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CUNA’s Pete Crear is one of the most popular and likeable guys to ever wear a variety of credit union hats throughout his long and distinguished credit union career. He has made his mark many times. In the process, as a league staffer and as a league CEO in several different states before joining and moving up in the CUNA and Affiliates organization, he has also made tons of friends. Over the past several months, since announcing his retirement from CUNA, supposedly his final career stop, Crear has been lauded, applauded, honored, praised, and presented with enough honors and plaques to fill his family room. All well deserved. But like so many other credit union leaders who have also approached their retirement with much fan fare (former Colorado League CEO Carroll Beach comes readily to mind), and before the volume even began to fade on the cheery good byes and sincere good lucks, it turns out that Pete Crear’s much anticipated retirement isn’t really his retirement after all. At least not in the usual sense of that word. Instead it has become clear that Crear is only making another career change. Not too long after stepping down as Colorado League CEO, Beach re-surfaced in Georgia to handle Credit Union Service Centers (CUSC). Following that same pattern, even before Crear could set up his first of many anticipated golfing tee times, it was announced that he has taken on another full-time, high-profile credit union position. After an extensive search, apparently worldwide, the WOCCU search committee found their man just down the hall from its Madison, Wisconsin headquarters. Crear has been named CEO of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) effective June 20th replacing Arthur Arnold who resigned from the post last January. Since Arnold’s departure for another international position, Dr. Brian Branch has been serving as interim CEO. In an upbeat release, WOCCU’s Chairman, L.R. (Bobby) McVeigh praised the board’s choice calling Crear someone who will ensure a strong future for the organization. It pains me to say this since I think the world of Pete, but he is not a good choice and represents a step back to the CEOs preceding Arnold. WOCCU is not just another credit union association, nor is it another of the dozens of USA CU groups. It is a world credit union body that just happens to be located in the USA. Many years ago a move was made to move it to Geneva, Switzerland to reflect this internationalism, but American CU politicians prevailed in keeping it stateside. Looking back to the days when it was a mere offshoot of CUNA International under a variety of different names and structures, WOCCU has had its share of ups and downs. Many of the financial and leadership dips were directly attributable to its past volunteer leadership, or lack thereof, and top management expertise, or lack thereof. Arthur Arnold was hired and immediately raised the bar and took the organization to new heights on the global scene. That is something not just Crear, but any American, will have great difficulty in doing especially with so many parts of the world currently holding this nation in contempt. According to a veteran overseas credit union observer, Arnold spoke at least four languages fluently and was comfortable in a couple of others. He had numerous international high level contacts in both business and government circles. Throughout his career he was domiciled in many different countries long enough to learn and appreciate diversified cultures. He was universally identified as a man of the world rather than connected with his country of birth. As admired as Crear may be for his wide-ranging experience throughout this country’s credit union industry, he is on the downhill slope of an illustrious credit union career. He is not an Arthur Arnold or someone like him who is completely at home and conversant with the international credit union scene. Pete Crear will make a terrific goodwill ambassador for WOCCU. He is a widely traveled credit union executive who has the reputation of spending far more time on the road than cloistered in an office in Madison, Wisconsin. Although most of his airplane rides have taken him from coast to coast and back, he has also spent considerable time representing credit unions overseas, speaking English, of course. But the World Council needs more than a well-traveled CEO if it is going to continue to grow in international credit union influence as it did under Arnold and not slip back to where it was under pre-Arnold CEOs. One good thing that could come out of having an American in the chief staff spot, especially a person like Crear who knows America’s credit unions inside and out, is that he may be able to improve WOCCU’s image (and thus support) among U.S, credit unions. As it is now, most credit unions in this country don’t really have a good handle on what the World Council does, or where it does it, or why. It is not that U.S. credit union people think badly about WOCCU. They just don’t think about it, period. Except, of course, when it comes time to use the World Council as an excuse to travel to some great overseas destination on the credit union’s nickel, like Rome this summer. Sometimes it appears that the only literature that comes out of WOCCU that gets any notice at all are those pieces that come with registration forms for a WOCCU conference in places like Ireland and Australia both of which drew record crowds of Americans. Nice guys, the old saying goes, finish last. Pete Crear is universally regarded as a nice guy. I don’t think he will finish last with WOCCU, but he does have his work cut out for him in his new job. Only time will tell if Crear and WOCCU go together better than I for one envision they do. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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