Northwest Credit Union Leaders Speak at Korean Credit Union Conference

CEOs of two Northwest credit unions presented at a conference in Korea. In the process, they learned the issues credit unions around the world face aren’t so different after all.

CARLA

Carla Altepeter onstage at NCUFOK

Two northwest credit union CEOs presented at the 55th anniversary conference of the National Credit Union Federation of Korea (NACUFOK).

Dan Hein, CEO of the $59 million Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Employees Credit Union in SeaTac, and Carla Altepeter, president and CEO of $1.5 billion Numerica Credit Union in Spokane, were invited to attend the event. Hein presented on the ways credit unions responded to the American financial crisis, and Altepeter shared tips for attracting younger members to credit unions.

Both were thrilled to have another chance to visit Korea and work with credit unions there. Altepeter first visited as a delegate of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) in 2000. Hein visited and toured the NACUFOK offices in 2012 when he was vice president of administration and finance for the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA).

The Credit Union Movement in the Republic of Korea is younger than that in the U.S., and Altepeter said, they “look to us in the U.S. and other more advanced systems to help them grow their credit unions.” Hein said the attendees were interested in how credit unions work with regulators, how the process works when credit unions merge, and how competitive credit unions are with their different rates and product offerings. Altepeter was pleased to share the ways Numerica and other U.S. credit unions attract younger members, of particular interest to Korean credit union leaders because of the country’s rapidly aging population.

Although both CEOs were pleased to be able to share their knowledge, they both loved learning more about how credit unions in Korea are serving their members— and how U.S. credit unions can employ more of their practices. For example, Altepeter said her visit was “really humbling because of the grassroots work being done to help communities.” One credit union she saw even helped support a daycare center to help dual-income families. Although the logistics of a daycare center might be beyond what a credit union in the U.S. could manage, there are many new ways we could work with our members and our community to help solve the everyday issues that face them, and inspiration from other countries could be a great catalyst for grassroots work.

Hein was impressed by the level of cooperation among credit unions. “They have all of their IT on one system, so there’s a lot more working together,” he said. Credit unions, especially smaller ones like his 6,000 member CU, could benefit from greater co-usage of people assets. “The more we can do together,” he said, “the better off we’ll be.” He also thinks U.S. credit unions can learn from the ways credit unions in other countries are handling micro-finance.

Both CEOs highly recommend getting involved with credit unions internationally to share knowledge and ideas. As Hein points out, “the world is growing smaller,” and credit unions around the world can benefit from cooperation. It’s also invigorating, according to Altepeter. No matter where you go, she thinks, credit unions are founded on “the basic philosophy of people helping people. And seeing it in action helps recharge my batteries.”

Questions about this story? Contact Lynn Heider: 503.350.2225, lheider@nwcua.org.