Talking Credit Unions with Chris Smith

Chris Smith

These podcasts aim to communicate topics of interest from the world of credit unions targeted at managers, directors and other activists within the world of credit unions. I'm a long term supporter of credit unions and have served on the board of directors of several credit unions. This is a not for profit venture and my time is donated pro-bono. I am constantly on the look-out for stories and topics of interest to credit unions especially, but not exclusively, in the UK and Ireland. Contact me: smithowls@gmail.com A contribution to my costs has been made by CFCFE and I rely on them for additional distribution and inspiration.

EDITION 26 - MEMBER GAMBLING AND VULNERABILITY
Oct 11 2021
EDITION 26 - MEMBER GAMBLING AND VULNERABILITY
This summer saw the publication 'Gambling, Vulnerability and FCA Compliance'  (How financial services firms can achieve the best outcomes for vulnerable customers who gamble), by Sharon Collard and Katie Cross at the Bristol University Personal Finance Research Centre. Credit unions are seeing increased levels of gambling activity on members accounts, especially since the pandemic. Many credit unions can conduct more forensic assessment of members accounts following the uptake in use of 'open banking'. This has contributed to a rising concern that gambling is causing harm to members and their families. Should the credit unions intervene, or should they mind their own business? Listen to the excellent points of view from industry leaders on this podcast.Sharon Collard states, at a conservative estimate, at least one in ten adults in Britain (and I guess similar numbers in Ireland too) experience harmful gambling, either because of their own gambling or someone else’s. Gambling-related vulnerability can present a unique set of challenges because of its complexity, the fact is that the member may not be fully in control of their decisions or actions, and the fact is that it may not always be clear what a credit union can do to ensure the fair treatment of customers in this situation. Do credit unions intervene, or not seems to be the conundrum? I think what we have heard, on this podcast, demonstrates that credit unions are well-placed to address the financial harms linked to gambling-related vulnerability. Some, credit unions are embarking on being quite interventionist and perhaps others less so. Perhaps credit unions can demonstrate their differences, from their competitors, by showing a more caring and concerned response to this growing problem in society. Or maybe our governments will curb the gambling companies and restrict the proliferation of their advertising; but I wouldn't bet on it. Listen to the contributors to this podcast:Sharon Collard, Bristol UniversityKaren Bennett CBE,  CEO Enterprise Credit Union, MerseysideSheenagh Young, CEO South Manchester Credit UnionAlex Hodson, Loans Officer, Metro Money Wise Credit Union, Rochdale Lorraine Moran, Loans Officer, St Anthony’s & Claddagh Credit Union, GalwayBarry Grant, Project Manager, Extern Problem Gambling Project, DublinGambling-vulnerability-FCA-compliance-report.pdf (bristol.ac.uk)
Sir Douglas Flint on Just Finance Foundation and credit union board rooms - EDITION 20
Mar 12 2021
Sir Douglas Flint on Just Finance Foundation and credit union board rooms - EDITION 20
This is an interviewed with Sir Douglas Flint who is chair of Standard Life Aberdeen, IP Group, the Corporate board of Cancer Research UK and is a trustee of the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. He was previously Group Chairman of HSBC Holdings and he has held other roles, notably as a non-executive director of BP.Clearly, Sir Douglas has many years of experience of board rooms of successful businesses and his Chairmanship of the Just Finance Foundation has placed him in close proximity to credit unions. So, along with his insights into successful board rooms,  I was firstly interested in asking him about his Chairmanship of the Just Finance Foundation.Then I asked him what changes would you make to boardrooms to make them more effective?"Boards need to spend more time on what’s important rather that what’s urgent".  He added, There are 5 key questions that we need to think about:Where do we think our industry is going to be in 5 or 10-years’ time?What do we need to do to put ourselves in a position for that change?What resources do we need, human, financial, and technology?What do we think our competitors are doing to position themselves?What do we think people who aren’t our competitors today but do have the capability to be our competitors in the future are doing? The Just Finance Foundation runs a project called LifeSavers. This is an innovative, values-based financial education programme for primary schools, teaching children how to manage money wisely. Offering a whole school approach, LifeSavers provides:  Resources and training for teachers Savings Clubs: giving children practical experience of handling and saving money A whole community approach, including parents, credit unions and other community groups
Notice: CFCFE CONFERENCE MARCH 29th 2021
Mar 5 2021
Notice: CFCFE CONFERENCE MARCH 29th 2021
Booking is now open for our first CFCFE conference of the year, on Monday 29th March.Towards New Business Models: great speakers and plenty of group discussion, looking at the 2021 and future external operating context, the importance of building a business model on a clear and agreed purpose, and credit union leader experience of making mergers work.Join other credit union leaders, directors, suppliers, regulators and policymakers for stimulating ideas and to share your own views, with plenty of opportunities for interaction. Book your place here! is the issue?2020 saw a significant acceleration of the digitalisation of our societies and economies. Post-vaccines, most agree there will not be a great reversion to a 2019 way of life.Alongside impacts of the pandemic, the evolution of fintech and big data technology, such as open banking, will facilitate further significant change in the financial services industry, with uncertain consequence for consumer behaviour.For UK credit unions, the next 24 months may offer legislative change and widened scope for trading.Credit union leaders, both executives and directors, need to consider whether their business model is right for this environment. Some credit unions have seen merger as a strategic response to strengthen their organisations, but this is not an easy process to get right.This conference will consider the external operating context, the importance of building a business model on a clear and agreed purpose, and explore credit union leader experience of making mergers work.How will the online conference work?The conference will be presented on Zoom. We are working to deliver an enjoyable and interactive online experience of the conference. Details of how you can ask questions, join in discussion etc. will be sent to attendees nearer the time.
