One of the pioneers of the Latin American credit union movement is being honored for more than 50 years as an advocate and supporter of CUs around the globe.

The National Credit Union Foundation has bestowed Angel V. Castro with the 2018 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in recognition of his 50 years of service as a “worldwide voice” for the credit union movement and his “tireless work” in creating “stable financial systems” in Latin America.

Castro, president of Castro y Asociados, will be recognized during a special dinner and awards ceremony hosted by the Foundation at the Marriott Marquis Washington on Feb. 26, 2018, in conjunction with the Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference.

Angel Castro
Angel Castro, 2018 Wegner Award recipient

"Our committee was unanimous in their praise and admiration for Angel's commitment to the credit union system worldwide," said John Gregoire, chair of the Foundation's Wegner Awards Selection Committee. "Angel also has a special place in his heart for this award as he actually worked with Herb Wegner in Panama, later even helping bring Wegner to CUNA."

The Foundation noted that Castro is largely responsible for extending the credit union movement to Latin America. Castro, the group said, realized that the U.S. model of consumer credit-based poverty reduction would not fit the needs of the people he interacted with. His willingness to revisit the underlying assumptions of CUNA’s original strategies was crucial to their success in the region.

For example, in Ecuador, Castro focused on organizing credit unions offering members access to credit for agriculture and other endeavors.

While working with the CUNA Latin America Regional Office in Panama, Castro developed new credit union system components focused on centralized liquidity management and a computerized accounting data processing outsourcing service referred to as COFAC.

Beyond borders
Throughout his career, Castro created, fostered and implemented activities that have sought to establish credit union services and programs which have impacted the financial lives and improved standards of living for millions of members not just in the United States, but in the entire western hemisphere.

For more than four decades, Castro has been heavily involved in the Mexican Caja Popular movement, a cooperative financial services network which was first promoted by the Catholic Church in the early 1950s. More than 500 Cajas Populares were organized as informal financial services providers under the umbrella of private non-profit organizations over the following fifty years.

In 1991, the Mexican federal government established a regulatory framework which listed the Cajas Populares as legally recognized savings and credit financial institutions. More than 130 Cajas Populares later merged under one corporate umbrella and sought authorization to operate with these services.

By the end of 2016, Caja Popular Mexicana had over 2.3 million members, more than $2 billion in assets, with a national network of 474 branch outlets complemented with 200 automated tellers.

Caja Popular Mexicana is recognized as the largest credit union operating in the Latin American region, and in 2000 he received the World Council of Credit Unions' Distinguished Service Award.

Brian Branch, president and CEO of the World Council of Credit Unions
Brian Branch, president and CEO of the World Council of Credit Unions

“Angel Castro was one of CUNA’s first representatives to work in the Latin America region to spread credit union services to many under-served populations throughout the region,” said WOCCU President & CEO Brian Branch. “Angel scaled up his impact from local to regional levels: first working with a community credit union, then national federations of Ecuador, Panama, Dominican Republic and Mexico and then across the Latin America region through the regional confederation. Angel connected the Latin American credit unions systems to the U.S. and Canadian systems and brought updated models to Latin America to build more integrated systems”