World Council CEO Arnold To Leave Job Effective January 1

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Arthur Arnold, who oversaw a turnaround at the World Council of Credit Unions in both its finances and profile, plans to step down Jan. 1, 2005.

Arnold said he made the decision not ti seek a contract renewal within the past several weeks, and was motivated by both a desire to avoid the heavy travel demands of the WOCCU CEO position that took him on the road three weeks out of the month, and to return to his home country and family in the Netherlands.

Also effective Jan. 1, Arnold will become the new CEO of FMO (Finance for Development), the International Development Bank of the Netherlands. FMO is a partnership owned by the public sector, the Dutch Government and the private sector, including the business community, banks and labor unions in the Netherlands. FMO provides loans, takes equity participations and provides technical assistance, for more than $2 billion to 40 developing countries. He said the new position will require considerably less travel.

Arnold, who fittingly spoke with The Credit Union Journal while in the Madison, Wis. airport awaiting a flight to Washington before going on to Brussels and then to Africa, said, "I've been in this job for five years, and that's probably enough. I could never have done this without the support from my family. And there was also a great opportunity that was passing by."

Arnold said that when he initially accepted the WOCCU position, his wife, Barbara, told him to go first and that she would perhaps follow later, depending on how the situation developed. "She knows me," he joked. "After one year we decided there was no use in her coming to the United States and to Madison if I am never going to be in Madison." Barbara Arnold has remained in The Hague, the Netherlands and Arnold saw her approximately once per month.

"This has been a very exciting time at WOCCU," he said of his term with the organization. "I think I leave behind a very different WOCCU from when I joined. I like to think I am leaving behind a much stronger organization, an organization that is respected. I believe that our message is being listened to. I think we have created value for the organization and for the member organizations. But this is also not just a one-man job. I have had a great board from a strategic point of view, and we have a great staff."

When asked what message he believes WOCCU has successfully worked to convey, Arnold responded, "We have communicated the mission and the uniqueness of credit unions. One of my favorite topics has been to address the widening gap between the have-mores and the have-less. And the only way to narrow that gap is to help the have-less is by improving their finances."

Arnold has frequently spoken on the topic of the role credit unions can play in helping poorer people to better themselves in his remarks before numerous credit union and non-credit union gatherings. In fact, he said he believes the credit union motto of "people helping people" is something of a misnomer, and that it should really be "people helping people to help themselves. Credit unions are not charities. What they should be doing is energizing people to help themselves."

As for his own perspective as a European who has been working closely with Americans for the past five years, he said that if there is one thing about credit unions in other parts of the world that U.S. CU executives don't recognize it is that "credit unions everywhere face the same issues. It may be surprising to many in the U.S. that at the end of the day credit unions are talking about the same things."

The World Council's board has now launched a search for a replacement. Asked what advice he would pass along to his successor, Arnold said, "The biggest challenge is probably going to be in recognizing that we are a World Council, that all credit union movements have their own traditions and their own cultures."

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