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SAN DIEGO — The World Council of Credit Unions’ 14-member board includes four U.S. representatives and 10 from credit union systems around the world. If natural person credit unions think they have a tough time coordinating their board meetings, try accommodating board members arriving from Canada, West Indies, Peru, Brazil, Poland, Ireland, Malawi, Australia and New Zealand, all at once.In fact, board meetings require so much group effort, they are only held three times each year and include a day or two of educational programming and some sightseeing to add value to the long plane ride. The most popular tourist destination for the group was Torrey Pines golf course, home of the 2008 U.S. Open. WOCCU President/CEO Pete Crear hosted a foursome for a round on the famed course.The group consensus?“It’s harder than it looks on television,” Crear said. The well-traveled WOCCU chief executive said he has played the course before but still marvels at Torrey Pines’ natural beauty and difficulty, which can only be experienced in person.While in they were in San Diego, Credit Union Times spoke with Crear and the board about the state of credit unions in the U.S. and around the world.Credit Union Times: Have you heard from your Kenyan credit unions regarding President-elect Obama?Pete Crear: We have a small group of staffers in Kenya, and one guy, Sam, lives in the same village as Obama’s grandmother. The morning after the election, he said he woke to the sound of singing-Africans like to sing a lot, especially in celebration-and when he went outside, he saw someone had hung both the Kenyan flag and the American flag above his door. People were waving to him, and trucks would honk their horns as they drove past his door. They’re very proud of Obama’s Kenyan roots and absolutely delighted about the new connection between our two countries.In my travels over the past year, I haven’t been in a cab anywhere in the world for more than 60 seconds before the driver asks me, ‘Are you American?’ The next question has been, ‘Is Obama going to win?’ The whole world was watching. Everyone I spoke to was pulling for him. We’ve received a lot of inquiries and comments regarding the election from all over the world, and from what I can tell, they were pleased with the outcome.CU Times: Credit unions, leagues and other industry organizations are cutting back due to losses. Has the WOCCU budget been affected?Crear: WOCCU’s revenue comes from two sources, membership dues and funded projects. Our membership is growing, we have the most members in history, and hope to approve three new members during this meeting, credit union systems in Ghana, Seychelles and Azerbaijan. So revenue from dues is strong. The other side of our funding, projects, are often funded by governments, with the U.S. AID [United States Agency for International Development] being one of our primary sources of funding. With a new administration incoming, things slow in terms of decision making, so we expect our project funding to suffer the rest of this year and the first three months or so of next year.CU Times: Does your funding vary according to whether the new administration or Congress is Democrat or Republican?Crear: We haven’t looked at that before, though I suppose it wouldn’t be too hard to do. Really, project funding depends more upon what’s happening in the world. There are always projects in places you don’t want to be, places like Sudan and Iraq, but you can get money for projects there. While we want to provide credit union services wherever people need them, we also choose to keep our staff out of harm’s way, even though sometimes they grumble about it. Some of the individuals on our staff are very brave; they’re willing to go wherever they’re needed. We’re blessed with an extraordinary staff that’s very, very dedicated to the credit union movement.CU Times: You do a lot of advocating on behalf of credit unions all over the world. Have you taken a position on potential changes to accounting standards? It’s an international issue.Crear: Absolutely, representing credit unions in all international regulatory issues is a big part of what we do. When Basel drafted new rules and regs, we were in Rome around that time and met with the Basel chair, and spoke with him about credit unions and how the new regs negatively impacted credit unions. Credit unions aren’t as well known in all countries the way they are here in the U.S., and sometimes decision makers need an education about what credit unions are and how they serve their members. Most of the time, they’re grateful for the information.CU Times: How do you decide what your official position will be? Do you automatically agree with groups like CUNA?Crear: We vet our positions on issues like these, have a lot of dialogue with our members, just like any organization would. And we just don’t talk to credit unions, we work quite a bit with regulators all over the world, helping them improve their processes and build the strength of the credit union movement overall. Just last week we hosted a group of regulators from 20 different countries and allowed them to discuss various accounting provisions and how they negatively affect credit unions.CU Times: You regularly host forums for regulators?Crear: Yes, and we’re the only ones who do it. Regulators are bureaucrats, they don’t have any networking or educational support. We think credit union regulators, in particular, need a forum to come together, because we believe they are key to making credit unions better. We help them so they can better help us. Rodney Hood participated in our regulator roundtable at our annual meeting in Hong Kong this summer; JoAnn [Johnson, former NCUA chairman] has participated before, as has Gigi [Hyland, NCUA Board member]. And, no offense to Credit Union Times and others like you, but it’s a press-free event, which allows them to speak openly. We think that’s important, because as bureaucrats, they don’t often have that opportunity.–[email protected]

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