Shane Berger is helping credit unions in Moldova to modernize financial services in an economically challenged country
REXBURG, ID – Nearly 6,000 miles separate Beehive Federal Credit Union in Rexburg, Idaho from the Republic of Moldova in Eastern Europe. The uniting factor is the difference credit unions make improving people’s financial well-being.
You might say Beehive FCU President/CEO Shane Berger is a man on a mission. He wants Moldova’s consumers to have access to the same benefits America’s credit union members are receiving—including technology giving them access to their accounts, lower interest loans, and insurance on their deposits. Those services are not fully available in all of Moldova’s credit unions, which they call Savings and Credit Associations (SCAs). Moldova is situated between Romania and Ukraine, and became a republic only 26 years ago when it gained independence from the former Soviet Union. The young nation’s financial services industry is still developing.
Last month, Berger made the 5,679-mile journey to Moldova—his third pilgrimage in recent years to help SCA leaders grow their services. He’s serving as both a financial services expert, and an ambassador for the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), which is facilitating the partnership.
“In almost all of the cities and villages throughout Moldova, the citizens either have no access to financial institutions, or are limited to banks and money lenders who charge exorbitant rates of interest,” Berger noted. “I have hope that through cooperatives like SCAs, more and more individuals in those communities will be served with reasonably priced financial services.”
Berger is seeing the mission bear fruit. Blueprints have been drawn for the republic’s first SCA to be built from the ground up, based on lessons learned from the Board Chair’s tour of many Idaho credit union branches last year. After Berger’s last visit, Moldovan SCA leaders asked for more information about safe and secure payment systems for their members. As a result, Berger brought a technology expert with him on his most recent trip to Moldova.
“The big picture objective of our visit to Moldova is to bless the lives of individuals and families living in villages and cities throughout Moldova,” Berger said. “Not-for-profit, member-owned financial cooperatives are critical as they provide an affordable alternative to all people, but especially those of modest means. Our ability to impact the financial lives of Moldovans in a positive way has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”