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World Conference looks to future

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21 Jul 16

Over 1,700 international delegates have explored credit unions’ future growth at the World Credit Union Conference.

The annual event organised by the World Council of Credit Unions was held in Belfast, and brought together credit union staff, directors and volunteers from 55 different countries.

The conference’s opening ceremony saw a parade of flags of all the participating countries, with Debbie Smith-Hands from Pennine Community Credit Union – one of 15 CU Futures in Belfast for the World Council Young Credit Union People (WYCUP) programme – carrying the Union Flag on behalf of the British credit union movement (pictured).

In her last engagement before standing down from the Board, World Council Chair Anne Cochran greeted delegates, saying: “A crucial part of credit unions’ success is the passionate support of the credit union professionals worldwide, and by being here you are strengthening your commitment to the movement. We exist for one purpose – to financially empower and enrich the needs of our members around the globe."

Delegates also heard from the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness MLA, and the Duchess of Cornwall sent a special video message in which she referred to the role credit unions can play in Britain, saying: “Nearly two million people do not have access to a bank account. I believe that credit unions can help to change all of this.”

The conference ran from Sunday to Wednesday, with plenary sessions and a host of breakout sessions for delegates to choose from.

Professor Ian Goldin – former Vice President of the World Bank and now Director of the Oxford Martin School and Professor of Globalisation and Development at the University of Oxford – spoke of the global challenges, risks and uncertainty of a turbulent political and economic future, but highlighted the potential for credit unions to grow in emerging markets and to support people who feel left behind.

Fiserv President of Credit Union Solutions Mark Sievewright continued the theme of the challenging – but exciting – environment. He said there was great potential for credit unions to serve young consumers because: “Credit union philosophies of people helping people have a remarkable tie-up with what these young people want, and the values they hold.” However, credit unions had to be prepared to rise to this challenge because: “With change comes the burden to remain relevant and provide members with the service they need, when they need it.”

This year’s World Conference saw the highest ever number of British delegates in attendance. Across the world, 217 million people are members of 57,000 credit unions in 105 different countries.

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