Credit Union Mergers - A strategic opportunity? EDITION 17
Feb 2 2021
Credit Union Mergers - A strategic opportunity? EDITION 17
An interview with Robert Kelly CEO at ABCUL (Assoc. of British Credit Unions Ltd). I was really interested in the news that ABCUL are to launch a Strategic Merger Taskforce. Robert Kelly, CEO at ABCUL, once again appears to tackle subjects that appear sometimes to be difficult to deal with but nevertheless are really of the moment. Credit Union mergers, or transfer of engagements, in the past have typically been a way of saving a struggling credit union from failure, by being absorbed into a healthier partner. However, could two, or more, credit unions join; and become strategically stronger by merging from a position of strength of their combined healthy businesses? This new task force should have its work cut out in helping understand what role mergers in boosting the sustainability drive for credit unions. A great deal has been said in recent times about the need for collaboration between credit unions and I know there are collaboration projects out there that are doing well, but I wonder if there is a co-operative way forward, it  could be a jointly owned ‘CUSO’s (credit union service organisations) or in some cases a strategic merger? It has to be said that sometimes, following mergers of any business, scale economies lead to tough outcomes for some stakeholders and I hope the boards of our credit unions are ready for that?Here's some of the questions I put to Robert:Tell us about the Strategic Merger Taskforce?What is a ‘strategic merger’ and why is ABCUL taking a role in facilitating this? Is there a lot of interest among ABCUL members?If credit unions are doing well, why would they take the risk of merging and fixing something that isn’t broken?What makes mergers successful, in your view? And what are the pitfalls?Is “merger” misleading? Aren’t the successful examples where it’s really an acquisition, i.e. where a successful leadership team effectively absorbing a new group of members into their existing arrangements?Perhaps some CEO's or board directors holding on to their positions, when this might be against their members’ interests?
Time for a New Credit Union Core Computer System? EDITION 16
Jan 8 2021
Time for a New Credit Union Core Computer System? EDITION 16
Over the last few years, the importance of flexible, efficient and modern technology has risen up the agenda for many credit unions. 2020 has made this even more pronounced, as the ability of organisation to serve members effectively while staff are remote from members (and each other) has been given a severe test. Sometimes credit unions come to the conclusion that their strategy cannot be delivered with the constraints of their current core processing and accounting system. But replacing this component of the business is daunting and can be compared to major surgery – expensive, painful and risky. Yet still critical to survival – so what to do?In this podcast you hear from two credit unions specialists that know this well trodden IT road and their insight and advice is both timely and straight forward.  Ralph Swoboda & Todd Proulx.Ralph Swoboda, the Chair of CFCFE, is also the Managing Director of CUFA Ltd., the Dublin based provider of financial analytics software to credit unions and other mutual financial firms. An attorney by training, he has forty-five years of experience in the USA and international credit union sector, having served as President/CEO of Credit Union National Association (the primary U.S. credit union trade body), as Chairman of the Management Committee of the Association of British Credit Unions, Ltd. (ABCUL), and later as head of International Operations for CUNA Mutual Group. After leaving CUNA Mutual in 2005, Ralph co-founded CUFA Ltd. and has provided consulting and executive-level project management services to credit unions and credit union organisations internationally. Ralph has also served as a director of credit union and co-operative organisations, including CARE USA, US Central Credit Union, and the Filene Research Institute (of which he was one of the founders). Contact Ralph: ralphswoboda@cfcfe.eu Todd Proulx, a consultant with vast experience of core system replacement projects, has written a paper for CFCFE on how to approach this vital issue. In ‘When it Hurts More to Stay Than to Leave: Time for a New Core System?‘, Todd offers wise advice on what might drive a credit union to switch providers, how to conduct a robust procurement process and some of the key functionality that a solution needs to be able to support. Todd concludes with the reminder that “a core system should never dictate or limit credit union business strategy.”
