Maximizing Strength @ 57
Our FICCO rides on many strengths: almost 150,000 members, an army of dedicated volunteers, a corps of experienced and devoted personnel, committed leadership, a wide-menu of responsive products and services, 56 offices nationwide, 57-year successful track record, and many more.
FICCO’s humble beginning is best illustrated by its original 17 members when it started as Ateneo Credit Union (ACU) in 1954. The initial contribution amounted to a measly P 26.30. When ACCU (it became Ateneo Cooperative Credit Union in 1961) opened itself to the Cagayan de Oro community in 1970, its assets amounted to only P 184,000.00 and membership of less than 200. We have gone a long way indeed as shown in the following graphs.
By bringing its services closer to its members through branching out, FICCO easily expanded its reach even to areas where other financial institutions shied away. More importantly, its cost-efficient operation allowed the grassroots to enjoy banking services at prices normally offered only to the bankable. On top of this, the members also enjoyed returns on their investments at rates better than what the mainstream investors are getting from their stock investments.
Should FICCO now just sit on its laurels and relax, enjoying the fruits of its labors during the last 57 years? Definitely not! There are many things FICCO can do effectively, taking into account its strength. Its present leadership and top management could consider the following:
1. On-line banking. Members will be better served if they can deposit, withdraw, and avail loans from any FICCO office, or even if they are working overseas.
2. Money-transfer or remittances. With our network of branches and business centers, as well as our relationship with coop banks, and taking advantage of technology, FICCO can facilitate the flow of money among its members and their relatives, within the country and abroad. Thus, our many OFW members will be served. The multiplier effect in terms of business generated, transactions completed and anxiety eliminated is unquantifiable.
3. Distributorship. Market networking is now commonplace. And there are products and services that don’t require much in terms of warehousing and delivery. FICCO can partner with manufacturers and serve as conduit in product distribution. It can also tie-up with producers coops in distributing the latter’s products, e.g. rice producing coops packaging their produce in 5 or 10-kilo bags.
FICCO, with its huge membership base and network of offices, can easily facilitate the above services at competitive prices, to the advantage of its members. From experience, FICCO’s trailblazing moves set the standards in rural finance, benefitting the community as a whole. There is no reason not to bring its strengths to bear in other business lines.
FICCO can also leverage its sizable liquid asset pool to acquire utilities, e.g. electricity and water. The intent of the National Electrification Administration to sell losing electric coops to the private sector is a big blow to the coop movement of this country. But it is an opportunity that FICCO, along with like-minded coops, can explore. Ditto for water utilities. The impending removal of the LWUA head could pave the way for our drive to cooperativize water districts.
Before we get carried away with all these grandiose possibilities, let us reiterate to ourselves the reasons we do the things we are good at and explore new things using our strengths. FICCO is here to help alleviate poverty, redistribute wealth, and build up this country.
More power to FICCO on its 57th anniversary! And congratulations to all its supportive members, dedicated personnel and committed leaders for making FICCO the leading cooperative of the country today. (ibdaba, 30 June 2011)