Thursday, 30 April 2015

w/c 27 April 2015

Scunthorpe Branch sports a new look
With the merger of North Lincolnshire Credit Union now a legal fact, we moved quickly to rebrand our latest branch in Scunthorpe High Street with a fresh new look.  We are trading there as Northern* Lincolnshire Credit Union (part of HEYCU), but using our popular well-established colour scheme and logo, as illustrated by the cheerful new fascia sign and window posters that you can view on our website and Facebook page.   Within the branch our product literature and signage has all been changed over to the new brand too.

Many thanks to David and Richard for their expert handywork fixing up the new poster frames etc and to Melisa for her design skills and keeping everyone on track!  On the day several members commented on how smart it all looked.

* a subtle name change, but intended to show that we can serve people who live or work across the region not just in one Council area.

Driffield Members make two presentations
Congratulations to the members of our Driffield Branch Committee who organised their annual quiz evening to raise funds for two good causes.   Representatives of the two organisations - Yorkshire Air Ambulance and the MacMillan Nurses - attended the branch meeting to receive cheques for £200 each.   A great effort and positive proof that the Credit Union is a valued member of the community it serves.

Matched Loans prove popular
We’re delighted with the response to our newest loan product, the Matched Loan.  Take up has been good in the short time it’s been available.   Matched Loans are for members who have at least £1,000 in their savings that they are prepared to secure (ie not withdraw) to take out an equivalent loan for up to five years.  As these loans are secured, they can be arranged instantly just by visiting a branch and completing a very simple form.  No credit checks are needed and the interest rate is a very appealing 4% APR.

If you’ saved up more than £1,000 with us and need quick access to finance but don't want to dip into your savings, this is the loan for you.  It can also help members to build their credit rating.

Promoting saving by payroll at the HICA Group
Last time I mentioned Hull College joining the growing ranks of employers willing to let their staff save with us by direct payroll deduction.

This week I met with our friends at the HICA Group, one of the region's leading care home and domiciliary care organisations, to plan a new campaign to encourage more of their employees to save and borrow with us in the same way.  We look forward to rolling this out soon and welcoming them into membership.

Save money on your energy bill
Hull City Council is currently operating a new round of the collective energy switching scheme ‘Energy Switch.  Since piloting the scheme in 2013 thousands of people have reduced their energy bills by registering their interest via the City Council website, calling 01482 300300 or visiting a Customer Service Centre.

Energy Switch works by aggregating groups of people and presenting them to the energy market on one day; energy companies then bid against each other based upon the volume of customers they stand to gain. The scheme is now performing better than ever, with 99% of people who register receiving a cheaper quote, and the average yearly saving per household in Hull now averaging a very worthwhile £270. Changes within the energy market in 2014 have resulted in market leading offers on the last three auctions that have been held across the country.

We are working with Hull City Council to make our members aware of this opportunity.    Residents and small businesses can register their details (with no obligation to switch) by 18 May.    Please note it is open to prepayment meter users as well as other consumers.

Find out more here:
It's a great chance to save some of your hard earned cash - so what have you got to lose?

The General Election is fast approaching
Bearing in mind that in less than a week we'll be heading to the polling stations to choose our MPs and the next Government, I've been taking a peek at some of the party manifestos to see what, if anything, they have to say about Credit Unions.

Our trade association, ABCUL, has been working hard over the years to ensure that all the main political parties support the development of the credit union movement and has been very successful.   This work has borne fruit as the policy statements and commitments were unveiled recently.

Labour was first off the blocks with their manifesto, which reaffirmed their support in its section on small business:  "We will increase competition (between banks) on the high street.... we want a market share test and at least two new challenger banks.  And we will deal with the scourge of household debt by introducing a new levy on payday lenders, using the funds raised to boost low-cost alternatives like credit unions".

The Conservatives made the following commitment to our sector within their section on banking entitled "We will make the banks work for you":  "We capped payday lenders, made it easier for you to switch your bank account and will continue to support the credit union movement in making financial services more accessible."

