|As we celebrate International Credit Union Day on Thursday 17th October, it is timely to remember the hundreds of thousands of individuals, families and communities that have been helped by credit unions over the past 60 years. It is the ordinary people in your << Constituency >> constituency that keeps the credit union movement alive; they identify with the availability of, and access to credit from a local provider – a local provider that can be trusted. Their uniqueness and importance in our society is enshrined in legislation, and we thank you and your predecessors for this support.
Today a staggering 3.3 million people in Ireland are members of credit unions, improving their lives thanks to access to affordable credit and trustworthy financial services. Credit unions have kept loan sharks at bay while ensuring competition is kept honest and communities cohesive. Working together we can achieve so much more – we want to meet competition head on; keep modernising; and to diversify to help more people, and that’s where you can help by supporting the four enhancements set out below.
Without your help the future is bleak:
Over 3,500 credit union staff and 9,200 more volunteers are working hard to modernise our services to keep us relevant, however, despite best efforts, your credit union sector faces an uncertain future in part due to Government controlled factors such as Credit Union Acts and Regulation.
Credit unions will continue doing what they can but need you to provide a fair and level playing field too! Those credit unions that continue to invest in improving their capabilities should not be held back from helping people improve their lives.
Vision for Credit Union sector
Credit unions that own CUDA have developed a collective vision:
“improving the financial, social and environmental well-being of credit union members and their communities”
This is our goal; our aim, as the most trusted financial service provider in the country, having been voted the number one brand in all five years of the Customer Experience survey, credit unions will continue to provide loans for members’ individual needs. Our goal is to dramatically expand access and offer people real choice across a range of ‘Lifetime Financial Health’ products that encompass insurance, pensions and investment. Small and medium sized enterprises, the main employer in many communities, should also be supported more.
How can you help – key changes needed:
CUDA now has 50 credit unions in its membership, with 16 new services rolled out over the last 24 months, including a digital capability, new products such as mortgages and home improvement loans to improve energy efficiency as well as CUDA’s advice and solutions in regulation, training, FinTech and compliance and partnerships with giants such as Microsoft ensuring the very best solutions are available to credit unions. To ensure we have a vibrant, modern and relevant credit union movement into the future, we urgently need:
- Changes to credit union legislation to allow credit unions provide loans for social, cooperative and affordable housing. A simple addition to include bodies such as Approved Housing Bodies, Cooperative Housing Bodies and Local Authorities, into the common bond allowing them become members of credit unions for this purpose;
- Changes to credit union legislation to allow credit unions introduce loans to each other and share larger loans. This multi-lender approach is where credit is granted by 2 or more credit unions as part of the same credit arrangement works well in North America and is permitted for regulated entities in SME regulations. SMEs need access to affordable credit. Credit union need to be allowed meet this demand. Did you know credit unions in Ireland can refer business to a bank but not to each other? – we need to stop the nonsense.
- A multi annual budget commitment of at least two years from the Government for SEAI grants. Did you know CUDA, in collaboration with SEAI, developed an initiative that combines low cost credit union loans and SEAI grants to improve energy efficiencies in the home? We call this “Pro-Energy Homes”. Due to the current budgeting structure which limps from year to year, the scheme is effectively mothballed from the 3rd quarter of each year. Where is the real commitment from Government to get behind energy saving initiatives like this? We are not asking for more money, just a demonstration of commitment.
- A demonstration of innovation from the Government to help solve the impending pension crisis. We need to encourage credit union members to transfer some of their long term savings to pensions. We need the Government to provide incentives such as allowing the saver claim the standard rate of tax relief entitlements they would have enjoyed if their savings were made originally as pension contributions;
You can make such an enormous difference. We need these changes to keep the great story going. Credit unions are working together towards an ambitious shared vision and a better society for current and future generations. Your support for the four changes outlined above will make an enormous difference to the lives of many in your local community and to 3.3 million people across Ireland.
Please contact us – write to us, email us, ring us, meet us. We know what’s needed and welcome and need your support to make it happen.