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Vacancy – Member Services Officer (MSO)

By Job Vacancy, News

We are now inviting applications for the position of Member Services Officer (MSO) for our Member Services Centre  (Ref MSO-MSC 2021)

Summary Objective of the Role:

Member First Credit Union (MFCU) is an innovative, progressive, modern financial services provider, with over 100,000 members.  We have multiple branches in Artane (D5), Ayrfield (D13), Marino (D9), Northside Shopping Centre (D17), Raheny (D5) Trinity Branch (D13) and Swords and we boast total assets of €376 million.  Our core value is to serve our members and the community, whilst striving to maintain the highest professional standards through innovation.  We embrace technology to enable members to transact easily with the credit union.

MFCU is now recruiting a Member Services Officer for our Member Services Centre. This is a unique opportunity to play a central role in meeting our members’ needs over the telephone.  Reporting to the MSC Branch Supervisor, you will be responsible for carrying out a range financial transactions and administrative tasks while at all times demonstrating consistent commitment to “The 3 Ps” of member service: Professional Service, Positive Experience and Personal Touch.

Key Responsibilities:

Demonstrate consistent commitment to and proficiency in “The 3 Ps” of MFCU member service in carrying out the following:  

  • Handling telephone, Chat Line, email, and online queries from current and prospective members
  • Protecting all member data in line with GDPR guidelines and MFCU ISO policy
  • Complying with all policies and procedures of the Credit Union, including Anti-Money Laundering and Fraudulent Transaction Reporting
  • Assisting new online members with registration and educating members in how to use the MFCU online Digital services.
  • Processing automatic member payments (debit cards; Realex; EFT’s; standing orders) and amending direct debits
  • Informing members of our products and services and liaising with colleagues regarding member requirements
  • Completing duties in other departments and branches as required by management.
  • Completing administrative, scanning or project related duties assigned to the role.
  • Representing the Credit Union at designated promotional events

The Successful Candidate Should have the Following Attributes:

  • Excellent telephone communication skills – a warm professional manner, empathy, listening and questioning skills and the ability to explain situations clearly to members who need our assistance.
  • A passion for helping members and for winning and retaining member loyalty.
  • A positive, patient, and respectful approach to handling queries and resolving problems.
  • Comprehensive product knowledge or evidence of the ability to quickly acquire knowledge.
  • An organised, accurate approach with exceptional attention to detail
  • Strong time management skills with the ability to multi-task/prioritise tasks effectively.
  • Self-motivation and the ability to work calmly and independently in a fast-paced team environment to achieve individual and team goals.
  • Flexibility and willingness to move between tasks, departments, and branches.

Experience and Qualifications:

  • Experience of working in a call centre environment – essential
  • Fluency in spoken and written English
  • Pass Leaving Certificate or equivalent
  • Strong competency in use of Microsoft Word, Excel, and email – essential
  • Achievement of APA Loans standard or equivalent (or evidence of working towards this qualification)
  • A minimum of one year’s experience of working in a credit union, bank, or financial services role and of using credit union or banking computer systems – highly desirable

Applicants should clearly state the position they are applying for by quoting the reference MSO-MSC 2021

Applications including CV, by email only, addressed to recruit@pinta.ie

The closing date for receipt of applications is Wednesday, 5th May 2021. 

 Shortlisting may apply and assessment will be made on the basis of the information provided in the application.

Member First Credit Union Ltd is an Equal Opportunities Employer

Consumers already switching to credit unions

By News

While the departure of Ulster Bank, the withdrawal of services by other banks, and now the possible departure of KBC will be upsetting for staff and customers at these entities and we sympathise with them, it is likely to be a positive milestone for credit unions.

Larger credit unions, most of which offer a comprehensive range of personal loans, SME loans and mortgages, current accounts, and excellent online facilities, have already experienced consumers switching from Ulster Bank. There is a trust issue between banks and some of their customers and while inertia has prevented many from leaving the banks, customers of these banks now need to make a decision as to who to bank with.

We believe the fact that more and more credit unions, working collaboratively, now have a full suite of products will play in their favour.  This coupled with their commitment to supporting local communities throughout the pandemic is why credit unions continue to see a strong growth in performance and have expanded their position as the ‘most trusted’ organisations in Ireland.

