Credit Unions Move in Where High Cost Lenders Move Out
On International Credit Union Day (Thursday 15 October 2020), Credit Unions in Wales are celebrating a year of growth, moving into areas where high cost lenders have shutdown.
Over the last year, 15 new credit union branches and collection points have opened across Wales – the latest being Cambrian Credit Union which launches in the former Money Shop premises in Rhyl on International Credit Union Day itself.
General Manager of Cambrian Credit Union Ann Francis said: “We are incredibly excited to move in where the Money Shop failed. This new High Street office will help us expand affordable and ethical financial services to people in north Wales.
“Last year we saved our members around £2m in loan repayments, that’s money that stays in our communities. People really are better off with us.”
The move comes weeks after Cardiff & Vale Credit Union opened in Working Street (just off the Hayes) in the centre of the capital and Gateway Credit Union moved into a new office in Cwmbran. Both Cardiff & Vale and Gateway’s new offices are doors away from now defunct Brighthouse stores.
“We know that Covid-19 has hit people’s finances hard, and credit unions are focussed on helping to keep money in our communities across Wales,” CEO of Cardiff & Vale, Leanne Herberg said. “The money that is saved with a credit union is lent responsibly to others in the community at affordable rates. There are no external shareholders, so our focus is simply on providing the best services to our members.”
In Merthyr Tydfil, one credit union member has received an award for her part in opening a new collection point in Quaker’s Yard. Meryl Cullen, who was named Credit Unions of Wales, Volunteer of the Year, was once herself a victim of doorstep lenders and this spurred her on to bring ethical savings and loans to her community.
“I was using doorstep lenders and wanted to stop because their interest rates are astronomical,” she said. “I wanted to bring the credit union into our community centre to let other people to know that there’s another way.”
In west Wales, SaveEasy Credit Union won an Access to Financial Services Award after opening five new pop-up branches and collection points across Llanelli, Carmarthen and Pembroke Dock in just four months.
Meanwhile Celtic Credit Union opened a new branch in Port Talbot in the middle of the lockdown.
Across Wales around 80,000 people are members of a credit union and have £44m in savings and £25m in loans, an increase of around 25% over five years. Meanwhile, there are more than 150 payroll partners in Wales – employers that help their staff save or borrow with a credit union through direct from their salary.
Jane Hutt MS, Patron of Credit Unions of Wales said: “Credit unions across Wales have worked incredibly hard to increase accessibility to ethical and affordable financial services in these difficult times. From opening new offices to building the capacity of their online and telephone services, they are focused on expanding the reach of fair and ethical financial services.
“We all need help sometimes, especially during times of uncertainty and everyone should have access to fair and ethical financial support.”
The expansion comes as a combination of tightened Financial Conduct Authority regulations and compensation claims saw the demise of payday lenders and high cost rental stores including QuickQuid, Wonga, WageDay Advance, Sunny, the Money Shop and Brighthouse.