We also featured in the Greens manifesto under their Finance section which boldly begins with "The UK finance industry is a disaster area.  Far from generating genuine wealth, its recklessness and greed created the greatest recession since the 1930s, which in turn contributed to the present regime of austerity and cuts to public services.   We would . . . invest £2 billion in a network of community banks, mutually owned and serving local areas or particular groups. "

The manifesto quotes an example of how the Green-led administration in Brighton invested £100,000 in a local credit union, partly to help it set up an online systems for residents to access loans, making the credit union as accessible as high-interest payday lenders. It also banned such lenders from advertising on Council billboards.

Blantyre Savvy Savers project
It was good to read about another credit union that believes, like we do, that children are the future and should be encouraged to catch the savings habit early.  The Blantyre and South Lanarkshire Credit Union, to the south-east of Glasgow, has a long history of running school collection points.  In 2011 it got on board with the Scottish Government's initiative to bring credit unions into schools with its Savvy Savers scheme, and now has over 5,000 active junior accounts holding £550,000 in savings, ranged over 70 schools.  They are currently promoting adult membership through schools with a Recommend a Friend scheme, which gives them free credit union membership.  

We are doing similar work with our schools in Driffield, Goole, Holderness and Haltemprice, with the support of East Riding of Yorkshire Council which is helping more families to discover our "fairer alternative".   Wouldn't it be great if our Government funded the development of a school bank in every English primary school?  Now, there's an idea for those party manifestos . . . 

First Saver Accounts
To give your children or grandchildren the best possible start in life - why not open them one of our First Saver accounts?

Tour de Yorkshire
As I write these notes, Hull City have just scored a magnificent win over Liverpool to take them one step futher on their journey to Premier League survival, after a topsy turvy season, so well done to them!   There’ll be more top sporting activity this Friday when the first ever Tour de Yorkshire cycle race makes its “grand depart” from beautiful Bridlington.   If you are going along to watch the action, do pop into our branch in Prospect Street and say hello to “our local team”.

Whatever you’re doing, have a great Bank Holiday weekend!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The week starting 20 April 2015

Hull College employees sign up
We had a very successful time at Hull College's staff benefits day on Tuesday, with lots of College employees showing interest in joining our Credit Union to save up direct from their pay.   Quite a few signed up on the day, while others have sent in their forms afterwards, perhaps swayed by their enthusiastic colleagues!  
If you work for Hull College and haven't joined yet, there's no time limit, but if you want to benefit from our special opening offer of £10 matched bonus for opening a Christmas Saver account, you'll need to set up your payroll deduction by mid-May.

Investors in People presentation
Our April Board meeting was a momentous occasion, for we were presented with our Investors in People Bronze Standard plaque by Jeff Law, Investors in People Assessor.  Jeff congratulated everyone - staff, volunteers and directors - on their contribution to this magnificent outcome and hoped it would encourage us to "reach for the stars" and go for the Silver or even Gold standard next time.   Our plaque will be displayed in the Central Office foyer where members will be able to see it when they call in, and share in our pride.

You can also see us on the Investors in People website.

Pennies 2 Pounds School Bank news
Our new school bank at Roos CE Primary School has got off to a wonderful start.  Another four savers enrolled on Friday and it was very busy from 8.20 until about 9.30 am, with our two capable new volunteers at full stretch.  Rita, our Schools Co-ordinator tells me, "All the children and staff are very enthusiastic, it is a real pleasure to see them".

There's an excellent article in the April edition of Spire, the magazine of All Saints Church in Hessle, an area where we’re keen to work with the local schools and children's centre to develop savings clubs.  Written by Carmel Seston, our Project Officer for Haltemprice, it explains that a Church of England task group, set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, has been working hard to support people in accessing ethical financial services and developing their financial capability to avoid getting caught up in spiraling debt.  This initiative, known as TO YOUR CREDIT, was launched in 2014 to create a fairer financial system serving the whole community.  It supports the growth of credit unions and other community organisations in providing a fairer alternative to exploitative finance.  The article then explains what a credit union is and how local people can join, get involved and even volunteer.  If you live in the Hessle area and would like to be a Credit Union Champion, we'd love to hear from you!

