NAPERVILLE, Ill. (7/12/11)--About a dozen individuals from OSCUS, a credit union in Ecuador, recently visited four credit unions in the Chicago area to learn about credit union practices, as part of the World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) International Customized Training program. The host credit unions included Baxter CU (BCU), Vernon Hills; First Northern CU, downtown Chicago and Rockford; NorthStar CU, Warrenville; and South Division CU, Evergreen Park. Each credit union was shared information and discussed its specific role in one of the delegation’s major areas of concern. The challenges OSCUS faces in Ecuador are similar to U.S credit unions’ challenges. They include finding a balance between serving its traditional membership (low wealth, undereducated) with loans and deposits, while trying to be more modern and relevant when competing in the marketplace with big banks. Also, youth in Ecuador are not looking to credit unions for financial services. OSCUS aims to capture that market, gain new members and realize steady growth so it is not known just as the “poor man’s bank.” The credit union’s statistics include assets of $132.3 million (80% loaned out, and 2% in fixed assets; ranked fifth in assets among Ecuador credit unions), liabilities of $111.3 million (46% liquid deposits and 43% in certificates of deposit), and a loan portfolio of $102 million (with a 2.56% delinquency rate and 275% in regulatory reserves). “The delegation wanted to visit credit unions that were unique in each of these areas, and that is why I recommended they come to Chicago,” said Victor Miguel Corro, senior manager of WOCCU’s International Partnerships Program. Corro was joined for the trip by Josh Fetting, WOCCU International Partnerships officer. Lloyd Fredendall, CEO, NorthStar CU, kicked off the visit by explaining the governance and structure of the U.S. domestic credit union movement. BCU was a second stop on the trip, and CEO Mike Valentine and John Bratsakis, senior vice president of business development, discussed the use of technology and the electronic delivery of services and risk management. Also, Ed Berg, CEO of First Northern CU, and his staff emphasized marketing efforts, including branch design and branding. Geri Burek, CEO of South Division CU, discussed community involvement efforts. “The intention of this trip is they can go back and directly apply ideas and adopt new technology and services for the people, especially those they are trying to attract,” Corro said. “Anytime that you can share information, it can only benefit the credit union movement locally and on an international basis,” said Dan Plauda, Illinois Credit Union League president/CEO.