Supporter Updates


What is the international credit union movement facing?

We have endeavored to stay in communication with credit unions around the world over the last month. Technology today allows us faster and more complete information exchange than during previous crises. We are looking at three waves: Coronavirus Health Crisis, Credit Union Institutional Stress and Global Recession. 

First Wave:  Coronavirus Health Crisis

With the coronavirus crisis, credit unions find that their members are increasingly sick and unable to work, laid off, financially fragile and therefore set back by health costs. Those affected are not able to generate income, not able to make loan payments and are limited in how long they can live on their savings. Members will be subject to loss of assets, including their savings, retirement investments, housing or vehicles.

At the wider level, credit union communities suffer overwhelmed health care systems. As countries go into lock down, schools are shut down, unemployment increases and small businesses shut down.

Credit Union Member Interface:

Credit unions face a time in which their services are critical to their members and yet personal contact can put their employees and their members at risk. This has reinforced the importance of digital service delivery. Remote service delivery via online banking, mobile channels and video tellers has dramatically increased. Many credit unions have closed their lobbies or branches and have focused on service via drive-up, service window tellers and digital channels. 

Not all credit unions are able to shift services to digital channels. Many continue to provide face-to-face service while addressing social distancing: spacing out their lobby waiting areas to avoid crowding, putting up plexiglass teller windows, providing tellers with gloves and sanitizers, and frequently wiping down service counters.

Member Financial Impact Mitigation:

Most everywhere credit unions are assisting members with loan restructuring: deferred payments, reduced interest, fee waivers, interest-only loan payments and loan extensions. Credit unions have introduced programs to provide affected members with advances, no interest or low interest loans through the crisis period. They have also allowed withdrawal on certificates of deposit without penalty.

In many countries credit unions have stepped up assistance to members with debt consolidation and financial counseling to help them manage the impact on their personal and family financial condition. There has been a dramatic increase in cyber attacks, phishing and cyber fraud. Consequently, some credit unions and their associations have provided identity and data protection guidance. Credit unions have contributed to community health services and to organizations assisting affected persons.

Policymaker/Regulator Reaction:

Many governments have imposed lender relief programs which include debt forgiveness, moratoriums on loan payments, limits in loan payments to interest only, and restrictions on collections or repossession of collateral assets. Some governments have established limits on savings withdrawals.

We have provided advocacy support to the international standard-setting bodies and to our members for regulatory flexibility to:

  • Allow flexibility on restructuring loans.
  • Allow credit unions to make loans with special terms and reduced documentation to assist members.
  • Reduce provision requirements for state mandate affected loans.
  • Designate credit unions as essential businesses.
  • Ease restrictions by correspondent bank services to credit unions.
  • Allow for temporary provision of cash & payment services to non-members.
  • Allow flexibility in allowing credit unions to adjust their hours of service.
  • Allow credit unions to conduct board, management, membership meetings virtually.

The Second Wave: Credit Union Institutional Stress

In 2020, credit unions will experience decreased return/income on their loan portfolios as a result of increased delinquency and write-offs, loan restructuring and interest rate reductions, state mandated loan payment holidays and increased provision costs.

Most credit unions will experience decreased liquidity as loans default, savings withdrawals increase and banks limit credit union withdrawals. They will also experience losses in their investments.

The result, beginning in the second quarter 2020 and extending through the year-end, will be slower growth, lower income and reduced capital reserves.

We continue to support national associations and credit unions with tools and training for:

  • Cash Flow Analysis.
  • Cash Flow Management Tools and Training.
  • Liquidity Management.
  • Training & Management of Flexible and Restructured Loan Implementation.
  • Loan Performance and Term Analysis and Projections.
  • Loan Recovery Support.
  • Capital Impact Analysis and Business Planning.
  • Business (Financial) Plan Training, Implementation and Supervision.

