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MADISON, Wis. – When Pete Crear learned that only 2% of the world’s population belonged to credit unions, it shaped part of his vision for the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). Crear became CEO in June. He said in a recent interview with Credit Union Times that at the end of five years he would like to see the number of credit union members double. Crear wants much of the increase to come from the developing world. There is a second part to Crear’s vision. He wants to make WOCCU the premier organization providing micro finance to the developing world. WOCCU, he said, is already highly respected for its work, but he wants to do more and better work in developing countries. He is especially proud of the work WOCCU has done in the past in bringing women into the financial marketplace, a trend he wants to continue. “We can write the best practices manual,” he said. He was referring to things like WOCCU’s PEARLS Monitoring system which helps new credit unions get off on a sound financial footing even before legislation is in place. He also approves of systems like BASEL I and II. “They may not be exotic, but they are sound practices for financial organizations to follow.” At the same time it is important for the writers of any legislation or standards to be aware of the special needs of credit unions. Forgetting credit unions exist is not a new phenomenon. Crear, an old CUNA pro, remembered credit unions were ignored in the NAFTA treaty, yet when he and other CUNA officials visited the U.S. Treasury on 15th Street in Washington, D.C. to call attention to the problem, they walked by the credit union offices to reach the treasury officials they needed to talk with only to discover those officials were loyal credit union members. Perception is important Crear believes to keep credit unions in the forefront of regulators’ minds all over the world. He plans to do that in the countries where WOCCU is working. To create and develop credit unions around the world WOCCU is currently running 12 projects in eight countries. They are co-funded by development groups such as the United States Agency for International Development, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, Delegacin Federal de la Secretara de Agricultura, National Savings and Financial Services Bank and ACCION. They are also seeking other groups to work with. Although USAID funding has not disappeared, there is less available today and Crear and his staff will continue to search for funds. He knows $10,000 helps a field manager open and run a credit union for two months while $5,000 can rebuild a credit union after a disaster. Loans for 30 cardboard roofs in a developing country can be replaced with metal for only $1,000. Almost half of the projects are scheduled to end this year and most of the others next year. Crear says they are in final negotiations to extend several and already have $5 million in approvals for some extensions. “Another $25 million are in the pipeline,” he said, although he does not expect all to come to fruition. USAID has invited them to apply for a “hotspot.” He said the matter is under consideration. WOCCU has been in danger zones during the unrest in Latin America. They currently run a project in Afghanistan which saw two credit unions open within the last 12 months. Another three are planned. After talking with CUNA Mutual on China, Crear said he “got his juices going. They are familiar with cooperatives, and the government is allowing them to make more local decisions.” He wants to open this area to credit unions. “At some stage there will be a consumer explosion when they begin to demand what their Western counterparts have. They’ll need institutions that can deliver on those. There could be a large role for credit unions thus helping him double that 2%. Crear will be heading to Asia early next month to meet with the CEOs of Asian credit union leagues. Because WOCCU is part of a world movement he talked about other parts of the world. “Africa is still a challenge for us.” He cited the successes in Rwanda with its145 credit unions. Kenya too is making process and he says despite limited resources South Africa is hopeful. The Latin American work will also continue, he stressed. On a private note, Crear is aware he surprised people with one of the shortest retirements in history. He explained that when he was leaving CUNA he had hoped he could do some projects with WOCCU. Last fall he lunched with then WOCCU former CEO Arthur Arnold. When Crear shared his aspirations with Arnold, Arnold told him of his own plans to return to the Netherlands and encouraged Crear to apply for the CEO slot. Crear thought about it and sent in his resume. He went through the interviews, then began negotiations for the job, but Crear said he knew he would take it, he wanted it so badly. Crear praises the staff he inherited. He has 40 contract staff in the field, 40 permanent staff in Madison and four in Washington D.C. He expressed concerned that they are so overworked that they can’t accomplish what needs to be done and hopes to deepen the staff enough to free up some of their time. As for himself, he finds himself still sending out e-mails late into the evening. His travel schedule in the next year has 150 days on the road penciled in, although he suspects that will increase. Gary Plank, like other WOCCU chairmen of the board before him and old friend in the movement, will also face a great deal of travel time as will other board members as the need arises. On a personal note, this non-retiree is feeling better each day. Crear said he recently lunched with a friend who claimed he looked five-years younger. He will need the energy to accomplish his goals if he wants to double credit union membership worldwide. [email protected]

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