Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canadian credit unions an eye-opener

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WINNIPEG may not look like a time machine to you, but it might to Khim Moh Moh.

The assistant general manager at the Central Co-operative Society in Myanmar has wrapped up 10 days of being immersed in Manitoba's credit union system.

And she's hoping to impart what she has learned to others in the financial co-operative business in her country -- which, by some accounts, is four decades behind Canada's.

Khim, who also works for the CCS Saving and Credit Co-operative Society, a local credit union, said financial co-operatives in southeast Asia and other parts of the developing world aren't nearly as big as their Canadian counterparts. They also don't offer the same range of products and services.

Most of their business is small loans and savings accounts, as well as some micro-financing. But after more than a week of learning about loan portfolios and deposits here, she's confident the products and services can be expanded there.

"We can provide mortgages and car loans," she said.

She is one of 11 women participating in the Canadian Co-operative Association Women's Mentorship Program this year, bringing its total for the last 13 years up to 176.

Bev Maxim, a nearly 40-year veteran of the Saskatchewan credit union system who is now a volunteer for the CAWMP, said while the sophistication and safety of deposits in Canada is on par with any country in the world, Myanmar isn't in the same ballpark.

"They're where Canada was 35 years ago. They use very manual systems and they're having to develop their processes and sophistication. It's our hope to assist them in fast-tracking their development by sharing our knowledge," she said.

Khim spent much of her time at a pair of Sunova Credit Union branches, which are best known for having a St. Bernard dog as a greeter.

Cheryl Mitchell, director of facilities and business development at Sunova, said she and her team gave Khim a crash course in how Canada's credit unions work.

"We do everything personalized at Sunova so we wanted to give her a little bit of the flavour of how we do business," she said.

But it wasn't all nose-to-the-grindstone stuff. Mitchell said Khim was also taken to Gimli, to The Forks and horseback riding.

Khim said while she understands how the dogs can be used as marketing tools in Canada, that element is one she won't be importing back home. "It depends on the culture of the country," she said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 12, 2013 B6

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