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SYDNEY, Australia – John Gilbert describes his credit union career as being like the legs of a three-legged stool. The three legs have been his jobs as a credit union regulator, a credit union CEO and now as the CEO of Credit Union Services Corporation of Australia, Ltd. (CUSCAL). He started the last job on July 1st of this year. He will need to draw on the experience of the first two “legs” for his credit union career to succeed in the third. CUSCAL is in the middle of a severe but dynamic reassessment of its role with its members. Before the last CEO resigned in February 2002, the down-under credit union industry had taken a dramatic step to review the situation and make recommendations for change under the name, “The Way Ahead”. Credit Union Times reported on this initiative last year. Gilbert is no stranger to difficult tasks. When he was CEO of Members Australia, an AUS$650 million Melbourne credit union with 85,000 members, he drove a 1998 merger that combined credit unions from the power, airline and science industries. Although Australian credit unions are no longer limited by a common bond, a large percentage of their members follow old common bond lines. The merger put Members Australia into the top 10 largest Australian credit unions. However Gilbert did not limit himself to only being involved with his own credit union. He was also a member of the board of directors of CUSCAL as it tried to adjust to the changing needs of its membership. He is well aware of the clear message from the industry that whatever else happens with “The Way Ahead” program, future plans need to take into account the needs of both small and large credit unions. There have been several mergers between credit union in Australia, with others in the works, but there are still many credit unions that have no desire to merge. Although Gilbert’s most recent experience as a CEO is with a large credit union, his experience with regulating all-sized credit unions make him sensitive to their problems and issues. Gilbert considers one of his biggest challenges is the relatively small market share that credit unions in Australia command – although 16% of the population are credit union members, credit unions have only a 5% market share. There is a lack of awareness among Australians of the benefits of belonging to a credit union. Gilbert feels credit unions need to make members more aware of all their products so that more services will be used. Because Gilbert is so familiar with the industry, he says he will have no honeymoon in his new position at CUSCAL. He has eagerly taken over managing CUSCAL’s 500-person staff. Gilbert says he has a lot of ideas and expects if the members approve his suggestions they will gain “collective strength from a collective marketing position.” He said he is not one to concentrate on the weaknesses of the past but rather considers them only as examples of what not to repeat. Meanwhile there is a group of five credit union leaders working on the proposals of “The Way Ahead”. Gilbert had been a voting member of the group, but as the new CUSCAL CEO he has had to resign. He currently sits in on their meetings in an advisory capacity. By the time CUSCAL’s members vote on “The Way Ahead” in November, Gilbert wants to make sure that all service delivery, IT and governance issues are resolved. He would also like to see cost savings strategies put in place as well as create new revenue opportunities for members. The challenges facing CUSCAL are not that different from those facing other leagues around the world, Gilbert believes. He is proud of the fact that CUSCAL even before his watch, sent three young people to the first young professionals leadership program sponsored by WOCCU. CUSCAL need to work with all age groups just as they need to work with all size credit unions, he says. It is an ambitious task Gilbert has tackled. He still returns to Melbourne regularly, where his youngest child is finishing school, but expects eventually to move to Sydney. Over his career, he has worked in both cities and feels at home in both. If he sees any disadvantage to his new job, it is only that he expects to have to postpone shaving a few points off his golf handicap for a while. He has too much to do in the office, a fact that is just fine with him. -

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