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MDDCCUA fosters new CU federation in Colombia
COLUMBIA, Md. (11/2/12)--A group of eight Colombian credit union representatives last week traveled to Columbia, Md., to sign a partnership agreement with the Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association (MDDCCUA) through World Council of Credit Unions' International Partnerships Program.

The Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association (MDDCCUA) and the Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito Financieras (FECOLFIN), the new Colombian credit union federation, last week signed a partnership agreement at PAHO/WHO FCU headquarters in Washington D.C.. Pictured, from left, Juan Carlos Borda, FECOLFIN vice chairman; John Bratsakis, MDDCCUA president/CEO; Jaime Chavez, FECOLFIN chairman; Miguel Boluda, PAHO/WHO FCU president/ CEO; and Victor Miguel Corro, vice president of the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
The delegates represented the board of directors of the new credit union federation, Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito Financieras (FECOLFIN), one of WOCCU newest members.

FECOLFIN's newly appointed board of directors sought a credit union association partner to jumpstart the organization in terms of best practices, policies and procedures. MDDCCUA offered to fill that role and assist the group of credit union CEOs and volunteers by sharing its business strategies and advising how to increase affiliation in a critical phase of development.

The creation of FECOLFIN is an important milestone for the Colombian credit union movement, WOCCU said. Although Colombia has one of the highest rates of cooperative membership, the infrastructure of the credit union sector was missing key elements of a cohesive movement, such as a credit union federation. FECOLFIN will focus on giving a credit union-specific voice to its members before legislators and the government. The new federation also will seek to improve collaboration among credit unions nationwide.

"Currently, regulations in the country are either inconsistent or lacking detail, and credit unions do not have a seat at the table during talks about regulatory changes," said Jaime Chavez, FECOLFIN chairman. "The credit unions in Colombia need to come together with a unified voice to help tell our story and convince the regulators that credit unions need to be treated differently than banks."

The first phase of the partnership will focus on providing advocacy assistance to the Colombian credit union sector through workshops for credit unions and special visits with government officials. The partnership also will help FECOLFIN develop educational services and other services relevant to its membership.

MDDCCUA said it hopes to learn from Colombian credit unions about the needs of South American immigrants living in the Maryland and D.C. area, and strategies particular to that population that can be shared with MDDCCUA member credit unions.

In addition to visiting the offices of MDDCCUA, the group also visited the offices of three member credit unions: Montgomery County Employees FCU and Mid-Atlantic FCU, both of Germantown, Md., and PAHO/WHO FCU, Washington, D.C. During the credit union visits, delegates focused on learning the characteristics of a U.S. credit union's balance sheet and the regulatory challenges U.S. credit unions face.

MDDCCUA plans to form a delegation of association and credit union representatives to provide onsite assistance and learn about FECOLFIN firsthand.
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