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Chicago area CUs host Ecuadoran CU delegation
NAPERVILLE, Ill. (8/1/12)--OSCUS, a credit union in Ecuador, last week sent four individuals to visit three Chicago area credit unions, including one with which it has a formal partnership via the World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program, according to the Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL).

Leading the delegation was Joshua Fetting, WOCCU international partnerships officer.

Located in Ambato, Ecuador, a city of about 400,000 people in the country's central mountainous region, OSCUS holds $171 million in assets and serves more than 160,000 members. With 11 branches nationwide, OSCUS offers services such as savings, debit cards, consumer loans, auto loans, small-business loans and mortgages.

Four individuals from OSCUS, a credit union in Ecuador, last week visited three credit unions in the Chicago area, including a World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program partner. From left, are: Front row: Jim Block, vice president, lending, Baxter CU (BCU); Santiago Martin Ortiz Nunez, chief financial officer of OSCUS; Patti Dixon, vice president, member service branch operations; BCU; Lisa Baron, senior vice president, human resources, BCU;  Rosa Marlene Marino Lescano, branch manager, OSCUS; Sarah Thorrens, vice president, talent management, BCU; and Bob Pondelicek, manager, mortgage sales, BCU. Back row, Tom Moore, chief financial officer, BCU; Chuck Smith, vice president/controller, BCU; Carey Price, vice president, sales and service, BCU; Bob McKay, chief operating officer, BCU; Mike Valentine, CEO, BCU; Joshua Fetting, international partnerships officer, WOCCU; Carlos Alonso Santamaria Sanchez, chief information officer, OSCUS; Juan Carlos Basantez Gaona, vice president, national sales, OSCUS; and Maria Garcia, manager, cards and lending operations, BCU.  (Photo provided by the Illinois Credit Union League)

OSCUS is the fifth-largest out of the 32 regulated credit unions in Ecuador, which collectively hold $1.9 billion in assets.  About one in five of the country's residents, or 1.8 million, are credit union members, said the league.

OSCUS holds a formal partnership with Baxter CU (BCU) in Vernon Hills, which was the first stop for the delegation. "Our team did a terrific job presenting and discussing key areas of interest with OSCUS, which included mobile technology and information technology solutions, marketing and financial operations and management among other areas," said Tom Moore, BCU senior vice president/chief financial officer.

The delegation also spent time with Mike Valentine, BCU CEO, and many BCU management team members. Next year, BCU will go to Ecuador for meetings with OSCUS management, staff and board, and talk first with OSCUS members to learn about how they are served. The visit will coincide with OSCUS' 50th anniversary.

"WOCCU has the key role to put credit unions around the world in contact so they can mutually tackle operational, structural and philosophical issues," said Victor Miguel Corro, WOCCU vice president. "The goal is to improve members' lives by providing them with the best access to financial services."

The second stop for the delegation was Motorola Employees CU (MECU) in Schaumburg. Larry Rosin, executive vice president/chief financial officer, said the visit was a good exchange, with many questions from the delegation about MECU's investment strategies.

He noted OSCUS is in a position of excess liquidity but--unlike credit unions in the U.S.-- operates within an environment of significantly higher interest rates. Rosin was joined by MECU CEO John Fiore, and staff from the credit union's lending, information technology and operations areas.

The final stop for the delegation was with Sean Rathjen, CEO of Consumers Cooperative CU in Waukegan, and his staff, who covered topics, including marketing and use of social media, liquidity planning and reporting, and how the credit union manages and prices for credit risk with its loans. Rathjen also reviewed Consumers' technology plan and the management and structure of its multi-media contact center, which integrates Web, chat, e-mail, phone and fax services, including the bilingual design.

"Anytime that you can share information, it can only benefit the credit union movement locally and on an international basis," said Dan Plauda, ICUL president/CEO.
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