Ireland’s Credit Unions on target to retrofit 2,000 homes in 2021

By News

Credit Unions secure grant funding support from SEAI for unique end to end survey and finance package

Credit Unions are best placed to become primary source of finance for nationwide retrofit project

The Credit Union Development Association [CUDA], which currently runs Ireland’s first end-to-end home retrofit scheme – ProEnergy Homes, has partnered with Retrofit Energy Ireland (REIL) to secure grant funding support from the SEAI and has announced an expansion of the popular scheme, opening it up to all other credit unions.

CUDA report that, such is the demand from participating credit unions, half of the 2021 SEAI €1.5m in grant aid is already allocated, but as part the agreement, it is anticipated that additional funding will be sought in the second quarter.

The Pro Energy Home Scheme was first piloted by CUDA in early 2019 across 20 credit unions and was quickly oversubscribed. The scheme has proven popular as it takes all the “leg-work” away from the homeowner. Homeowners simply fill out an application form with their local participating credit union, after which REIL conducts an assessment on their property and present them with a report.

Kevin Johnson, CEO of CUDA explained why the scheme is so popular with homeowners,

As the trusted provider of financial services in communities throughout Ireland, credit unions are uniquely positioned to support the delivery of a one-stop-shop model for home energy retrofits.

A national project management firm (REIL) is appointed to oversee all surveys and works, grant funding of up to 35% is available from SEAI for all qualifying works and low-rate financing is made available for the balance of costs through the applicant’s local credit union.  To-date public demand for the scheme through participating credit unions has been strong, demonstrating people’s appetite for a ‘one-stop-shop’ model.

Based on the current level of interest from credit union members and the number of credit unions signing up to the scheme, we’ll need to look for additional funding shortly and can envisaging the annual level of grant application running at €6m – €10m.”

According to Josephine Maguire of SEAI,

“The SEAI recognises that access to finance can be a barrier to residential retrofitting so we are pleased to once again support credit unions in delivering the ProEnergy Homes scheme that provides access to finance at competitive rates to their Members. The SEAI has supported the ProEnergy Homes scheme for a number of years and the one-stop-shop model has proven to be a case study for the delivery of residential retrofitting at the ambitious scale targeted in the National Climate Action Plan.”

Commenting on the partnership, Minister of State with responsibility for Financial Services, Credit Unions and Insurance, Sean Fleming TD said “Credit Unions are uniquely positioned to support retrofitting plans in local communities across Ireland. I truly believe that the expansion of the ProEnergy Homes scheme, and similar schemes, will be a boost for local communities and will help the Government achieve its climate action targets.”

The Pro Energy Home Scheme model combines everything an applicant will need under a simple, unified process including an independent home survey report setting out their options, a dedicated project manager to arrange contractors, quality assurance on the works completed, access to low-rate credit union loans to finance the works.

CUDA say the scheme has now been tweaked slightly in response to the pandemic. Home surveys and works will resume as soon as it is safe to do so, but in the interim, a team of expert project managers and surveyors are available for telephone consultations with interested applicants. The ‘free and no obligations’ call-backs can be requested from www.proenergyhomes.ie and applicants will have the opportunity to discuss all their available options and receive professional advice on any technical questions they may have.

The average amount spent is about €14,000 made up of grant, savings and borrowings. The most popular measures undertaken in 2020 were external wall insulation, new glazing. Multi zone boiler controls also proved very popular. The scheme covers retrofits to a range of energy systems, including attic insulation, external wall insulation, the installation of solar panels, and upgrades to windows, among others.

Mr Johnson added, “Presently, SEAI grants will fund up to 35% of the cost of your retrofit. In our experience of running the scheme, the cost to the average household of bringing their home up to the recommended B2 level rating will cost approximately €30,000 – €40,000. So, just accounting for 35% of that cost through grant aid will leave a bill of roughly €26,000 for works. We recommend homeowners to use some saving to help lower the cost of any additional borrowing to cover the remaining bill, or indeed to cover the full cost of works, depending on how much they have saved. For example, take a cost of €40,000 to get a home to a B2 rating – the 35% grant will cover €14,000, which leaves €26,000 for the homeowner to cover. If they have €10,000 saved – this reduces the amount to be financed by a ProEnergy loan to €16,000.”

Mr. Johnson also welcomed the Governments clear commitment to supporting upskilling and job creation nationally as demand grows for retrofitting projects,

“As community organisations, credit unions are anxious to support local tradespeople. CUDA supports the Government’s announcement of four new centres of excellence to train 2,000 people in retrofit skills[1]. Upskilling existing tradespeople nationally will allow for job creation across the country and will support local economies while ensuring competition keeps prices and exchequer funding to a minimum.”

