Korean-American physician Jim Yong Kim took over as the new World Bank chief Monday, immediately challenged to ensure the eurozone crisis does not set back global poverty-fighting efforts.
"I'm humbled and inspired to take over today as president," Kim said at the doorstep of the Washington-based global development lender as he launched into his first day on the job.
"I can't wait to get started," he said. "I've spent most of my adult life working in some of the poorest communities in the world."
He pledged continuity in the bank's mission to help the poorest countries get on their feet, giving no hint of any changes to the work pattern set by his predecessor, Robert Zoellick.
"We will continue to do our work... with innovation, analytic rigor and with great passion, working in partnership with governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, and most importantly with the people living in poverty we aspire to serve," he said.
He acknowledged that he is taking over "at a pivotal moment for the global economy," with the eurozone crisis and economic slowdown in the largest countries impacting small, vulnerable economies around the world.
He said the bank's staff are "passionate about the twin aims of boosting prosperity and eradicating poverty."
He takes over a sprawling development institution with a staff of 9,000 economists and policy specialists, and which made loans, grants and guarantees of $52.6 billion in the year to 30 June.
Unlike the bankers, diplomats and economists who have run the World Bank in the past, Kim brings a background in medicine and a record developing programs to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in poor countries.
His nomination to the post by President Barack Obama surprised many; his last job was as head of Dartmouth College, a small but prestigious university.
But he has given little hint about any new directions he might plot for the bank.
Ahead of his arrival Oxfam International called on Kim to "step up efforts to assist developing countries threatened by the euro zone crisis fallout."
"Dr. Kim will have to take fast action to protect developing countries from Europe's debt crisis," said Oxfam Great Britain's chief executive Barbara Stocking.
"The Bank has an obligation to urgently ratchet up efforts in countries that depleted their resources defending themselves during the last financial crisis."