BUCHAREST, Romania–A credit union delegation from England and Scotland has completed a week-long trip to visit their counterparts in Romania. The participants included staff and board members from 14 credit unions that are part of the Association of British Credit Unions (Abcul), as well as Liverpool John Moores University, who also participated in classroom sessions on governance and financial education. In all, the delegation visited 10 credit unions across the country, according to Co-op News.
“Delegates explored the different approach of Romanian credit unions, known as mutual assistance houses (CARs), which lend a considerably greater proportion of their funds than those in Britain,” Co-op News reported. “This is possible due to a trusted guarantor system, under which borrowers have to identify one or two other people to guarantee the loan. The system allows low risk and low interest rates, enabling CARs to be commercially successful despite operating with often smaller memberships than in Britain.”
“The professionalism and helpfulness of the staff from top to bottom was unstinting, the CARs showed a reach into their communities that some of us in the UK credit union movement can only dream of,” Tom Waterhouse, a director at NHS Credit Union, told Co-op News. “The CARs also showed a range and sophistication from the very traditional to the very advanced that surprised and impressed in equal measure.”
‘Impressed With Commitment’
Chris Smith, a director at Co-op Credit Union, told the publication he was impressed with the commitment of the CARs to remain engaged with their communities, and the fact that that the bottom line is measured in other ways than just interest and dividend.
According to Co-op News, British visitors learned about the work of CARP Omenia, a credit union whose members are pensioners – many of whom must survive on low state pensions. To help, the CAR offers other services such as a GP surgery, a day center and home visits, and also acquires food products for members that are then sold to them at the same price, with the CAR covering the cost of distribution and storage.
The event followed a Romanian visit to Liverpool in June 2018, and a week in Trento in Italy for British and Romanians in October. This educational program is sponsored by the EU’s Erasmus+ initiative, which involves partners from the UK, Italy and Romania, Co-op news said.
“Learning from our international colleagues in this way has been so valuable for a British credit union sector which is still growing and developing its services to members,” said Dan Arrowsmith, policy officer with Abcul.