Credit Union member from Sheffield reunited with his savings
This week an enquiry came in via our website and read "I have recently found my own and my brother's credit union book from 1998-9 that our mother paid into on our behalf. Is there a way we can redeem these savings now and if so, how?  We are from the Sheffield area."
When I looked up the gentleman's Member Number on our records, it clearly wasn't one of ours, and in any case HEYCU wasn't formed until June 1999.  So, I responded by suggesting he visit the website findyourcreditunion which is a handy way of locating your local credit union wherever you live in Britain.  You simply type in your postcode, town or employer and up pop contact details for all relevant credit unions!   I had a nice email back later to say that the credit union books were from Sheffield Credit Union and he was going to call them to sort it out.

North Lincolnshire Merger takes effect
After many weeks of preparations, we finally received notification from the Financial Conduct Authority that they have registered our merger, or to give it the correct legal name - Transfer of Engagements.
So Monday 20 April is the day when our two credit unions - North Lincolnshire and Hull & East Yorkshire - become one and look forward to a bright future working together to provide fair and friendly financial services for the people of the Humber region.
It was a pleasure to welcome the two NLCU staff - Andrew and Tracey - to our Hull Central office last Thursday and I know the HEYCU staff enjoyed meeting them and swapping experiences.   Our next major task - the branch rebranding - takes place this week and it's going to look fantastic.  Have a look at our website to see what I mean. 
On Friday afternoon, together with David Martin, chairman of NLCU, I attended a meeting at the very impressive Civic Centre in Scunthorpe to explain our development plans to the North Lincolnshire Anti-poverty Working Group.  It was good to meet the group members, who are all working hard to make life better for the area's residents, in both urban and rural communities.  They seemed excited about our merger and keen to support us as we roll out the wider range of products and services that the combined credit union makes possible.

The ride in a lift (or taxi!)
Have you seen those training videos that encourage employees to be ambassadors for the firms they work for?  They go something like, "Imagine you enter a lift and a stranger asks you what your firm does, and you only have 30 seconds to explain it to them while the lift ascends between floors.  What would you say?"

Well, it was like that when David and I went to the meeting at the Civic Centre.  To save time we took a taxi (not our usual mode of travel, I hasten to add; we usually walk or take a train/bus).  The taxi driver saw us coming out of the branch and asked, "So, what's a credit union, then?"  This was David's big moment!  We only had a few minutes, but he was in his element, starting off with "It's a not-for-profit financial services co-operative, owned by its members and working for them", then he reeled off the list of savings, loans and other products we offer, explained how we differ from banks and building societies, and concluded with a message that we are part of a worldwide movement all aiming not to profit out of anyone but to make a real difference to people's lives.  By the time we got to the Civic Centre, the taxi driver was totally won over and declared he would be popping in to join up!  It was amazing - you've obviously done that many times before, David.

Tour de Yorkshire Budget Challenge
I hope our junior savers (including those who save at Pennies 2 Pounds clubs) will have a go and enter our latest competition, especially for them.  It's based on the Tour de Yorkshire cycle races, and there'll be a themed prize for the winning entry.  Please mention it to them or their parents/carers. 

First Saver Accounts
Now is a great time to get the next generation off to a good start with money – why not open a First Saver account for the special children in your life!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Savings, Loans, Payroll Deduction, Rules, and more! (13th April)

Easter 2015
We hope everyone had an enjoyable Easter break, even if it did seem to be over all too quickly.

Perhaps the better weather encouraged you to get cracking on some home or garden improvements.  Or maybe you're planning a holiday.   If so, don't forget we offer some very competitive rates on Dream Loans and Saver Loans.  If you would qualify for a loan from your bank and normally go direct to them,  please think of us and give us a chance to offer you a better deal.  

