping Families Together: Guatemalan Credit Unions Launch Young Entrepreneurs Fund

Guatemala has one of the highest numbers of small business startups in Central America. Yet only one in seven startups survive the first year of operation. Young entrepreneurs are high risk credit subjects and therefore credit unions have been reluctant to finance them.

2018: End of Year Report

Supporter contributions fund the credit union development programs in the field that the World Council and the Worldwide Foundation carry out. We look at what challenges we have faced, what we have accomplished and what is still underway at year-end 2018. 

Caribbean Hurricane Relief: Dominica Credit Union Rebuilding

Hurricane Maria in 2017 damaged 18,000 of the island’s 23,000 buildings. The island has six credit unions on the island serving 97% of the population. 

Field Engagements Planned for 2019

"Engagement trips are like traveling in a time machine. Sometimes you go to the future. Sometimes you visit the past.” - courtesy of one of the Worldwide Foundation’s engagement participants.

Progress at Busia

Worldwide Foundation continues to support the Busia orphanage with food and school fees. In 2018, after young girls at the orphanage had been harassed by men who tried to break into their dormitory, Worldwide Foundation called for donations to build a protective wall around the orphanage.

Rebuilding for Puerto Rico: Loan Participation Workshop

On the island of Puerto Rico there are 115 state-chartered credit unions (CUs) with 1 million members and $8.1 billion in assets. There are 9 federal chartered credit unions with 85 thousand members and $800 million in assets.

A Deep Dive in Asia

We depend on financial support of credit unions for the work we do. We also depend on the commitment of personal time and voluntary effort of credit union people to make a difference in the lives of many around the world.

Puerto Rico: Preparing for the Next Hurricane Season

In Puerto Rico there are 115 state-chartered credit unions with one-million members and $8.1 billion in assets. There are nine federal-chartered credit unions with 85,000 members and $800 million in assets.

Economic Democracy

We remember that when Poland achieved political democracy, the leadership of the Solidarity trade union movement sent its young leaders abroad to study credit unions and pursue economic democracy as well.

At the Bottom of the Pyramid

In March, we returned to Busia Kenya, to the orphanage that credit unions built. We did basic service work, painting and repairing facilities, planting banana trees, mixing cement and laying tiles. We cooked and entertained the children. Why an orphanage?

Supporting Credit Unions & Orphans in Kenya

There are 6,400 credit unions in Kenya, called SACCOs (Savings and Credit Cooperatives) serving 6.2 million members.

Developing Business Lending in Guatemala

Communities in Guatemala have seen the departure of their youth. “We have no future here: no jobs, no money”, Josué, 12 years old, from San Pedro told us. So, the communities turn to their credit unions for a solution.

Credit Union Relief Knows No Borders

One of the privileges that we enjoy working in the credit union movement is to be part of a global community which reaches out in times of disaster to help each other regardless of borders.

A Deep Dive in Ukraine

We flew into Kiev from Vienna. Others came from the US, Poland and Kenya. After three years of war, our Ukrainian colleagues were relieved to receive outside visitors. 

Colombia: From War to Peace

The conflict in Colombia ran for 50 years. It took place between the military, para military, rebels, guerrillas, narco-traffickers and crime syndicates. 

Recovery in Haiti

We remember the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that destroyed much of Port au Prince, including credit unions. Credit unions provided some of the very first relief in their local communities. Credit unions in the Dominican Republic established a supply line of water and food to credit unions in Haiti.

Working with Youth in Central America

Since 2013, migration north from Central America by tens of thousands of unaccompanied children has put stress on the border and on the political environment. It is the result of a crisis in the communities from which they come: lack of security, lack of an economic future and poor infrastructure.

Supporting Credit Unions in Ukraine

Thank you for your supporter commitment to the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions during 2016. I wanted to share with you some of what we accomplished in 2016 thanks to your support.