[1] https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/16253-minister-harris-announces-four-new-retrofitting-centres-of-excellence/

BoI branch closure decision may see consumers move to Credit Unions in many Irish communities similar to other countries

By News

Commenting on the Bank of Ireland branch closures announced today, 1st March 2021, Kevin Johnson CEO of CUDA (Credit Union Development Association), said

“Today’s announcement will be felt by consumers in many towns and villages throughout the country. While there is undoubtedly a move towards a more digital offering in the financial services sector, there are still a significant cohort of people who are not ready to make that change. The migration of banks to self-service branches has been a difficult transition for many people – particularly older customers, many of whom still favour face to face interaction. However, today has taken this migration one step further, with people in the affected locations no longer being given even the self-service option.

While Credit Unions have made great strides in terms of digital developments, the community ethos means than maintaining a local community presence is integral for the movement. As with Ulster Bank’s planned exit, I believe the announcement today will drive more and more people across the country to becoming members of their local Credit Union so that they can avail of traditional banking through both digital and face to face means, a pattern we’ve seen in other countries including Canada and the USA.”

Many consumers will switch to credit unions following Ulster Bank’s departure – rather than go to the two big banks

By News

Commenting on Ulster bank’s planned exit, Kevin Johnson, CEO of CUDA (Credit Union Development Association“It’s unavoidable that some banking customers will be badly hit when Ulster Bank exits the market.

Unlike other in countries such as Canada and the USA, Irish consumers have an over-dependence on a couple of large national banks and, as a country, we have traditionally underutilised local banking and credit options.

But it’s not all bad news for consumers – there are options.

The level of development in many Credit Unions in recent years has been strong.  The vast majority of them have substantially modernised their operations and they are now well placed to provide banking and credit facilities to the thousands of personal and business customers impacted by today’s announcement.

While well known for their range of personal loans, most Credit Unions now offer current accounts, business lending, mortgages, Agri-loans, home, life and travel insurance. Reliable and efficient online banking is now the norm and the uptake from members has been strong.

With strengthened governance controls and growing business lending expertise, our representative body CUDA, is currently in talks with the Minister for Finance to amend legislation to allow credit unions to co-lend on larger property related and commercial loans.

While much of Ulster Bank’s customer base may end up with the two pillar banks, we are confident that many consumers will see that credit unions are well positioned to step in and fill some of the void left behind in the Irish banking sector.”

Rumoured exit from Ireland of Ulster Bank

By News

Commenting on Ulster bank’s rumoured exit, Kevin Johnson CEO of CUDA said, 

Consumers are going to be badly hit if Ulster Bank does exit the market; unlike other countries such as Canada and the USA, Irish consumers have been over-dependent on a couple of large national banks and as a country, we have traditionally underutilised local banking and credit options.

The level of development by Credit Union in recent years might surprise many.  The vast majority of them have substantially modernised their operations and they are now well placed to provide banking and credit facilities to the thousands of personal and business customers impacted. While well known for their range of personal loans, most now offer current accounts, business lending, mortgages, Agri-loans, home, life and travel insurances, with a growing number offering Ireland’s only end-to-end home retro-fitting package. Reliable and efficient online banking is now the norm and the uptake from members has been strong.

With strengthened governance controls and growing business lending expertise, CUDA on behalf of its owner credit unions, is currently in seeking the Minister for Finance to amend legislation so that allow credit unions can co-lend on larger property related and commercial loans.

While much of the business of any departing bank may end up with the two largest banks, credit unions are now well positioned to step in and fill much of the credit void left behind.

 

 

CUDA member Credit Unions proud to support the recovery of local businesses including the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme

By News
  • “Bizfin.ie” a business lending website is being launched to help local sole-traders & businesses access to credit
  • Plumbers, electricians and other sole traders impacted by COVID expected to utilise low-cost loans of €10,000 to €400,000 in some credit unions.
  • Credit unions set to meet face-to-face with all business members to deliver rapid lending decisions

The Credit Union Development Association [CUDA], which commenced its Small Business Lending initiative early 2020, announced today that 4 of its largest credit unions (Capital Credit Union, Credit Union Plus, Blanchardstown & District Credit Union and Dundalk Credit Union) with a combined membership of circa 200,000 are now successfully partnering with Government in the low-cost COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme. The representative body believes that credit unions will succeed in working with micro, small & medium sized businesses, impacted by COVID-19, to review their cash-flow and working capital requirements to enable these businesses to survive, protect jobs, create future employment and thrive in 2021.

