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Credit Unions need to continue educating their members

Credit Unions need to continue educating their members
A section of the audience at the Everard Dean Memorial lecture

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Credit unions don’t have a greater share of the financial market because of their failure to continuously educate members.

This was one of several points made at the Everard Dean Memorial lecture on October 17 by attorney-at-law and featured speaker Yvonne Ridguard Harris.

The lecture was held on Credit Union Day under the theme, “Credit Union philosophy in motion” and the featured speaker explored the origins of credit unions, the place they currently occupy within the financial sector and the potential space they can occupy as they continue to grow.

Credit Unions need to continue educating their members
attorney-at-law and featured speaker Yvonne Ridguard Harris

“Now that credit unions have grown or arrived as we say, it seems that credit unions are forgetting or just plain ignoring these important philosophical principles — and I might add — at their own peril,” Harris said.

The lawyer said that “if a credit union budgets every year a sum to educate its members and the wider society as to the philosophy of the cooperative movement and aspects of the principles of the credit union business model or any other important relevant issue, then the cooperative business model will implode and become stronger…”

She proffered that credit unions have failed to continuously educate, train and inform their members — most of which have joined to access financial services without really understanding the uniqueness and value of being a part of the cooperative movement.

Harris said that education was one of the key parts of the movement when it was just being formed and perhaps what catapulted the growth of unions in earlier years.

The featured speaker noted that in St Vincent and the Grenadines, credit union assets as at the end of 2018 were 22 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

She also noted that credit unions were the fastest growing part of the financial services sector. Whereas the credit unions grew by 11 per cent last year, in comparison to 2017, banks recorded growth of just over 2 per cent.

“How many Vincentians are aware of the projects credit unions do on this International Credit Union day? How many Vincentians are aware of how many scholarships they have given out? Are the credit unions hiding their light under a bushel?” Harris questioned.

She said that “credit union members and the public at large should be constantly aware that credit unions in St Vincent and the Grenadines are safe and secure, providing excellent financial services to their members, whilst at the same time socially and economically being in their community”.

Kenneth ‘Vibrating Scakes’ Alleyne, the winner of the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC) song contest, performed his winning song, ‘Stand Tall’ at the lecture.

The calypsonian’s song highlighted all the key tenets of the cooperative movement.

And the featured speaker said that credit unions should utilise cultural forms like these more often as part of their marketing strategies.
“Credit unions need to tell their stories so that they may empower their individual members and society at large. Caribbean people are known for their storytelling abilities…what better way to market your credit union than for your members to tell other members and non members of their economic and social empowerment from their credit unions,” she said.

Harris stressed that members, particularly junior members, need to know the basis and existence of their financial organisation and the philosophy which guides the business members.

It is only then she said, that members will remain loyal to the credit union brand.

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