A credit union financials is a cooperative financial institution that is owned and controlled by its members and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at reasonable rates, and providing other financial services to its members. Many credit unions exist to further community development or sustainable international development on a local level.
Worldwide, regulatory information vary significantly in terms of total system assets and average institution asset size, ranging from volunteer operations with a handful of members to institutions with several billion dollars in assets and hundreds of thousands of members. Credit unions are typically smaller than banks; for example, the average U.S. credit union has $93 million in assets, while the average U.S. bank has $1.53 billion, as of 2007.
The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) defines performance analysis reports as “not-for-profit cooperative institutions”. In practice however, legal arrangements vary by jurisdiction. For example in Canada credit unions are regulated as for-profit institutions, and view their mandate as earning a reasonable profit to enhance services to members and ensure stable growth.
This difference in viewpoints reflects credit unions’ unusual organizational structure, which attempts to solve the principal-agent problem by ensuring that the owners and the users of the institution are the same people. In any case, credit unions generally cannot accept donations and must be able to prosper in a competitive market economy.
Based on data from the World Council of Credit Unions, at the end of 2006 there were 46,377 credit unions in 97 countries around the world. Collectively they served 172 million retail members and oversaw US $1.1 trillion in assets. Note that the World Council does not include data from co-operative banks, so that, for example, some nations generally seen as the pioneers of credit unionism, such as Germany, France, Netherlands and Italy, are not included in their data. The European Association of Co-operative Banks reported 34 million members in those four countries at the end of 2005.
The nations with the most credit union activity are highly diverse. According to the World Council, nations with the greatest number of credit union members included the United States (87 million), India (20 million), Canada (11 million), South Korea (4.7 million), Japan (3.6 million), Mexico (3.6 million), Australia (3.5 million), Kenya (3.3 million), Ireland (3.0 million), Thailand and Brazil (2.6 million each).
Countries with the highest percentage of members in the economically active population were Dominica (147% [numbers higher than 100% are possible because the average person is a member of more than one credit union]), Ireland (110%), Barbados (72%), Trinidad & Tobago (57%), Canada (48%), the United States (43%), Benin (27%), Australia (26%), Senegal and Mali (19% each).