The Scheme offers an 80% Government guarantee to participating lenders to provide Irish businesses with access to low interest loans as they respond to the impacts of COVID-19, but take-up has been low for a variety of reasons. Credit Unions believe that some SME’s have been reluctant to take on further debt in this uncertain economy. CUDA acknowledge that credit unions, who were again voted most trusted organisation in 2020  are seen to be more involved in their local communities, a consequence of which is more local business people will be willing to sit down and discuss the merit of them participating in this scheme.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar T.D.  today announced the participation of one the largest Credit Union associations in Ireland, the Credit Union Development Association (CUDA) in the Government’s COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme.

The Tánaiste said:

“Irish SMEs will now be able to borrow from Credit Unions under the €2bn Covid Guarantee Scheme. These new providers, from the Credit Union Development Association, have a wide geographical range, from Blanchardstown to Navan.

“Credit Unions are at the very centre of communities across the country. They have an excellent reputation in their local areas and understand the needs of their customers. Their inclusion will help further diversify the options available to small business under this Scheme.”

 

Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Séan Fleming said,

“I welcome today’s announcement that further credit unions, supported by the Credit Union Development Association (CUDA), will be participating in the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme, bringing the total number of credit unions in the scheme to nineteen. With their unrivalled local knowledge, credit unions are ideally placed to support the recovery and providing loans to local businesses is a key element of the recovery. Further development of SME lending in a controlled manner could also assist credit unions in growing and diversifying their loan book.”

 

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD said,

“I am delighted with the addition of credit unions to the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme. As well as providing a greater choice of lenders for farmers, fishers and food businesses, it will benefit rural communities, which continue to be well-served by the credit union movement. At this time of economic disruption, access to finance is critical to ensuring the ongoing viability of businesses, including those in the agri-food sector and I am pleased that my Department is supporting this initiative.”

The scheme is operated by the SBCI and delivered through the participating finance providers, allowing affected businesses to access additional financing through traditional lenders. 19 Credit Unions with multiple outlets are now participating finance providers in the COVID Credit Guarantee Scheme.

Kevin Johnson, CEO of CUDA commented, “

“As the trusted provider of financial services in communities throughout Ireland, we believe that many sole-traders and small business owners will feel more comfortable dealing with credit unions, particularly where they can receive a fast answer to their credit application. Many of these solid businesses are struggling due to COVID-19 and are now at a point where they need to review their cashflow and credit lines to ensure they are well positioned for a return to more normal business volumes in the second half of 2021.

We have designed the standalone business website, Bizfin.ie, to support this initiative which will be accessible to all business customers of the participating credit unions. They will be able to apply for business loans as well as apply for credit union membership via this site.”

 

 

Ends

 

 

About COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme

The scheme, made available by the Department of Business, Enterprise, Trade & Employment is to support the economic recovery and interested parties can find further information on the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme here.  Businesses will be required to make two declarations, i] that their turnover or projected turnover has been reduced by 15% as a result of COVID-19 and ii]  that it has a reasonable prospect of returning to viability post Covid-19.  The scheme can provide liquidity finance. It is situated between the shorter term COVID-19 Working Capital scheme and the long-term Future Growth Loan Scheme being offered by the Government.

Businesses need not previously have been clients of a participating provider to apply for lending from those providers. Loans of up to €1 million are available for up to 5.5 years.  No personal guarantees or collateral is required for loans under €250,000. All loans have reduced interest rates demonstrated in the agreement documents with the participating enterprise.

The scheme will be available until the end of June 2021, or until it is fully subscribed.

The COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme operates under the State Aid Temporary Framework introduced in response to the pandemic.

Participating Credit Unions have signed legal agreements whereby the maximum individual loan is set by the Credit Guarantee Amendment Act 2020 and in turn the European Commission State Aid Temporary Framework (Section 25D). This results in the maximum loan been calculated as:

  • double the annual wage bill of the participating enterprise for 2019, or for the last year available
  • 25% of the participating enterprises’ total turnover in 2019; or
  • in limited cases and with appropriate justification, the amount of the finance agreement may be increased to cover the liquidity needs from the moment of granting for the coming 18 months for SMEs.