The Third Wave: Global Recession

Beginning in 2020 and into 2021 we expect a global recession as a result of the disruption of production and supply chains, international commerce and business shutdowns. Members will continue to suffer from unemployment, the inability to generate income, inability to make payments and loss of assets. Communities will continue to experience unemployment, stress on health systems and failure of small businesses. 

The depth and length of the recession will depend on how quickly countries and economies come out of the health crisis and how robust their health response and economic stimulus policies are. South Korea took quick action to contain, test and prevent spread of the virus. Many countries have closed borders and restricted business to essential services or confined populations to home, except for travel to the doctor, grocery markets or financial institutions. Some countries have been slower to respond and contain the virus. Larger industrialized countries have produced fiscal stimulus policy measures to help their economies recover. Some regions, such as Africa and Latin America, are at the beginning stages of the spread of the virus and will exit the crisis later than those now approaching the apex of the crisis.

Where health infrastructure is weaker, policy is less robust, and where populations are congested and with fewer resources, the health and economic impact will be more severe. Continued economic impact often leads to social and political unrest.

The impact on credit unions will continue to be lower income, impairment of asset quality and reduction of reserves. This will be a challenging time for credit unions. Many smaller and thinly capitalized credit unions, experiencing further losses and insolvency, will not survive. Consolidation will proceed more rapidly in the credit union sector across many countries. 

Yet, as we have seen happen through so many previous crises, credit unions will continue to provide cash and loans to their members while other financial institutions pull back in their lending. Credit unions will work with their members to help restructure loans and find ways to help them get through the crisis and keep their assets. The result will be increased membership growth and increased savings as consumers return service with loyalty. With large inflows of liquidity, lower return on bank deposits and limited lending opportunities, credit unions will then be under pressure to find good lending opportunities to lend that money out and earn the return needed to rebuild their reserves. Credit unions will return to expanding working capital, as well as agricultural, small business and housing lending. With increased membership growth will come increased demand to meet consumer expectations for convenience through digital service delivery services.

Crisis periods are when we see credit unions shine for their members and in their communities. Thank you for the work that you are doing to support your communities and for supporting our ability to help our international colleagues do the same for theirs.

Stay safe and stay well,


Brian Branch
President & Chief Executive Officer

International Credit Union Update on Coronavirus Impact

While on one hand, it strikes me that social distancing is lonely work, on the other hand, I have also been struck with the sense of community of our international network.

As Venezuela Collapses; Helping Latin American Credit Unions Integrate Immigrants and Refugees into Local Economies

Many of the geopolitical challenges that we see in the news have their roots and their impact at the community level. Credit unions everywhere are community-based organizations. Communities turn to their credit unions to mitigate these challenges — and those credit unions often turn to us to support their capacity to do so.

Setting the Framework for Global Digitization in Kuala Lumpur

The global credit union system reached the Vision 2020 target of 260 million members at the end of 2017, three years early. Yet not all credit unions or country systems grew equally. Those credit unions that offered their members robust online and mobile channels grew, while those that did not showed stagnant growth. Smaller country systems that used shared payment platforms showed growth, while others without digital channels lost market share and displayed little growth. The next challenge is not a new number for membership growth, but instead, addressing the channels for feeding membership growth for the future.

Credit Union Resilience Disaster Response Engagement in Puerto Rico

In August, we flew back in to San Juan, Puerto Rico, with our colleagues from California, North Carolina, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas and Colorado to share the lessons learned from credit union responses to disasters around the country. 

Study and Service in Puerto Rico: Launching "Operation Stormbreak"

We will return to Puerto Rico August 1-6, after the World Credit Union Conference (WCUC) July 28-31 in The Bahamas. During WCUC, the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions will launch “Operation Stormbreak” — the establishment of a forward-prepared fund to respond immediately when a natural disaster happens.

Rebuilding Shattered Lives in Kurdistan

We traveled to Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, at the request of former military personnel, to explore a credit union approach for serving refugees. Can credit unions help refugees in the camps find a way to build assets, re-engage in a productive economy, and move from relief dependency to self-sufficiency?

