|Ashley Ruffin and Joshua Fetting (standing) share information about Local Government Federal Credit Union's approach to marketing with representatives of Caja Yanga.
Three US credit union representatives, including two from North Carolina, traveled to the Southern Mexican state of Veracruz recently. The credit union staff met with representatives from Caja Yanga, a 71,000 member credit union located in the western part of Veracruz.
Ashley Ruffin, SVP of Marketing for Local Government FCU and Jeff Hardin, NC Credit Union League Director of Communications, were joined by Joshua Fetting, International Partnerships Officer for the World Council of Credit Unions. Ruffin, Fetting and Hardin met with Caja Yanga’s marketing team from August 19-25 in order to share examples of successful programs and campaigns, and exchange information about best practices.
“We had a great time, shared much and learned a lot about Caja Yanga and the Mexican credit union system,” said Ruffin. “Caja Yanga has an enthusiastic, creative team in place and their marketing work is comparable to that of many large credit unions here in the US.”
Caja Yanga operates seven branches in Veracruz and serves a wide variety of members. The western region of Veracruz is largely agricultural, with coffee and sugar cane two of the major crops. Farm workers typically receive a few dollars a day in wages. Meanwhile a growing class of professional, middle class workers lives in cities served by Caja Yanga, including Cordoba and Yanga.
“On the one hand, you have people in the cities who have choices when it comes to financial service providers,” Hardin said “and on the other, you have farm workers in more remote areas who have traditionally been unbanked. It presents several marketing challenges.”
To close the gap on rural access to the financial system, Caja Yanga participates in a program created by the World Council several years ago. Called Semilla Cooperativa, the program removes the chief obstacle rural populations face – lack of access – by taking the credit union staff to the more remote areas.
Ruffin, Fetting and Hardin traveled to one Semilla Cooperativa ("Cooperative Seed") during the trip. The Allegria (“Happiness”) group, which is located in the tiny village of Ampliacion Pozorron, gathers once each month to make deposits and loan payments. Javier Cortes, one of Caja Yanga’s Rural Financial Officers, travels to the group of about 15 members each month to transact business.
“The Allegria group really made an impression on me,” said Ruffin. “Each month, they come together as a group to conduct business and talk on the front porch where the group meets. Afterwards, they share a meal together with the credit union staff. It was a definite highlight of the week for me.”
“The (Semilla) program has really helped the credit union grow rapidly through the years,” said Caja Yanga President/CEO Margarito Saavedra. “In 2000, we had 8,900 members and today we have 71,000. About 35% of that member growth is due to the Semilla program.” (Please click here for more on the Semilla program.)
|Caja Yanga's Micro Enterprise Loan program helped Constancia Caloca open a small shop in the village of Paso Real.
In addition to rural access to financial services, Caja Yanga is also helping its members start their own businesses through micro-enterprise loans. These small dollar loans help members become business owners. “We visited with Constancia Caloca in the town of Paso Real, who opened a small store in the town about 10 years ago,” said Fetting. “Her story is a great example of how Caja Yanga is empowering its members by giving them access to credit so they can start their own businesses and reach their financial goals.”
The visit is one of many that credit union staff in NC has made to Mexico and other countries through the years. “We appreciate the opportunity to support the work of the World Council as they help credit unions throughout the world become more successful,” said NCCUL President/CEO John Radebaugh. “The relationships that are forged reinforce cooperative bonds, and the exchanges benefit North Carolina credit unions immeasurably.”
“I was really impressed with the marketing team and the management at Caja Yanga, and it was great to be able to share with as well as learn from them,” said Ruffin, who plans to stay in touch with the Caja Yanga group. “It was a great experience, and a chance to make lasting relationships!”