About CUDA

The Credit Union Development Association was legally incorporated in 2003. In its early days it was the representative voice, on behalf of its owner member credit unions, with legislators and regulators. It has since evolved and now, as well as providing a ‘voice’, it is increasingly providing support facilities in the areas of regulatory compliance, shared services for business supports and digital solutions, as well as providing training & development. CUDA is a credit union owned network that enables member credit unions to engage in beneficial activities which would not have proved possible to do as single stand-alone entities. https://www.cuda.ie/

 

About BizFin

The Business Lending Product being launched in participating CUDA member credit unions was based on their strong desire to to serve another segment of the credit union membership, namely micro, small & medium sized enterprises.    CUDA have recruited the necessary expertise and established a Business Lending Framework, incorporating Risk Appetite & Business Lending Policy Rules.  This is to ensure a consistent and comprehensive assessment within the credit unions.  There is also centralised shared resource available that provides ongoing support on credit assessment, support & expert guidance to assist and give real time advice to the Business Lenders in participating credit unions.  For more information visit BizFin.ie.

Central Bank provides update on the financial condition of the credit union sector

By News

It is welcomed to see that the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) acknowledged the effectiveness of credit unions in maintaining continuity of services for their members during the ongoing pandemic, and that the sector has shown a level of resilience in 2020.

Commenting on the CBI release, Kevin Johnson, CEO of Credit Union Development Association (CUDA) stated, “Growing savings and a muted demand for credit are not challenges unique to the Credit Union sector, or indeed, to Ireland. Credit Unions have redoubled their focus on serving people with lending needs and also generating non-interest income.

Credit Unions that have digitised their loan marketing, membership and application processes have fared far better during the pandemic, with some seeing little or no reduction in overall loan volumes. Similarly, those Credit Unions that have signed up to the end-to-end home retrofit scheme ProEnergy, from the Solution Centre, are helping the high number of people investing in their homes over the last few months.

A collaboration of Credit Unions, led by CUDA, have weathered this storm better than many, by using digital innovation as a means of reaching a broader audience, by addressing market needs with schemes like the home retrofit initiative, and introducing new value products for people that also generate income for the credit union (home, life and travel insurance).

If Credit Unions are to maintain their strong capital position, further innovation will be required and CUDA are advocating specific reforms and improvements to facilitate serving more lending needs and also ways to facilitate members savings in a safe environment.  CUDA are urging the Government to consider permitting Credit Unions to introduce their members to State Savings, where savings are placed directly with the Irish Government.  This would alleviate the capital pressure for Credit Unions, as the savings would no longer be on their balance sheet, while allowing them to continue to deliver important services to their members.  We are also seeking legislative change to support the introduction of co-lending which would enable a group of Credit Unions to share the risk for some of the larger loan opportunities.”

Kevin Johnson, CEO of CUDA (Credit Union Development Association)

CEO Forum

By News

CEO Forum

On 1st December ’20 the CEO Forum Steering Group launched their website and published four papers. The CEO Business Model Development Forum was initiated by the Registrar of Credit Unions to facilitate and encourage credit union CEO led collaboration on the business model challenges facing the sector.

The papers cover a range of key topics relevant to credit union business model transition:

  • Credit Union Collaboration
  • Revolving Credit
  • Member Engagement/ Strategic Marketing
  • COVID-19 implications.

It was great to see the acknowledgement of the Solution Centre’s Cathal Tyther’s significant involvement in driving the design and specification of the Revolving Credit product.  Indeed he has also supported the Forum workstream members in their engagement with banking system providers and this important new product for the sector should be in test this month.

The Forum plans to publish a further three papers later this month and these will cover the following topics:

  • Intermediation
  • Service Delivery and Operational Effectiveness
  • Balance Sheet and Capital

The CEO Forum website, where the papers can be accessed, is www.cuceoforum.ie.

CUDA Q&A – Irish Independent

By News

 

CUDA has had the pleasure of contributing to numerous Q&A pieces in the Irish Independent throughout 2020.  A summary of the contributions can be found below.

  1. Published 12th December 2020

I have some savings with my local bank and some more in the credit union. A few years ago, I used to get some interest on these savings in the bank and a dividend from the credit union at Christmas. 

Now I get nothing and am reading in the media that they may charge me to look after my money. Surely, this can’t be true?

