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NCUA Chairman Todd M. Harper Remarks at the Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Public Corporation for the Supervision and Insurance of Cooperatives of Puerto Rico

April 2023
NCUA Chairman Todd M. Harper Remarks at the Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Public Corporation for the Supervision and Insurance of Cooperatives of Puerto Rico

As Prepared for Delivery on April 26, 2023

Thank you for the kind introduction, and buenas tardes, everyone! Thank you for joining us for this special occasion. Today, we will sign the memorandum of understanding between the Public Corporation for the Supervision and Insurance of Cooperatives of Puerto Rico, or COSSEC, and the National Credit Union Administration.

This agreement represents an important milestone in strengthening our relationship and demonstrates our joint commitment to maintaining safe, sound, and fair systems of cooperative credit. With this memorandum in place, we will now work together to provide valuable staff training opportunities, share lessons learned and best practices, discuss how to address troubled cooperatives effectively and efficiently, and explore new ways to improve the supervision of cooperatives.

I would especially like to thank Executive President Mabel Jiménez Miranda. She is the one who first suggested the need for such an agreement. And, it is because of her vision that we are here today. I would also like to thank the entire COSSEC team for their assistance in drafting and finalizing this agreement. Their collaborative spirit is commendable, and we appreciate the warm hospitality during our time here on the aptly named La Isla del Encanto (or Island of Enchantment). I also wish to thank Kelly Lay, the Director of the NCUA’s Office of Examination and Insurance, and her team for their critical roles in making this agreement a reality.

Puerto Rico has a long history and extensive network of community-owned financial cooperatives, deeply rooted in the island and especially within rural communities. So, dating back to the late 1800s, Puerto Rico’s cooperativas have been a lifeline for many families and households in providing access to sustainable and affordable financial products and services, as well as responsible credit.

As such, the cooperativas play a critical role in the financial stability and security of the island. And, that role has grown considerably in recent years. Between 2018 and 2022, the number of members in the Puerto Rican cooperative system has increased by roughly 12 percent to more than 1.1 million individuals. That is nearly one in three Boricuas. And, over the same period, total assets, capital, deposits, and loans have risen at an even faster pace.

With the growing size and complexity of the cooperative system in Puerto Rico, the NCUA is pleased to share information, examiner training, and supervisory techniques as COSSEC works to meet the challenges that growth and new opportunities bring. And, this memorandum of understanding represents our agency’s continuing commitment to our partnership and collaboration for the benefit of all cooperative members.

One year ago, I had the privilege of meeting with credit union and cooperativa leaders here in Puerto Rico. While on that trip, I saw firsthand how the cooperative movement changes lives by promoting financial security and opportunity. This was especially apparent during my visit to Cooperativa Sagrada Familia, which had recently opened its “oasis” model branch to improve the lives of neighboring residents and increase the community’s resiliency after hurricanes.

That branch not only provides a place to conduct financial transactions and close new mortgages, but it also offers access to a deep water well, solar electricity, satellite communications, and a community kitchen. Together, these facilities will better support the credit union’s members and the community’s residents after future natural disasters.

The cooperativa’s investment in its local community also brings to mind Roberto Clemente’s wonderful motto. The baseball legend said, “If you have a chance to help others and fail to do so, you are wasting your time on this earth.” I very much agree with him. And, the cooperative system here has lived by those wise words for a century and a half.

Going forward, the NCUA and COSSEC’s continuing relationship will strengthen COSSEC’s supervision of the cooperativas, which in turn will lead to a stronger and more dynamic system to benefit all Puerto Ricans.

Thank you again to everyone involved for your hard work on this agreement. And, congratulations on a job well done!

With that, I will turn over the podium to Executive President Mabel Jiménez Miranda for her remarks.

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