A word from the Chair

Whether we are long credit union veterans or new arrivals, I think we can all agree that this year has been dramatically unlike any other in the circa 80 year history of credit unions in Ireland and Great Britain. Our movements have achieved extraordinary things during the pandemic, and CFCFE has documented ‘the credit union difference’ during this difficult time in our reports on the British and Irish experiences. We have worked hard this summer to keep up with the tremendous work the sector has been doing for its members and communities. We recap below what we have been up to, and what you can look forward to.


Publications and Podcasts

Already available. Over the summer we have published papers on the credit union response to COVID-19 in Britain and Ireland, on the compliance issues around holding virtual Annual General Meetings and on high performing credit union boards. CFCFE members have also received the companion paper on virtual AGMs, looking at how to deliver an online meeting successfully. This will be made publicly available later in October. 

On the way. We commissioned a team of MBA students from the Alliance Manchester Business School to look at how credit unions can attract millennials (18-30s), and a summary of their report will be available to CFCFE members this month. Other materials in the pipeline include guidance on selecting a new core IT system (by Todd Proulx, who those who were there will remember from our January conference), an assessment of current practice in loan declines management, a report on SME lending for credit unions and tools for conducting a director and board performance evaluation. Alongside this, Paul and Nick are working with six Welsh credit unions to refine the social impact reporting methodology we developed last year with Small Change. We’re hoping to have guidance and templates available in the new year.

If you are a CFCFE member and are not getting information on papers as they are published, please contact Nick at nick.money@swobodacentre.org. All our papers can be found on our Research page, currently free to all to download, here.

Audio. CFCFE has also sponsored and contributed to the Talking Credit Unions podcasts, with 11 episodes since launch in December 2019 and over 1,000 downloads. The series includes interviews with credit union CEOs and other industry stakeholders, and topics such as industry conferences, payroll deduction, IT and HR. Upcoming instalments will address diversity in the sector, and establishing international links. Catch up on CFCFE’s audio page, and subscribe so you don’t miss the next ones!



Been. Our online conference on 22 September was a greater success that we could have hoped. Concerns that we and attendees had that interaction would be limited and that a few hours on Zoom would be too much like hard work were disproved in the event. Our excellent presenters and participants (particular tip of the hat to Brian Corr from Ireland’s Department of Finance) delivered a succession of stimulating sessions, and our breakout groups, expertly managed by Paul, were critical in enabling people to engage in quality discussions. The videos and presentations can be seen on our Events page, here.

To come. Emboldened by the conference success, we are planning to facilitate more online events where credit unionists can meet, discuss and collaborate. Details to follow as soon as we have a programme. And we can confirm that our next full conference will be soon Monday 29 March 2021. We are planning for it to be held in the Clayton Hotel Liffey Valley in Dublin, subject to social distancing, of course. It will also be online, and interactive. Given the uncertainty in our environment, we will be establishing the conference theme and the agenda nearer the time.


Salary advance schemes – changing how we earn?

Many credit unions, particularly those engaged in payroll deduction, will be monitoring the progress of salary advance schemes. Digital software providers, such as Hastee or Wagestream in the UK, integrate with payrolls to enable employees to access a proportion of their salary (pre-set by the employer) in advance of their payday. The two immediate issues arising for credit unions are whether this kind of lending is in the best interests of employees (and many believe it is not), and how to compete against the proposition. 

But right now, I want briefly to offer another take on this, which I think could become of much more profound issue in the future. The proponents of salary advance would argue that it is enabling people to access money they have actually already earned. The vast majority of workers get paid in arrears: there is a range of reasons why this is the case, including the technical challenge for employers of working out what people are owed, especially when taking overtime into account, and also a sense of holding the commitment of the employee. What salary advance technology does is remove the first of these considerations. In an employment market increasingly characterised by modern piece-work, zero hours arrangements, or ‘gigging’, where people may not work for a whole month for an employer, and where younger people in particular are unused to needing to wait for goods to be purchased, food delivered or anything else accessed, it seems likely to me that workers will start to question why they have to wait weeks – or even days – for money they earned today.

If the technology is available to work out how much I am owed for the shift I did in a bar last night, why shouldn’t I get access to that money now? It’s the digital equivalent of cash-in-hand. And if that’s the case, what is the logic of my credit union asking me for a monthly repayment plan? My income is no longer based around a monthly schedule, so why would I want my loan repayments to be? I don’t know what the answer is to this, but I think the behavioural change from same-day wage earning could have significant implications. I’ll expand on this in a future article – would welcome feedback.

Nick nick.money@swobodacentre.org