Credit unions have grown in popularity throughout the Caribbean and for the past 60 years they have become a large part of the financial landscape and culture. They offer financial inclusion, opportunities and a promising future to Caribbean people and businesses.
“Empower Your Financial Future with a Credit Union™” is the theme of this year’s International Credit Union (ICU) Day, which is being celebrated on Thursday, October 20, 2022.
Samuel Fields Consulting Group (SFCG), a Community eLearning Partner, with a dedicated network of financial experts, discussed the state of credit unions throughout the Caribbean on their weekly digital show 𝙇𝙄𝙆𝙆𝙇𝙀 𝘽𝙔𝙏𝙀 𝙄𝘿𝙀𝘼𝙎. The theme of the discussion was “Credit Unions: Empowering Communities through Financial Education.”
Guests on the show were Jennifer Whyte, General Manager of St. John’s Cooperative Credit Union (SJCCU) and Phoenix Belfield, General Manager of Dominica Cooperative Societies League Ltd. The two Credit Union executives discussed tips and tools to educate consumers about credit unions and the value that they provide, particularly in promoting financial literacy as a key tool to empower communities.
Throughout the pandemic credit unions truly lived up to their “people helping people” mandate, by offering financial support to members in myriad ways, including payment deferrals, emergency loans, fee refunds, waivers, community support and financial counseling.
Jennifer Whyte noted that “SJCCU took a hit during the pandemic, since many members loss their jobs or significant income. But we rapidly pivoted to serve our members by offering several creative payment deferral programs. We are stronger today and offer our members many programs to improve their financial knowledge and financial habits.”
Belfield indicated that in Dominica, credit unions have positioned themselves to serve people and places that the financial sector historically has not served well. He commented “In Dominica, we never let a disaster go to waste and we now focus on a human + digital approach to banking. We speculated that many members who had been forced to go digital during the pandemic, would continue to use this channel going forward and that has been the case.”
Small businesses took an especially heavy hit throughout COVID. Although some of their business has returned—for those who were able to survive the darkest days of COVID—the same challenges these businesses faced before the pandemic remain, with access to affordable credit and inconsistent cash flow topping the list for many. Credit unions provide support to help small businesses recover by sharing their stories, committing to buy local, partnering with local businesses to support vulnerable employees, and partnering with other credit unions to provide small business relief grants.
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