September 2023 Issue:Co-operator Newsletter Quarterly September 2023
What went on at the Asian Credit Union Conference (2023) in Kathmandu, Nepal
By Benjamin Kang and Ho Jia Hui, edited by Sng Ler Jun
In collaboration with National Cooperative Bank Limited (NCBL) and Nepal Federation of Savings and Credit Cooperatives of Union Limited (NEFSCUN), the Asian Confederation of Credit Unions (ACCU) organised the Asian Credit Union Conference 2023 in Kathmandu, Nepal’s coveted capital which is also home to the magnificent Mount Everest. Held from 14 to 16 September, the 3-day conference saw over 400 credit union representatives from 19 countries attending.
The Singapore Co-operative Movement (SCM) also made a mark at the conference too. SNCF Executive Committee (EXCO) member Mr Bryan Tan led a delegation of 15 Singapore credit co-operators to the annual flagship event by ACCU. Last year, the conference was held in Bangkok, Thailand. These delegates represent various co-operatives including Citiport Credit Co-operative Limited, POLWEL Co-operative Society Limited, Singapore Government Staff Credit Co-operative Society Ltd, Singapore Mercantile Co-operative Society Limited, TCC Credit Co-operative Ltd, and The Singapore Teachers’ Co-operative Society Ltd.
The annual event convened credit union and cooperative content experts and representatives from across the region, fostering an exchange of knowledge, experiences, and perspectives that guided the future of credit unions and co-operative. Additionally, it served as a yearly checkpoint to recognise and celebrate the positive impact credit co-operatives have brought to their members and the broader communities.
Chandragiri SACCOS Credit Union Visit
Kickstarting the conference is a learning journey to a Nepalese co-operative bank Chandragiri SACCOS (Savings & Credit Co-operative Ltd). Established in 2001, the credit co-op, like many others, strives to fight against poverty and enhance mutual help through cooperative initiatives. It furnishes members with a range of financial solutioning services, including the ‘entrepreneur loan’ that helps to kickstart businesses. Among others are social security programmes and a gamut of saving products. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the credit co-op organised several blood donation drives as well as offered rebates to members who were impacted by the pandemic.
Keynote Address on the Theme “Building Credit Union Momentum: Purpose, People and Passion”
President and CEO of the World Council of Credit Unions Elissa McCarter LaBorde opened the conference by highlighting the pain points and emerging risks credit unions face today. She also addressed how these challenges can be transformed into opportunities for growth. One of these challenges is a familiar hurdle faced by many co-operatives: ageing membership. Understanding the younger generation, otherwise dubbed as the generation who pursues purposeful work, became salient touchpoint in one panel discussion; co-operatives with their various social missions and unique business models hold potential to attract them.
Whether through setting up a youth advisory committee or organising annual strategic annual showcases to the youths to spotlight the purposeful work that goes on behind the scenes, these strategies can potentially foster a stronger connection with the younger generation. Across the conference, both plenary and breakout sessions with various international speakers addressed topics related to the forum’s theme and drew examples from their respective organisations or personal experiences. In broad strokes, the work credit unions or co-operative do can be surmised as:
With PURPOSE – Credit unions continuously uphold and champion their purposes, exploring their roles as the drivers for financial accessibility, job creation and societal advancement.
For PEOPLE – Credit unions should have the ability to empower and unleash the potential our people, whether through fostering collaboration, nurturing leadership or identifying talents within the movement.
With PASSION – Credit unions must possess the passion to drive positive transformation, seeking innovative ways and strategies that allow them to capitalise on opportunities, navigate and overcome challenges.
CEO of NCBL Badri Kumar Guragain touched on the business concept of “Triple Bottom Line” that measures a business’ success in terms of its financial performance as well as its social and environmental impacts. Credit unions generally set-up with dual aim to do good (by socially supporting its members) and do well (by ensuring financial sustainability and offering relevant, affordable financial services). With changing times and sustainability emphasis, it is timely to incorporate environment consideration into the business model, including sustainable practices or promoting eco-friendly behaviours among the members.
While learning that great leadership can profoundly impact a credit union’s culture and overall sustainability, human capital remains crucial to support the operations. In one of the breakout sessions, both representatives – Credit Union Betang Asi Indonesia, Director Rita Salawa and NATCCO Philippines, Director Youth Rep Sophia Marydel Gaboy shared about how credit unions can bolster their value propositions to attract and retain talent. While Ms Salawa discussed about the potential business and HR strategies such as creation of career development pathways and recognition of employees’ contributions, 22-year-old Ms Gaboy spoke about her involvement and exposure in the co-operative movement since she was 12 years old. She said:“To accumulate talent, you must develop it.” She isalso the youngest speaker that ACCU has ever invited.
Having actionable plan and ideas to pave the way for direction and opportunities became another headliner in the conference. Organisations can leverage digital technology to enhance member experiences, boost operational efficiency, and promote growth. To say competitive, Seung Joo Shin, a representative from NACUFOK, said: “Placing people at the centre of attention is what the credit union should be, while (leveraging) digital platforms is a must, not an option.”
Networking Opportunities with the Various National Delegates
Throughout the three-days conference, SCM Delegates seized the opportunities to re-connect and interact with the international delegates from various credit co-operative and unions. Beside gaining insights on other countries’ progress, we also shared our unique Singapore Co-operative movement and our upcoming focus on sustainability. The team had the chance to meet face-to-face with the Taiwan Co-operative representatives, who are also invited as part of our keynote speakers to share about their sustainability efforts at the Annual Co-operative Leaders Conference in Taipei.
The 3-days conference concluded with an International Night, fostering harmony and bridging participants from various regions.