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Technology helps rural Mexico CUs double-digit growth
CORDOBA, Mexico (2/8/10)--Caja Yanga, a credit union located in rural Mexico, is realizing double-digit monthly membership growth rates after installing new technologies last year. Membership grew 15% per month last year and the credit union reached members in remote areas. It has 40,000 members.
Click to view larger image Brian Branch, (right) World Council of Credit Unions executive vice president and chief operating officer, meets with Francisco Perez Armas, Caja Yanga’s director of marketing development, and other credit union managers prior to the January launch of the credit union’s first ATMs.
Click to view larger image A Caja Yanga member (left) from the remote village of Miahuatlan deposits money into her savings account with the help of a credit union field officer, who uses a personal digital assistant to access her account and process the transaction. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
In December, the credit union installed four IBM blade servers and moved its principal data center from its headquarters in Yanga to a branch office in Cordoba. The move improved data transfer efficiency and is providing the capacity to support projected membership growth during the next five years. “With the previous system, data transfer was relatively slow, but the new system makes it much faster,” said Alejandro Rodriguez Penuela, Caja Yanga information systems assistant. “We now have the switches in place that will provide for better data administration as we grow.” The credit union also began using handheld transaction devices such as personal digital assistants (PDAs). It is one of 53 credit unions in Mexico that is implementing new technology into its outreach strategy. Caja Yanga works closely with the World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) development program in Mexico. That program is funded by the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing and Food through its Proyecto de Asistencia Tecnica al Microfinanciamiento Rural project to expand financial services to marginalized areas. Caja Yanga implemented the WOCCU-developed Semilla Cooperativa (Cooperative Seed) outreach model to reach rural members. As part of the model, credit union field officers bring savings-focused financial services to groups of 10-30 members in communities within 19 miles of existing branch offices. Twenty-eight field officers from Caja Yanga’s 13 branches visit 317 communities on foot or motorcycle and use PDAs to conduct transactions and transmit data. During 2009, field officers performed 80,960 PDA-based financial transactions for remote members, a capacity that's increasing along with Caja Yanga's member growth. “Caja Yanga demonstrates the commitment not only to reach the very poor and marginalized of the economy, but also the commitment to provide these people with the best quality and transparency of financial services through applications of technology,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. One of the challenges that Caja Yanga has faced is members’ lack of confidence in financial institutions, a fear often fueled by predatory lending practices and pyramid-type schemes that have characterized financial transactions in rural Mexico and other developing economies. Implementing these technologies in the field has helped increase confidence by providing access to real-time data amd proof of financial transactions with mobile printers, and creating a professional and innovative image, according to Caja Yanga field officers. Caja Yanga also is WOCCU's partner credit union in implementing the program, an online donor match program that helps Mexico's rural poor learn to save by matching small member deposits made for objectives such as housing, healthcare, education and microbusiness development needs.
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