There has been a move by lenders to extend the categories of business customers who will be charged for saving money, according to the chief executive of the Credit Union Development Association (CUDA) Kevin Johnson. This is to be done by changing account holder’s terms and conditions to enable banks to charge what is termed negative interest. It has led to fears that personal banking customers may be next in line to face such charges.

He said it has long been the case that large corporate clients and wealthy individuals are charged negative interest by banks, and it is also clear that the sector is currently undergoing further change in this direction. The outlook for this being extended to the average consumer in the short-term is very unlikely, Mr Johnson said. However, if you are not being charged negative rates, your money is losing value because of inflation, he said.

Consider how much you would need for a rainy day (like unexpected drop in income) and use the balance to clear any expensive debt such as any credit card balance you might have. You could also consider starting or topping up your pension.

  1. Published 12th December 2020

We are in our mid 30s and have just had our first child. We realise that we should have life insurance cover, but only have about €10 a week to spend on it. Is that too little?

That is not too little, according to the chief executive of the Credit Union Development Association (CUDA) Kevin Johnson. Life cover, particularly if you don’t smoke, is generally far less expensive than many of us perceive, he said. He asked one of his member credit unions to price cover for you.

He found that, for two policy holders aged 35, People Insurance would offer life cover of €200,000 on a joint-life basis, over 20 years, for €29.15 per month. This is well within your budget. Admittedly, if both of you smoke, the premium would be considerably higher at €53.67 a month.

Some providers offer a ‘price matching’ service for life cover, which means that they will check their quote against all providers to ensure that they match the lowest premium offered in the market.

The outlook for the average consumer being charged negative interest on savings in the short-term is very unlikely.

  1. Published 21st November 2020

House prices seem to be booming considering that we’re supposed to be in recession. I am in a stable job unaffected by Covid and have an opportunity to buy the house I rent from the local council under the Tenant Purchase Scheme for about 60pc of its value. Is now a good time to do this?

Buying a house is a really long-term decision, according to Mr Johnson. This means the timing should generally be focused around when you are ready to buy, rather than trying to second guess the market. As it is a local authority house, the purchase will come under the regulation of the Tenant Purchase Scheme, a scheme that facilitates the sale of local authority housing to their tenants, according to certain eligibility criteria. Under the scheme you will pay the market value of the house, less a discount.

Mr Johnson said that in your case this will be 40pc. Depending on an applicant’s income, the discounts generally vary between 40pc and 60pc. On completion of the sale, the authority will place an incremental purchase charge on the house, which is equal to the discount you initially received on the property value. This charge will remain in place for 20, 25 or 30 years, proportionate to the amount of discount you received, so you can’t just sell it on and pocket the difference, he said. Many credit unions specialise in tenant purchase mortgages and are happy to support these purchases, particularly as the loan-to-value ratios are typically relatively low and the existing tenants invariably have a proven payment record, Mr Johnson said.

  1. Published 21st November 2020

Since the start of Covid, I have been reading that banks and credit unions have tightened the criteria for loan approvals. I am in a semi-state job that hasn’t been hit by the pandemic, other than having to work from home. Will I now find it more difficult to get a personal loan when I change my car in January?

Lenders have generally taken a cautious and supportive approach to those that have been financially hit by Covid, according to the chief executive of the Credit Union Development Association (Cuda) Kevin Johnson. He said most lenders, especially credit unions, are keener than ever to lend to those that can clearly demonstrate their ability to meet the ongoing repayments. Most will look for nothing new beyond the standard documentation currently required for a personal loan as a result of Covid. His said this was particularly the case with you, as your income hasn’t been impacted by the pandemic. Talk to your local credit union or bank and get loan approval before doing the deal on your new car, he advised. Or apply online if you prefer. Either way, you will be welcomed by a credit union. There are many flexible loan options, most of which have competitive interest rates.

  1. Published 24th October 2020

My wife and I are looking at retrofitting our home to increase our BER. We heard there is a scheme available through the credit union, and it turns out our local branch will be launching it from next month. Would I better off going with this combination of a grant and a loan, or opting for SEAI grant funding and using some savings we have put aside?

The ProEnergy scheme was developed last year by CUDA in partnership with SEAI and REIL to help homeowners with the cost of upgrading their home energy efficiency. The scheme covers retrofits to a range of energy systems, including attic insulation, external wall insulation, the installation of solar panels, and upgrades to windows, among others.