Keeping Families Together: Guatemalan Credit Unions Launch Young Entrepreneurs Fund

Guatemala has one of the highest numbers of small business startups in Central America. Yet only one in seven startups survive the first year of operation. Young entrepreneurs are high risk credit subjects and therefore credit unions have been reluctant to finance them.

2018: End of Year Report

Supporter contributions fund the credit union development programs in the field that the World Council and the Worldwide Foundation carry out. We look at what challenges we have faced, what we have accomplished and what is still underway at year-end 2018. 

Caribbean Hurricane Relief: Dominica Credit Union Rebuilding

Hurricane Maria in 2017 damaged 18,000 of the island’s 23,000 buildings. The island has six credit unions on the island serving 97% of the population. 

Field Engagements Planned for 2019

"Engagement trips are like traveling in a time machine. Sometimes you go to the future. Sometimes you visit the past.” - courtesy of one of the Worldwide Foundation’s engagement participants.

Progress at Busia

Worldwide Foundation continues to support the Busia orphanage with food and school fees. In 2018, after young girls at the orphanage had been harassed by men who tried to break into their dormitory, Worldwide Foundation called for donations to build a protective wall around the orphanage.

Rebuilding for Puerto Rico: Loan Participation Workshop

On the island of Puerto Rico there are 115 state-chartered credit unions (CUs) with 1 million members and $8.1 billion in assets. There are 9 federal chartered credit unions with 85 thousand members and $800 million in assets.

A Deep Dive in Asia

We depend on financial support of credit unions for the work we do. We also depend on the commitment of personal time and voluntary effort of credit union people to make a difference in the lives of many around the world.

Puerto Rico: Preparing for the Next Hurricane Season

In Puerto Rico there are 115 state-chartered credit unions with one-million members and $8.1 billion in assets. There are nine federal-chartered credit unions with 85,000 members and $800 million in assets.

Economic Democracy

We remember that when Poland achieved political democracy, the leadership of the Solidarity trade union movement sent its young leaders abroad to study credit unions and pursue economic democracy as well.

At the Bottom of the Pyramid

In March, we returned to Busia Kenya, to the orphanage that credit unions built. We did basic service work, painting and repairing facilities, planting banana trees, mixing cement and laying tiles. We cooked and entertained the children. Why an orphanage?

Supporting Credit Unions & Orphans in Kenya

There are 6,400 credit unions in Kenya, called SACCOs (Savings and Credit Cooperatives) serving 6.2 million members.

Developing Business Lending in Guatemala

Communities in Guatemala have seen the departure of their youth. “We have no future here: no jobs, no money”, Josué, 12 years old, from San Pedro told us. So, the communities turn to their credit unions for a solution.

Credit Union Relief Knows No Borders

One of the privileges that we enjoy working in the credit union movement is to be part of a global community which reaches out in times of disaster to help each other regardless of borders.

A Deep Dive in Ukraine

We flew into Kiev from Vienna. Others came from the US, Poland and Kenya. After three years of war, our Ukrainian colleagues were relieved to receive outside visitors. 

Colombia: From War to Peace

The conflict in Colombia ran for 50 years. It took place between the military, para military, rebels, guerrillas, narco-traffickers and crime syndicates. 

Recovery in Haiti

We remember the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that destroyed much of Port au Prince, including credit unions. Credit unions provided some of the very first relief in their local communities. Credit unions in the Dominican Republic established a supply line of water and food to credit unions in Haiti.

Working with Youth in Central America

Since 2013, migration north from Central America by tens of thousands of unaccompanied children has put stress on the border and on the political environment. It is the result of a crisis in the communities from which they come: lack of security, lack of an economic future and poor infrastructure.

Supporting Credit Unions in Ukraine

Thank you for your supporter commitment to the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions during 2016. I wanted to share with you some of what we accomplished in 2016 thanks to your support.