Saturday, September 10, 2011

Maximizing Strength @ 57

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.

The graphs display in full the strength of FICCO in terms of membership support and responsiveness of its products and services. Loyal FICCO members make FICCO their depository, preferring it over banks proliferating all around. One can also deduce that our Coop couldn’t have achieved these remarkable milestones if it is not managed well, if its leadership failed to provide the right direction, and if it has no army of volunteers eagerly lending support.

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)

Grasping the Coop Way: Strength in Unity

October is that time of the year when cooperatives are recognized for their invaluable contributions to the country.

Last October 3, 2010 marked the launching of the Cooperative Month. Coops from the different parts of Region 10 gathered around the Capital Grounds to witness the opening ceremonies. Everyone was excited to begin the day’s festivities that included a mass, followed by the Cooperative parade, a bloodletting activity, and free medical consultations. Informative and educational activities were also lined-up for the whole month to cater to the needs of the different coops.

It was magnificent to see how the Cooperative way has expanded. The sheer number of coops that were present was a proof how far people understood the coop way. Coops serving the different facets in the society have embraced the cooperative philosophies and principles. Though varied, it was clear that there was a sense of unity despite of their diversity in ideals and interests. Coupled with the ambience of unanimity was the peculiar connection to the year’s theme, “One Coop Movement: Isang Pananaw sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso.” Judging on how the events pushed through, it was not peculiar at all. Yet, it was reminder of one important lesson that spurred the conception of cooperatives: Strength in Unity.

History relishes the power of unity to spark change. It is the kind of unity that transcends mere rewards and benefits. Rather, it is the kind of unity that drives people to help themselves and return, help others. Despite of the different challenges and adversities, the unity between the members serves as the anchor and the foundation that drives us to persevere.

As more and more cooperatives blossom, celebrations like the Coop Month reminds us to continue in our endeavors to unite people. In a world where materialism is eminent, it is our social responsibility to invite people to grasp the coop way. (rcuenca Oct. '10)

56: Revisiting Foundational Paradigms

The First Community Cooperative (FICCO) first embarked on a journey towards sustainable development and social security on July 8, 1954. Fifty-six years later, FICCO remains and still leads the way in realizing these visions.

No one could have ever imagined what FICCO would be 56 years after it was first conceived. Being in service for 56 years is no joke. We are talking about a cooperative that withstood the fragile economy of the 1960s. A cooperative that crawled throught the martial law. A cooperative that survived the 1990s financial crisis. And a cooperative that endured the global recession. There must be something that FICCO did to sustain itself amid all the trials that it experienced through the years. As we try to probe what made FICCO after 56 years, let us take a step back and relive the history of FICCO, from the its early predecessors, to its launching fathers up to today.

Digging up the history books, the meek minds of employees jumpstarted FICCO. They were naive and simple people who wanted to feel financially secure. They put a small group and agreed amongst themselves to help each other out. Fr. William Masterson, SJ saw something in their eyes and later organized them into a more orderly and productive group. From a small network of employees, FICCO (FICCO was known as ACCU back then) grew larger and needed to reach out to more people. By then, FICCO was a staple in cooperative works as other cooperative followed its lead.

Everyone who was affiliated with FICCO had this drive to continually be better, whether he/she maybe a member or an officer or an employee. This drive was soon to be regarded as a norm or a standard. Now, we finally see what made FICCO last for 56 years. It’s the culture of being COMMITTED. Even though our early forerunners did not realize that, they were committed to making their colleagues lives better through unity.

From then on, everthing came into place. The formulation of written codes that constantly reminds us of our duties and responsibitites are just for formalities. Practicing total membership care and good governance as well as having the defining values are imbedded to the hearts of minds of FICCO members.

Almost all the members believe that the key for having the continuity FICCO has achieved has been the conscious effort to adhere to the foundational paradigms that jumpstarted the cooperative. But quite frankly, the key for FICCO’s existence are the members who abides by the FICCO culture.

This culture maybe 56 years old but they were same standards that helped FICCO survive through various trials and challenges. However, it is important for these paradigms to not only be stagnant but also to continue to nurture this culture. And through this, FICCO will be the benchmark of a progressive and dynamic cooperative for years to come. (rcuenca july '10)