Presently, SEAI grants will fund up to 35% of the cost of your retrofit. In our experience of running the scheme, the cost to the average household of bringing their home up to the recommended B2 level rating will cost approximately €30,000 – €40,000. So, just accounting for 35% of that cost through grant aid will leave a bill of roughly €26,000 for works.

Certainly, if you have additional savings, we recommend homeowners to use these to help lower the cost of any additional borrowing to cover the remaining bill, or indeed to cover the full cost of works, depending on how much you have saved. For example, take a cost of €40,000 to get a home to a B2 rating – the 35% grant will cover €14,000, which leaves €26,000 for the homeowner to cover. Say you have €10,000 saved – this reduces the amount to be financed by a ProEnergy loan to €16,000. A 5-year loan to cover this cost would see monthly repayments of around €300, which is the average repayment amount on a typical home improvement loan. If you were to finance the full €26,000 through a loan, your repayments would be around €500 per month, which would be a significant stretch for many middle-income families.

  1. Published 10th October 2020

I have just bought a house in Dublin and want to transfer my credit union savings and open an account in the local branch here. Can I transfer from one credit union to the other and would I have to go through any specific waiting period before I could apply for a loan?

Each credit union is a separate legal entity, and membership is open to anyone who meets the common bond, according the chief executive of the Credit Union Development Association, Kevin Johnson. He said this is usually referenced to residing or being employed in a particular locality, or following a particular occupation. When you move to another common bond, you can become a member in your new location credit union and open a savings account, and you also have the option to keep your account in your original credit union if you choose.

In respect of applying for a loan with your new credit union, most credit unions don’t require any established savings record and members can open an account and apply for a loan on the same day, Mr Johnson said.

Some may require new members to build up a record of savings before applying for a loan, but as you are bringing a record with you this should not be an issue. The primary consideration will be your ability to repay the loan.

  1. Published 3rd October 2020

My fiancée and I are planning our wedding for next year. Even though we’ve had to scale back our initial plans due to Covid, we still want to plan something special and are considering taking out a wedding loan for around €10,000. We were initially thinking of putting it on a credit card and paying it off as soon as possible from financial gifts, but would we do better with using our savings and getting a personal loan to cover the rest?

You should be wary of sourcing lump sums of credit from a short-term source, according to the chief executive of the Credit Union Development Association Kevin Johnson. Credit cards are some of the most expensive forms of credit out there, and using credit cards can be a fast way of getting into a cycle of debt that can be very difficult to break free from, he says. Credit unions offer very competitive loan rates with an average of around 10.5pc APR (annual percentage rate). The maximum ceiling of APR payable on all credit union loans is 12pc.

If you were to borrow €10,000 over five years with an APR of 10.5pc it would mean that you would make 60 weekly repayments of €49. Mr Johnson said. The cost of credit would be €2,707, with the total amount repayable standing at €12,707. If you were to combine your savings and a loan, you might also consider availing of a much shorter loan of, say, 36 months. If you were to halve the loan amount, using €5,000 of savings and borrowing the remaining €5,000 at an APR of 10.5pc your loan repayment will be €37 per week, the cost of credit €789, giving a total amount payable of €5,789, he added. In terms of repayment, many credit unions offer flexible loan terms so that can pay off your loan early, make additional lump-sum repayments or increase your regular repayments, all without penalty or charge. This might benefit you specifically as you mentioned your hopes to repay the financing from cash wedding gifts.

  1. Published 4th July 2020 

We have a new baby on the way at the end of July, and I want to take out a loan with my credit union to get a more reliable car. My employer has placed me on the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and so my income is reduced. I can still afford the repayments but I’m wondering if my application will be accepted now. Should I wait until after the summer when I will hopefully be back on full pay?

Do not write yourself off just yet, advises Kevin Johnson, CEO of the Credit Union Development Association (CUDA). If you can afford the repayments and you can demonstrate this to your credit union, then it is likely you will be granted your loan application, he said. A good credit history and the ability to repay are the two primary considerations for each credit union when deciding whether they can offer a loan to a member. Credit unions take a balanced approach, understanding that people’s financial circumstances change from time to time and there can be reasons for a reduced income that are beyond someone’s control, Mr Johnson said.