Remember, with a Credit Union loan the rate you see is the rate you pay, whereas banks tend to quote headline rates as "from...." which sometimes means you get a higher rate than you expected.

Half way through - how are we doing?
On 31 March we reached the half way stage of our Credit Union's financial year.   So, our member-owners may be wondering, how’s it all going so far?

Here's a few facts and figures:

·        Membership – 11,329 – up 5.5% on a year ago
·        Junior Savers – 1,147 – up 10% on a year ago
·        Members' Savings and Deposits - £7,569,270 – up 12% on a year ago.

Our members are still trusting us with more and more of their savings, which is brilliant.  But, by contrast, our loan book has remained fairly flat, which is a little surprising considering our highly competitive rates, starting as low as 4% APR.   Unlike the big banks, credit unions can’t afford to spend mega bucks on advertising.  Instead, we need all our members to help us by spreading the word about our loans, and what a fantastic deal they are.  

On the income and expenditure front, we’re having a much better year.  Our income (which comes from loan interest, contract income, fees and charges and grants) has grown by 7% compared with the first half of last year; while our expenditure (running costs like pay, premises, banking charges and administration) is only up by 1.6%.    We therefore remain on track to return to profitability before year end, in line with our Business Plan.

Please support your Credit Union to the maximum extent as we work hard to put HEYCU on a sustainable path so that it can serve many generations to come.

Christmas Saver campaign 2015
This year’s Christmas Saver campaign was a great success, with nearly 300 new accounts opened to qualify for a £10 matched bonus.   188 of the new accounts were opened by Hull residents and 99 in the East Riding.   With savers from the 2014 campaign continuing this year, that means we now have over 1,200 Christmas Savers all planning ahead for a happy festive season!  Oh, and by the way, it’s not too late to start saving if you haven’t already.

Rule Amendments registered
Last week the regulators - the Financial Conduct Authority – informed us that the rule amendments members voted for at the AGM 2014 have been registered, and are therefore now in force.   You can find a complete set of the new rules on our website.

Just to remind you, the rule changes:
·        added Your Headrow Housing Group to our common bond;
·        established a new process for dealing with expulsion of members; and
·        replaced the Supervisory Committee with a new Audit Committee of the Board.

Our Audit Committee held its first meeting on 30 March to begin its new role of overseeing the internal and external audit of our credit union, to safeguard our assets and operations for you, our members, and strive to improve on the way things are done.

Hull College staff benefits 
On Tuesday 14 April, two of our staff members - Marlene and Zoe - will be attending a Staff Benefits Fair at Hull College in Queens Gardens, Hull.  

The College, with branches in Hull and Goole, has decided to offer its employees the opportunity to save with our Credit Union by payroll deduction.

Several other employers - such as Hull City Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the HICA Group - offer this facility and it’s tremendously popular.   Members who use it say it is a really painless way to do some regular saving because the money is taken from their pay before they get it.  So they don't miss it!  It’s also great for “secret saving”.  Once the payroll deduction is set up, it just keeps on happening each time the member gets paid, until they decide to change or cancel it.   At HEYCU lots of members have built up thousands of pounds worth of savings over the 16 years that we've been around, by this very simple, handy method.  Many have told us that until we came along they'd never managed to save at all.

We look forward to serving lots of Hull College staff in the same way, and we will also be there for them if they need to borrow.

Watch out for a campaign to recruit more employers to our payroll partnership - perhaps the firm where you work would like to offer this - maybe you could ask them?

Easter Competition
Congratulations to Evan Sands, the winner of our First Saver competition to design a “smart card”.  Evan’s fine efforts earned him a giant Chocolate Easter Egg which we trust he enjoyed.  Watch out for the next Junior Saver competition – coming soon!

Start them young with our First Saver!
Want to offer the special children in your life a way to look after their money wisely.   Our First Saver account is an ideal choice.  Check it out on our website.