Diversity in the Credit Union Boardroom - EDITION 15
Dec 3 2020
Diversity in the Credit Union Boardroom - EDITION 15
What a year for this agenda. First came shock; and then came shows of support. But they’re only worth a penny if we do not move to meaningful action and concrete change. Change you can see. Change you can measure. And change that makes a material difference to people’s lives. To achieve that, we can’t just speak about one aspect of diversity and inclusion without also understanding the importance of all others, and how they intersect to make up someone’s experiences. But following the killing of George Floyd, much of the push for action in recent months has quite rightly been focused on addressing systematic racial and ethnic inequality.For me, this is first and foremost a moral question. Not just as a human being, but also as a producer of podcasts for credit unions. I have always believed that credit unions are superb institutions in helping people get in and on in life.But still too many people, because of their gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, background, or circumstance, find themselves unfairly held back. Their route barred, and talents ignored. I believe that no-one should have to experience that. And I believe that credit unions – among many institutions in society – should be best placed to help solve this problem. We are fast, we work in teams, we help people fulfil their potential.I’ve got an excellent line up of expert speakers to inform and inspire you on this podcast. And let’s be honest, it’s their voices, stories, and insights that you’re tuning in to hear. Not mine. Listen to:Robert Kelly, CEO ABCULMarlene Sheils, CEO Capital Credit UnionValerie Walwyn-Tait, CEO Planesaver Credit UnionKarl George MBE, The Governance ForumRob Shearing, CEO Wolverhampton Credit UnionKevin Fearon, Chair Wolverhampton Credit Union
Interest rate caps with Dr Olive McCarthy - EDITION 13
Nov 13 2020
Interest rate caps with Dr Olive McCarthy - EDITION 13
Olive McCarthy is an active member of St. Michael's Credit Union, Cork, Ireland. She receives research funding from a wide array of external sources, including government bodies, NGOs and sectoral organisations. She is a member of the Credit Union Advisory Committee, appointed by the Irish Minister for Finance.The cost of accessing small personal loans can be eye-wateringly high for those who need it most. Take the UK, where a £200 loan from Provident Personal Credit over 13 weeks costs £86 in interest. That’s an equivalent APR of a whopping 1,557.7%.These offers are available even after the caps on payday loans that the UK introduced five years ago. In the months after the reforms, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) reported that the number of loans and the overall amount borrowed was down 35%. From there, the decrease continued: there were 5.4 million high-cost loans totalling £1.3 billion in 2018 with the total amount repayable at £2.1 billion; five years earlier, there had been 10.3 million loans worth £2.5 billion.Yet clearly, high-cost credit has not gone away entirely, and it looks set to get bigger again. Provident, the UK and Ireland’s largest high-cost doorstep credit provider, is anticipating increased demand when unemployment rises as the UK furlough scheme winds down. The lender has reportedly put aside £240 million for a surge in defaults.So, what have we learned since the rules changed, and will those who need credit be able to access it in the wake of the pandemic?To cap or not to cap?High interest rates are usually justified by the argument that the borrowers are more likely to default, often having been turned down elsewhere. Higher rates compensate the lender for higher risk.People often borrow on the basis of convenience and whether they can afford the repayments, rather than the cost of the loan. This can lead to financial strain, repeat borrowing and defaults. After all, credit is debt.Nonetheless, the debate continues among policy experts worldwide about whether caps are the best response. Supporters point out that restrictions have reduced the cost of credit for low-income borrowers, tackled over-indebtedness and helped to prevent people from being exploited.Some consumers may no longer have access to credit because of providers changing their business models or exiting the market, but many of these people would probably not pass a rigorous affordability check and may be over-indebted already.Opponents highlight the possible unintended consequences. As well as less access to credit, they worry about the potential for more illegal moneylenders, and loans companies introducing charges that circumvent the restrictions.Swayed by these arguments, Ireland is among a minority of European countries to favour increasing regulation and supervision over caps. For example, high-cost warnings in loans advertising became a requirement from September 1. Although the government is reviewing its general approach, the fear that restrictions will cut the credit supply still appears to have the upper hand.
