By Wes Anderson, former Manager of the Family First Credit Union and
By Alison Darcy, CUFA Project Officer
“The credit unions in Russia have come a long way in the past twenty years since that first meeting in 1994 and it was most gratifying for me to see the progress that has been made”.
Wes Anderson was a recent honorary guest at the Russian Credit Union Leagues’ 20 year anniversary along with CUFA’s CEO Peter Mason. He is the former Manager of the Family First Credit Union, Lithgow, an inaugural member of the ‘Russian Club’ and is also this years’ recipient of the Kevin Yates award.
The Russian Credit Union League (RCUL) explains Wes, was born in 1994 in response to WOCCU’s request for credit union movements around the world to come together to assist in the development of credit unions in Russia. As a result of WOCCU’s request a number of credit union movements around the world contributed including WOCCU, the Irish Credit Union Foundation, the foundation from the French speaking Canadian credit union movement, Cuna Mutual Insurance, the Alaskan Credit Union League, CUFA and Family First Credit Union (FFCU).
A representative from each movement was invited to attend the inaugural Russian Credit Union League meeting in May 1994, and collectively we were nicknamed the ‘Russian Club’ by the Russians, reflects Wes. 20 years on, RCUL has gone from strength to strength, with major progress from many of the Russian credit unions to improve their community and membership of their credit union. To mark this historic occasion, the league held a 20 year anniversary forum.
Attendance at the RCUL 20 year anniversary was a particularly momentous occasion for Wes.
“I am according to the Russians the only surviving member of the original ‘Russia Club’ so my presence at the celebrations was very important for them. I’d like to thank CUFA and the Australian Credit Union Archives for their support and encouragement in allowing me to attend this event, without which, it wouldn’t be have been possible.”
The Forum was an opportunity for the international credit union community to once again come together and celebrate the achievements, trends, innovations and developments that the Russian movement has achieved in the past 20 years and to plan ahead for the future.
Looking back at photographs from that first historic meeting 20 years ago was a trip down memory lane for both Wes and the Russians, who requested copies to include in their archives.
“It was a privilege to speak about the ‘Russian Club’ and how proud my credit union, (FFCU) was to be a member of that exclusive club which showed true cooperation between credit union organizations from around the world and RCUL” says Wes.
For Wes a highlight of the event was to be reacquainted with Mikhail Ivanov, an intern who travelled to Australia in 1994 and spent time at the FFCU to learn about how to run a credit union.
“Mikhail told me that upon his return to Russia after his internship in Australia that his credit union grew so much and was so successful that he resigned from his job in the factory and took on managing the credit union full-time, only retiring from this position last year”.
Mikhail went on to become a credit union leader in Russia and is now referred by his peers as a Russian credit Union pioneer, said Wes.
“This was one of the real success stories to come from the co-operation between Australian and Russian credit unions in those early years. It was a big honour to see how far both Mikhail has come since his time with my credit union”.
For Wes the conference and celebrations were a great success for the RCUL and from his observations although they still have many problems to solve, as do most credit unions in other countries, they will no doubt work together to solve those problems.
“The RCUL and credit unions in Russia have come a long way in the past twenty years since that first meeting in 1994 and it was most gratifying for me to see the progress that has been made”.
“I would like to thank the Trustees of the Australian Credit Union Archives for the Kevin Yates award and the co-operation of CUFA for the opportunity to attend the forum and twenty year celebrations and to see the progress they have made. I think my presence also really meant a lot the officials of the RCUL who no doubt have worked extremely hard over the past twenty years to achieve the success they celebrated in Sochi”.
Kevin Yates promoted Credit Union principles and assisted others to bring banking alternatives to communities who otherwise would not have access to savings and loans. Based on Kevin Yates’ commitment to the Credit Union philosophy, the Kevin Yates Award was established to recognise those that voluntarily gave and continue to give their time and energy to promote the principles of the sector.
Each year CUFA in partnership with the Australian Credit Union Archives selects an award recipient who demonstrates commitment to the mutual sectors principles and is dedicated to helping the communities that CUFA works in.