As Ariza Credit Union observes its 75th anniversary this year, its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lucia Livingston-Andall has exhorted members to “remain loyal” as this is the only way that the financial institution will continue to grow from strength to strength.
“We ask our members to please remain loyal because it is only through your loyalty that we will continue to grow this credit union from strength to strength,” Livingston-Andall told a press conference, which marked the launch of the Ariza’s Dimond Jubilee celebrations at the Grenada Trade Center in Grand Anse on Monday.
“I believe that the success for the next 75 years relies on us successfully embedding the credit union’s philosophy, policy, and operating principles within the psyche of every member. I believe that through that we would have the loyalty that is necessary,” Livingston-Andall told reporters.
She outlined several initiatives to commemorate this milestone including secondary and primary school activities, activities for the elderly members, the distribution of tokens and memorabilia, a family fun day planned for the mainland, and the sister isle of Carriacou, as well as activities to recognise members for their commitment and loyalty to the organisation with the possibility of up to 10 members winning $750.00 a month.
The Ariza CEO encouraged members to “make the credit union their primary source of financial business engagement”.
“That’s where we want you to do all of your business. The credit union, Ariza is able to provide you with all of the services, most of the services that you would require, and we have gone so far not just trying to meet your demands but pre-empting these demands,” she said, recalling “when we started to think about launching the ATM card and the debit card et cetera (that) there were initially some push backs so that need was not obvious”.
“…We were able to pre-empt, and basically, create that demand, and to provide that service and so, that is what we will continue to do,” she added.
Livingston-Andall also dropped hints about her intention to resign this year, after leading the growth and development of the credit union for the last 24 years.
She said: “2022 will also be the year that I as CEO will be completing 25 years of service. One-third of the 75 years of the credit union saw me at its helm, and I believe it’s time to move on to new blood, new energies, and I probably would be demitting office during that year (but) I continue to remain available to the Board because I think it’s important that we pass on, and we have a smooth transition and continue to inculcate and bring home to the membership the information about the philosophy et cetera of the credit union and I would love to continue to play a role in that regard.”
The longstanding CEO also used the opportunity to impress upon the Ariza team that will embark on the search for her replacement to ensure that the qualities “that make us special, successful, are embedded in the new executive team…the quality of having a heart (and) recognising that we have to be profitable.”
However, she warned that “profit cannot be the only thing that drives us, and as such we must continue to put people before profit but ensure that we make a profit for the people…”
“We must look for technical competence, technological awareness, business savvy, and acumen. We must look for energy, honesty and integrity. As we look at the next 75 years, let us this year create the backdrop to this 75 years to come, and ensure that we continue to have the orientation that will ensure our success,” she said.
Livingston-Andall also cited the need for greater collaboration among credit unions in Grenada in going forward.
“I believe that we must have deeper collaboration among credit unions, that we are in a very competitive environment, and that while singularly we might not be able to have the core resources that are required to ensure that we can meet the competition in terms of the dollars and cents required for investment in technology; we must do so, we don’t have a choice, and if we collaborate then we will be able to have the competencies and core resources that we need,” she said.
“I believe that investment in Fintech, financial technology, new technologies, technologies that relate to how we do our payments, our cross border payments, these are key, and we cannot continue to operate as silos but must bring our collective resources together so that together we are stronger and meet and beat the competition,” she added.
Formerly known as the Grenada Public Service Cooperative Credit Union (GPSCCU), the financial institution was rebranded in December 2016 to what is now recognised as the Ariza Credit Union in a bid to “capitalise on opportunities to propel growth in new markets, to meet the needs of new clientele and appeal to a wider audience.”
Former Marketing Manager at Ariza, Kimalene Regis, was recognised for the pivotal role she has played in the rebranding process.
Regis, who was also invited to speak at Monday’s commemoration ceremony explained that the Ariza brand is a “metaphor for upward movement, for rising and ascension to financial freedom, and towards future success.”
“The name,” Regis added “represents nurturing, care, and support, and emphasises the importance of members being at the heart of everything that makes up Ariza.”
Ariza has grown tremendously over the years evolving into the largest credit union in Grenada and the largest within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), according to Aaron Moses, who chaired Monday’s ceremony and serves as a director on the Ariza Board.
Having started with a small group of 20 entrepreneurial public servants, with a capital base of only $1, 000.00, Ariza now boasts a membership of over 23, 000.
Past President of Ariza, Ambrose Phillip who also addressed Monday’s ceremony noted that the success of Ariza over the years has been “because, in the face of hurricane type conditions, it has been able to be flexible, to change, re-engineer itself to accommodate changing times.”
“…I do not know that we would have been able to survive without providing the kind of services that members required…in other words the purpose of the credit union from being principally a provider of mortgages, and maybe what you would call short-term bridging finance in the very early days changed and evolved where the credit union had to meet not just the long-term but the short-term and daily needs of the member…,” he remarked.
Phillip expressed confidence that “if Ariza is to remain relevant we must continue serving the needs of the membership of the credit union”.
“If we look at the financial landscape one of the things that we ought to recognise is that in the financial crisis of 11 or 12 years ago, when you have the global financial shutdown so to speak that in the question of financial intermediation, it was only the credit union movement worldwide that did not buckle under, that did not require a bailout, that did not require government subsidies because of the structure, philosophies, and principles of the movement…and I would expect that Ariza will continue in this vein…continuing to meet the needs of the people,” he said.
Last October, the Ariza Credit Union was able to come to the rescue of the Keith Mitchell-led government to purchase $4 million worth of Government of Grenada bonds, which were offered to public officers as part of a 4% salary increase back payment.
Ariza was able to pay $4 million cash directly into the accounts of public officers at their respective financial institutions as part of its commitment to members, and potential members to bring an end to a prolonged dispute over the negotiated 4% salary increases to take effect in January 2021 which the government maintained that it was unable to pay due to financial challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.