CFCFE CREDIT UNION CONFERENCE TRAILER - 22nd September 2020 - Dublin & On Line!
Aug 27 2020
CFCFE CREDIT UNION CONFERENCE TRAILER - 22nd September 2020 - Dublin & On Line!
Credit Union Conference: Planning for the New Normal 10.00am-3.30pm, Tuesday 22 September 2020, Clayton Liffey Valley Hotel and live online Presented by the Centre for Community Finance Europe, in collaboration with Liverpool John Moores University. What is the issue? Enough has been written about the COVID-19 crisis for us all to know the outlines of the impact – the economy significantly depressed, unemployment forecast to climb fast and our members and communities’ financial and general well-being under pressure. The morning session will help credit unions look ahead, by providing insights into the consumer and economic landscape and talking to CEOs about their assessment of the future. In the afternoon, we will focus on practical ideas for safely sustaining lending to members and managing the operation. Who should attend? Credit union leaders, policy-makers and stakeholders in Great Britain and Ireland. What is the format? A limited number of places will be available for physical attendance at our Dublin venue (with refreshments and lunch). These will be available to members only, allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. More places will be available for members and non-members online. Please note that the conference will also be released as a webcast / podcast and your attendance is taken as consent to your questions and comments being publicly broadcast.  Agenda (as at 11 August 2020) 9.30 Registration 10.00 Welcome and introductions, Dr Paul A Jones, Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and the Centre for Community Finance Europe (CFCFE) 10.15 The economic and market outlook, Brian Corr, Department of Finance A view of the context for credit union planning 10.45 CEO forecasting roundtable, a panel of credit union CEOs from Ireland and the UK, facilitated by Brian Corr How are CEOs planning for the future? 11.45 Over to you, breakout sessions facilitated by CFCFE Discussion of the themes identified by the speaker and the panel 12.15 Lunch (for attendees at the hotel, lunch and networking with other attendees available until 13.00) 13.00 Credit risk under COVID-19: what is the data telling us?, Declan Mooney, CUFA Ltd How are credit union loan books actually performing? 13.30 Converting declines to accepts, Matt Vernon, Quo Money How can we help members who are not currently meeting our credit requirements qualify for loans they can afford? 13.55 Successful implementation of revolving credit, John Gregoire, The ProCon Group The practical steps to make this product work for members who value its convenience -- and credit unions who value its cost-efficiency 14:25 Lending post-COVID-19: a panel session, Declan Mooney, Matt Vernon, John Gregoire, facilitated by Nick Money, CFCFE 15:10 Concluding remarks, Dr Paul A Jones 15.30 Close _______________________________________________________________How much does it cost? Free for members of the Centre for Community Finance Europe (according to membership level). Non-member tickets online only, €75+VAT.Where do I register to attend? fcfe-credit-union-conferenceplanning-for-the-new-normaltickets-112972084546 Who should I contact with queries? Nick Money, +44 7540 259053, nick.money@cfcfe.euIn collaboration with the Research Unit for Financial Inclusion at Liverpool John Moores University, www.ljmu.ac.uk/research-unit-forfinancial-inclusion  Programme may be subject to change. Details correct as at 27 August 2020
EDITION 8 - Payroll Deduction Member Recruitment
Jul 28 2020
EDITION 8 - Payroll Deduction Member Recruitment
This edition is about member recruitment via payroll deduction. How British and Irish credit unions, and others, have managed their journey into member recruitment via the route of employer participation. I have some excellent guests on the podcast and my gratitude goes out to them for giving up their valuable time freely in the middle of this pandemic. We will hear from: Billy Doyle CEO Dundalk CU in IrelandLuke Mellard, Business Development Manager at the company Salary FinanceCarol McHarg CEO 1st Alliance CU in Ayrshire ScotlandAnn Hickey CEO East Sussex CU in EnglandRoger Shelton Business Development Manager in Sheffield, England Credit unions have been using payroll deduction as a means of member recruitment since the earliest days. Many credit unions began life as an employee-based organisation designed primarily as a payroll savings and loans co-operative. Local authorities, and other large employers, often encouraged credit unions to grow in their midst and many of these credit unions have flourished. However, community-based credit unions have made good progress in attracting local employers to offer payroll deduction. I spoke to some credit unions leaders making the most of payroll deduction schemes, and some that were seeking take up with small and medium sized enterprises organisations falling outside the traditional common bonds of the industrial credit unions.  I started by asking the payroll deduction company Salary Finance for their view on all this and their candid answers demonstrate that they are here to stay in this market.