Stepping into the role of head of the Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union League (JCCUL) not only requires having the support of the team to lead the movement in this new area of financial technology and demand from inclusion of the unbanked, but Robin Levy has been tasked with charting a new vision for the league’s charitable arm.
Levy has a simple strategy – use the existing vision of the credit union to guide its members to help needy Jamaicans.
With more than 1.02 million members, that is a formidable resource to provide service to the entire island. Levy shares that the JCCUL Foundation will be reaching out through its members to determine the best way to have the biggest impact in the various communities that they serve.
“Credit unions have a motto ‘Not for profit, not for charity, but for service’,” Levy explains. “Ideally what you’d want is every organisation in Jamaica, every household in Jamaica, is to understand that they have a responsibility for the less fortunate in the society – those who do need that assistance. And then we’d build strategies around that, where we can do the most good, and in the most sustainable way.”
The league is the umbrella organisation for the 28 credit unions around the country, and Levy points out: “Credit unions are always ready to assist people who need help. Financially, specifically, because we’re a financial organisation. But every credit union needs to determine for itself how it is going to do what it wants to do. But we do provide one collective entity, and the idea with this entity is to have a strategy so that our corporate social responsibility is carried out in line with our mission and our vision for the entire movement.”
The credit union has a long history in Jamaica, and while each credit union can reach out to assist in their respective communities, the JCCUL is the national voice. Levy intends to use that influence to demonstrate the power of the league’s democratic principles.
“You have to remember that other financial institutions are for profit. The movement is about returning profits to our members in the form of dividends and services. And part of that service is helping to uplift members of the community who are in need.”
Levy believes that when the credit union acts in unison to impact Jamaica, that impact should be felt in a big way. He points out that one of the major ways that credit unions can make social changes is by helping foundations and other charitable organisations become more modern in their business approach and sustainable in their business practices.
Rather than live off one grant and hope for the next, Levy believes that the credit union movement can guide these entities into long-term positive impact.
That means moving from begging for charity to generating revenue to have funding for the target groups.
Levy explains: “In the same way that our country couldn’t continue begging, we had to effectively grow our economy enough so that we can sustain ourselves. Charities have to develop revenue-generating arms. They have to build trust funds large enough so that they can live off the interest of their investments. They have to do these things to make sure that they continue [to exist] and continue to serve.”
The credit unions are ready to offer consultations on this.
“And I’m speaking for my credit union managers, but I’m sure they would agree with me that we are ready to offer consultations in terms of how to be business-minded. We could open accounts for persons who are on the credit… offer investment advice. We have many licensed investment advisers in the movement who can assist with this.”