Minnesota Credit Union Network celebrates growth & development of credit unions in Paraguay
press release: Minnesota Credit Union Network 05/30/2014 – ASUNCION, Paraguay – Last week, representatives from the Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) traveled to Paraguay to recognize the 20th anniversary of Central de Cooperativas del Area Nacional Ltda. (CENCOPAN). Formed in 1994, CENCOPAN provides its member credit unions with services similar to those offered by trade associations and corporate credit unions in the United States.
MnCUN and CENCOPAN have been paired through the World Council of Credit Unions’ “International Partnership Program” since March of 2004. The two organizations were also celebrating a decade of partnership, which has allowed for the exchange of knowledge, information, and experiences among the two countries.
During the visit, MnCUN President & CEO Mark D. Cummins spoke at CENCOPAN’s International Seminar, which was entitled, “Credit Unions: A True Alternative for Economic & Social Development.” Cummins provided an overview of the changes in payments systems and the evolution of technology in the U.S. He advised the credit unions in attendance to advance technologically or risk becoming irrelevant.
“If you don’t adapt and make changes to your product and service offerings, you risk becoming irrelevant to your members – and they will move on without you,” Cummins said. “You have a great opportunity to be very successful if you are cognizant of the changes taking place and continually seek to serve the next generation of consumers.”
In keeping with the theme of technological changes, CENCOPAN’s Board Chairman Pedro Elias Loblein Saucedo introduced a new line of products during his session at the seminar, which included a live demonstration. The new “Socio” suite includes credit cards, debit cards, pre-paid cards and mobile banking products, which are intended to attract new members and provide broader access to banking services throughout the country. According to CENCOPAN, 70 percent of adults do not have a formal relationship with a financial institution, and the organization is currently marketing these products to credit unions.
“Over the past 10 years, our partnership with the Minnesota Credit Union Network has been very valuable for CENCOPAN and for the credit unions of Paraguay,” Loblein said. “We appreciate your guidance and experiences in developing this industry and helping to improve the level of sophistication of our organization. We are now someone that feel very confident in doing business with.”
In recent years, CENCOPAN has streamlined its internal departments and overall organizational focus, rebranding the association and opening a new office in a visible part of the capital city, Asuncion. CENCOPAN is also currently in the midst of a technological assessment, working with the International Development Bank to audit their offerings and define areas where it can make structural improvements in safety and security.
Going forward, MnCUN and CENCOPAN will shift the focus of its relationship, scaling back time and travel commitment while maintaining an open line of communication.
“It’s gratifying for us to see that we have made even a small difference in improving the options and offerings of credit unions to the people of Paraguay,” Cummins said. “As we are continually inspired by their cooperative philosophy, we wish CENCOPAN every success in the future and are proud of the work we have done together over the past decade.”
Main photo: During the May 2014 visit, MnCUN Vice President – Association Services Kristina Wright (left) and President & CEO Mark D. Cummins (right) met with the 30 de Agosto Ltda. Cooperativa. This credit union, chaired by Dario Quinonez Martinez (center), was the first in the country to implement safe deposit boxes, an innovation inspired by a visit he made to Minnesota during the partnership exchange. Now several Paraguayan credit unions offer safe deposit boxes to their members.
MnCUN President & CEO Mark D. Cummins (left) and World Council of Credit Unions’ interpretive specialist Thomas Belekevich (right) spoke at CENCOPAN’s International Seminar on May 19.
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