A new year often signals a process of renewal. It involves the recognition of achievements, failures, uncompleted objectives, and the setting of new goals to be attained.
The credit union movement in Barbados, like most other institutions in the services sector, is emerging from the setbacks of the almost three years long COVID-19 pandemic. During that period, lending slowed and delinquency increased as a result of significant job losses and displacements. However, our movement of empathy and collaboration, was swift to respond to the needs of our base, which remains largely working-class.
Many members who found themselves in difficult situations were afforded the opportunity to enter into arrangements that stabilised their finances and reassured them of their future. That is who we are as credit unions. And we are well positioned to further satisfy the needs of our members as the country is again on a growth trajectory.
Our movement was born out of a need to fill a void where working-class Barbadians were not fully catered to, and in many cases, were overlooked by established financial institutions. Our foundation of cooperation, equity, self-help, solidarity, democracy, and responsibility have served us well and together represent the anchor of our existence.
Those qualities on which this sector is based, coupled with the fact that we are owned and controlled by our members, remain fundamental to who we are as a movement. Barbadians in turn demonstrate their confidence in the sector as membership continues to grow, increasing by almost five percent by the end of 2021, to reach 231,046.
At the same time, with almost $3 billion in total assets, the sector’s leaders understand their tremendous responsibility to ensure the strength, integrity, and faith in the sector.
The Barbados Co-operative & Credit Union League Limited (BCCULL), of which I have the honour of leading, is the trade organisation of the movement. We continue to prioritise training to strengthen the governance structure of credit unions as well as compliance with ever evolving standards.
There will always be periods of challenge in every sector of our economy, however, I assure you the movement remains strong, the commitment to quality management is unwavering, and the vigilance of our vocal membership is an added layer of oversight.
There have been mergers of smaller institutions and we expect this trend will continue as the movement advances to meet the demands of members and regulators.
For small member societies with assets of less than $20 million, the League has sought to strengthen their capacity through a consultant who provides technical support in several critical areas.
Our member societies also continue to adapt to the International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS 9) that requires more robust provisioning for losses.
At the same time, the profitability of credit unions increased, with a return on assets of 0.5 percent at the end of 2021. The net income margin of the sector reached $114 million, an increase of $8 million at the end of 2021.
The year 2023 will mark the 76th anniversary of the establishment of credit unions on the island, and the 66th year of the BCCULL’s existence. Credit unions in Barbados are an integral component of the island’s financial architecture and we will continue to take our place as sustainable and enduring institutions that are the embodiment of Barbadian pride and industry.
Happy New Year Barbados!