Notes from around The World Council Meeting

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After Concern Over Attendance, Largest Crowd Ever Gathers

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas-Just over a year ago there were concerns that things would not be "Better in the Bahamas" and that attendance would lag when the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) sought to hold its Leadership Institute and Annual General Meeting here. But more than 1,000 people from more than 30 countries turned out for the meeting. The Atlantis Hotel, which had initially said it would be unable to accommodate the meeting, had a change of heart after the Bahamas Cooperative League lobbied the hotel to rethink its position; the chairman of the league, Calnan Weech, also works at the Atlantis, which has an employee credit union. The 1,000 people, by the way, boosted the population of the island nation by one-quarter of 1%.

While WOCCU credited its program for the attendance, Weech, cited a different reason: "No one lets their spouse go to the Bahamas by themselves," he observed.

Same CU Concept, Different CU Experience

Always interesting at any meeting of credit unions from around the globe is to hear the concerns of CUs in countries that have different laws (or absence of laws) and markets. For example, in a discussion of business lending, one credit union noted, "We in the Caribbean have an issue that if we allow small businesses into our institutions, we have to deal with money laundering. It's very serious." U.S. and Canadian credit unions responded with explanations of Suspicious Activity Reports and other due-diligence they must exercise.

Update On Global Credit Union Statistics

There are 123 million members, 40,000 credit unions operating in 84 countries, a total of $656 billion in savings, $483 billion in loans, and $758 billion in total assets. Globally, membership in credit unions is growing at a 3%-5% rate annually. World Council CEO Arthur Arnold said WOCCU has grown to 24 member organizations (up from 15), six associate members (up from four), and now has 151 "supporters" (up from zero).

Diversity, Opportunity Championed By WOCCU Is Not Reflected On Board

There may be nearly three-billion women on Earth, but none are on WOCCU's board, which is predominately white and male. In fact, there are few women among the 43 delegates to WOCCU's General Assembly. So why no women in leadership at an organization that consistently speaks of opportunity and diversity? "We would love to see more women on the board," said WOCCU Chairman Bobby McVeigh of Canada. The last woman on the WOCCU board was Janet Miller of the U.S., which was a number of years ago. "But this isn't something that the board can dictate. You have to be nominated by the (member organization). In Canada, for instance, three of the four national organizations have women as CEOs, but none have aspired to the international (association)."

A Word In Support Of The Americans

During the meeting, WOCCU CEO Arthur Arnold, who is Dutch and whose nationality should probably be "Airplane," observed, "As you know in the outside world the United States of America is being criticized. People are free to say that. However, in our credit union world...I can tell you that we at the World Council would not exist today without the support and contributions from our American credit unions."

Talking About Ewe Down Under

After one person introduced himself at a breakout session as a representative of New Zealand by noting it is "a country of four million people and 70 million sheep," another person observed, "I'm from Australia. We're the big island next to New Zealand. We have just 40 million sheep, but they aren't as worried as those in New Zealand."

Irish Press Critical Of CUs' Trip To The Bahamas

Liam O'Dwyer, CEO of the Irish League of Credit Unions, found himself and Ireland's credit unions being attacked in the Irish press for the alleged extravagance of not-for-profit credit unions attending a conference on Paradise Island. O'Dwyer said he was accurately quoted in defending the reasons why Ireland's credit unions were sending 115 people to the Bahamas. But the newspaper also quoted liberally from the Atlantis Hotel's website in listing all the amenities that were offered, he said.

2005 Event To Be Held In Rome

The next International Leadership Institute will be held in conjunction with WOCCU's Triannual Forum, and is scheduled for Rome, Italy in July 2005.

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