WOCCU Recognizes Roman Contribution To CU Movement

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For credit unions, all roads led to Rome last week as more than 1,000 credit union representatives gathered here for a World Council event.

During the meeting eight WOCCU representatives traveled to the Vatican, which could be seen from the conference hotel, for a private meeting with a high-ranking Monsignor to express the gratitude of credit unions for the role the Catholic Church has played in developing credit unions around the world. Indeed, the first CU in the U.S., St. Mary's Bank, was chartered by a Catholic monsignor. The WOCCU group presented the Church with a crystal globe.

Representatives of more than 41 countries were in attendance at the World CU Conference, which is a first-time amalgamation of WOCCU's triennial conference, its annual general meeting and its annual educational conference.

As always, the meeting drew the largest contingent from the United States with 455 representatives, followed by Ireland (195), Canada (87) and Australia (77). Ten countries sent one representative. There were also four Italians on hand, although Italy has no credit unions. The country does have a cooperative bank system, and its representatives joined their German counterparts in discussing their experiences.

For the Americans the conference offered some insights into the much higher profile credit union directors have in running their respective movements, especially in Ireland. The Americans also found that some in developing movements believe credit unions in the U.S, and to a lesser extent Canada and Australia, have forgotten their roots.

During the meeting WOCCU unveiled its first-ever set of international ethical operating principles, which it hopes will act as a guide for credit unions. Yet the meeting's keynote speaker reminded that her former company also had an extensive policy on ethical behavior. The company: Enron.

The meeting was also the first opportunity for new CEO Pete Crear to meet with the membership. Crear told The Credit Union Journal he is seeking more direct input from member countries specifically about what they want from the organization. Gary Plank, president of the Arizona CU League, was named WOCCU's chairman at the group's annual general meeting, succeeding Canada's Bobby McVeigh.

Also on the agenda, highlights of which will be featured in The Credit Union Journal, were examination of efforts to tax credit unions around the world, the basics of ALM, and how to recruit and retain directors.

The meeting's location, Rome, was the big draw for many, and for many it meant encountering some realities they may not have anticipated, including very high costs (a cheeseburger in the conference hotel was more than $30) made worse by the weak dollar against the Euro, and the city's infamous crime. Many of the participants had either personal stories of crimes to share, such as theft, or knew of someone who did.

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