They will act in your best interest, factoring in many things, for example whether your employer’s business is likely to return to some degree of normality after this pandemic, to ensure the loan is affordable for you and not place you in an unmanageable situation. You will need to provide certain documentation. In general, you will need proof of income in the form of recent payslips, proof of identification and a utility bill.

You may also need an invoice for the car you want to purchase, particularly if car loans in your credit union are subject to a lower rate.

A mortgage rate of 4pc is much too high. You could move to a two-year fixed rate of 2.3pc and save thousands of euro in interest.

A good credit history and an ability to repay are the two primary considerations for a credit union when deciding whether it can offer a loan.

  1. Published 6th June 2020 

My work is temporarily suspended and I’m looking after our 13-month-old full-time, while my wife works. The little guy likes his naps, so I have a bit of time on my hands. I have made a bet with my wife that I can save us €1,000 on our yearly expenditure. The prize is Sunday lie-ins for a month. How do I win this bet?

This wager is a source of entertainment. But it could possibly be a very lucrative one, both financially and sleep-wise, according to the CEO of the Credit Union Development Association, Kevin Johnson. Consider switching your mortgage, particularly if you haven’t done so in more than three years. For many, this is a sure-fire way of saving money, Mr Johnson says. If you have a credit card balance that you are struggling to get down, consider taking out a short-term personal loan to clear it, cancel the card and just use a debit card from now on, he added.

If your car insurance renewal is coming up, then make sure you shop around for your cover or get a broker to do it for you. Do not just accept the renewal price quoted. Some motor insurers are now offering small rebates on premiums, because they know that there are fewer cars on the road, so it’s less risky in terms of claims.

Also, review your home insurance if it’s due soon. Health insurers are also refunding some premiums to policy holders. So, look into this and review at renewal, Mr Johnson says. Banking fees and charges can add up over the years, so consider switching. Use a cost comparison website to figure out which energy provider could offer you a better deal. You could also look at switching your phone and broadband provider.

Technically speaking, rental income is taxable on a receivable rather than a received basis, according to tax experts. If you have a credit card balance that you are struggling to get down, consider taking out a short-term personal loan to clear it.

  1. Published 18th April 2020

I am one of the many people who have recently lost their jobs in the hospitality sector. I have a mortgage with one of the banks and a personal loan with my credit union. I am a good chef, so I have no doubt that I will get work again once the economy restarts. But I’m worried that any deal I make with the bank or credit union will affect my long-term credit rating, which might prevent me from trading up as the kids get older. I have got confirmation from the bank that the three-month moratorium won’t hit my credit rating, but the credit union says it is still awaiting confirmation from the Central Bank on the issue.

The good news is that the Central Bank, which is responsible for monitoring the Central Credit Register, where everyone’s credit history is kept, has now confirmed that if you form an agreement with your credit union that involves no payments, or reduced payments during the defined suspension period, the credit union will have no obligation to report these changes to the register.

Therefore, it will not affect your credit rating, according to Kevin Johnson, CEO of the Credit Union Development Association.

The Central Bank has also confirmed that all borrowers and all short-term forbearance arrangements on unsecured loans, which include personal, car and home improvement loans, etc, will be treated the same. Arrangements such as reduced payments, or a payment moratorium, won’t impact upon people’s credit record, Mr Johnson says.

This announcement has allowed credit unions to continue working to support affected members like yourself, who find themselves under unforeseen financial strain, on a case-by-case basis, ensuring that each person is able to avail of a restructure agreement that best suits their situation, he added.

  1. Published 21st March 2020 

Like so many people, I’m already bearing the financial brunt of the Covid-19 national emergency. I usually work part-time but my hours have been completely cut until further notice. I’m concerned because I need to pay my rent to keep a roof over my head, but I also have a car loan with the credit union that I repay monthly. There is no way I will be able to afford everything while this continues.

Firstly, you should apply for the Jobseeker’s Benefit from Welfare.ie. In relation to repayments of loans, Kevin Johnson, who is the CEO of the Credit Union Development Association, says you can be assured that all credit unions will be understanding and flexible toward their members’ genuine financial limitations over the coming months.

He says the credit unions have also asked the Central Bank for further guidance on short-term forbearance measures granted to people who are in danger of missing loan payments, to ensure their long-term credit rating is not negatively affected. Credit unions will engage fully with all members in difficulty, Mr Johnson says. He advises you make contact with your credit union and explain your situation.

The best way to do this at the moment would be via email or over the phone.