By Koh Jian Rong, Edited by Sng Ler Jun
Between 22 and 26 July, the 2023 World Credit Union Conference took place in Vancouver, Canada, attracting co-operators and representatives from credit unions around the world to glean the latest strategies and trends within the credit industry.
Singapore, too, also led a delegation, comprising deputy chairperson of the Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF) Ms Thian Ai Ling, SNCF’s chief executive Mr Ang Hin Kee and other local co-operators. These co-operators hail from different credit co-operatives, such as the AUPE Credit Co-operative Ltd, the Singapore Mercantile Co-operative Society Limited, the Singapore Statutory Boards Employees’ Co-operative Thrift and Loan Society Ltd, and the TCC Credit Co-operative Ltd.
Co-hosted by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and the Canadian Credit Union Association (CCUA), a record number of more than 3,000 credit union representatives from 60 countries had attended the conference, which was held in Canada for the first time in a decade. That was matched with a record number of speakers as well as keynote and breakout sessions at 100 and 43 respectively. The topics covered ranged from digitalisation, open banking, climate finance, sustainability to human connection and digital marketing.
Singapore delegation dinner hosted by SNCF. In attendance were representatives from participating credit co-operatives, Ms Crystal Du, Registrar and Ms Nadia Lajam, Assistant Registrar from Registry of Co-operative Societies (RCS), MCCY.
SNCF team with President/CEO of World Council of Credit Unions - Ms Elissa McCarter LaBorde, Director of Member Services - Mr Thomas Belekevich and Technical Director for Financial Inclusion – Ms Cecilia Thoma
Held a day prior to the official commencement of the forum, the Global Women's Leadership Network (GWLN) Forum was held to discuss how the global bodies can bridge the gender gap in credit unions. An international panel of women leaders also shared their expertise on women’s empowerment.
“Women who are willing to step up to be a candidate and put themselves forward are courageous, just as it takes courage to for a hiring manager to bring on someone who isn’t maybe the most qualified but is going to round out your workforce,” said WOCCU President and CEO Ms Elissa McCarter LaBorde.
Futurist keynote speakers Ms Alison Burns and Mr James Taylor urged credit unions to explore the cliché. Technology, they posit, holds as much potential as its challenges to solve modern day problems, such as climate change and sustainability perils, that plague the economy. According to the duo, technologies can “augment our human curiosities” and they should be considered as “new types of collaborative partners”.
In another keynote, researcher Ms Kim Lear highlighted how the new generation of workers, who are brought up amid emerging sociological trends, are talented and crucial for credit unions to leverage and tap upon to impact communities. Parents today have a stronger relationship with their Gen Z children and remain as their top influencers at home, says Ms Lear. She added: “We’ve seen organisations that have shifted, where they do not infantilise the candidate but proactively address what their number one influencer (parents) might want to know.”
The final keynote address focused on ways to create meaningful connections with members in the digital age by Mr Riaz Meghji, a human connection expert, who explained how credit unions can “out care” their competition especially with decreasing opportunities to interact with members in this digital age. “If our goal is to build extraordinary credit union-member relationships, human connection isn’t an option—it is a necessity.”
WOCCU launched its Climate Influencers Network at the WCUC 2023. The network brings together advocates for sustainability from around the world to explore perspectives, develop shared resources and position credit unions to play a larger role in the transition to a low-carbon economy. The launch has already brought more than 20 credit union leaders from six continents to a summit to discuss the various types of climate resilience. All credit unions are welcomed to join the network and explore the opportunity to innovate, serve member needs and expand relevance pertaining to sustainability.
The SNCF delegation had the opportunity to visit the head office of Gulf & Fraser Credit Union located in Burnaby, British Columbia. The credit union is the sixth largest credit union in British Columbia, Canada with an asset size exceeding CAD 4 billion (approx. S$4 billion). Apart from the suite of financial services it offers to members, the credit union remains committed to supporting the community through conducting financial literacy sessions, providing scholarships and bursaries as well as supporting local community partners, charity groups, and cultural & sports organisations.
The SNCF team alongside more than 50 credit union representatives took part in a coastal cleanup at Vancouver’s Stanley Park. The event was hosted by WOCCU and Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions in partnership with Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanup. Last year, as part of the federation’s efforts to support the green nation pledge, SNCF planted trees along East Coast Park.
The SNCF team with international participants attending the Coastal Cleanup Activity organised by Ocean Wise.
The experience helped deepened connection to sustainability’s importance and imprinted the significance of individual actions for environmental preservation.
The 4-day conference concluded with a Canadian-theme closing party at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
WOCCU will host WCUC 2024 in collaboration with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) in Boston, USA from 21 July – 24 July 2024.