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Insights from Catalyst

A World Away...

May 18, 2017

by Brad Ganey

Last month, I joined Shane Berger, president and CEO of Beehive Federal Credit Union, Pocatello, Idaho, and Todd Christensen, senior vice president of marketing, CapEd Credit Union, Boise, Idaho, on a trip to Moldova. Photo 2

The goal of our trip was to share with Moldovan credit unions (known as Savings Credit Associations, or SCAs) ideas for enhancing marketing, improving strategic planning and expanding payment options.

We did contribute expertise and assistance halfway around the world, and yet, I was able to bring back numerous concepts to the Catalyst Corporate community.

This partnership has very real and tangible benefits. No matter where in the world you go, credit union people are credit union people. They see financial services as more than a business – they see an opportunity to help people. The Moldovan people we met were so warm and generous, and their engagement motivated us to help as much as we could.

The challenges Moldovan SCAs face are different than those we face in the U.S. In a way, it’s like stepping back in time. Because of our own advancements and experiences, we are able to provide guidance and solutions to some of their challenges. We’re not any smarter. We’ve just had greater opportunities, and now we get to help others try to create those opportunities.

The Moldovans' passion for their work reinforced the commitment and determination I’m used to seeing from credit union people in the U.S. Real opportunities exist for them, but it’s going to be a long, uphill battle. They’ve got the passion, however, to see it through to completion.

The trip itself was made possible because of the passion of credit union leaders with the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). Catalyst Corporate had no business initiative to send me – we simply thought that helping a community develop a stable payment structure was the right thing to do. I’m grateful our industry has such passionate leaders and members that allow these kinds of trips to happen.

The Moldovans are taking one step up the mountain at a time – but you have to take a look at the whole mountain. For example, during our drive to Soroca, we passed beautiful farmland. On one side was an older couple, tilling their land with just two hoes. Next to them was another farmer with a horse-drawn plow. And across the street? A farm with a tractor. How are the first two farms supposed to compete with a modern-day operation literally across the street? This is just one of the challenges facing the people of Moldova.

Seeing their challenges compels you to want to take action. It shows you the human element. It also helps me see how fortunate we are in the U.S. to have an established credit union system. By exposing ourselves to a variety of perspectives, we can improve in business and improve as people. It’s important to keep things in perspective and help where you can.

More than anything, visiting Moldova helps me remember the roots of the credit union movement. Look at the challenges they’re having, but look what they’re doing! This is definitely not the end of their story – their ending is still being written.

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