Monday, 20 July 2015

Week ending 17 July 2015

It's all happening at Bishop Burton College
On Tuesday 14 July, Carmel, our school project officer attended a meeting at Bishop Burton College arranged by Marc Hall, East Riding Senior Policy Officer and John Harrison, IAG and Employability Officer, to discuss setting up a savings club for their students and staff.  Many of the students live on the college campus throughout their course and would welcome the opportunity to manage their money at a convenient contact point.

The first consideration was whether students attending a college in East Yorkshire would be within our common bond. We were delighted to confirm that students do indeed qualify for membership and can remain members for life.

At a recent college Volunteers Fair, students from the Business Studies Department were keen to learn how they might become involved with our Credit Union to gain work experience. They were pleased to discover that volunteering with us would give them access to accredited training to enhance their CVs and practical application of financial skills gained on their course.

Their enthusiasm didn't go un-noticed by college staff. The seeds for a new project were sown! Business Studies courses impart the skills graduates need to set up in businesses ranging from agriculture to tourism. Students learn about start-ups, preparing business plans, working capital and accounts. 

Marc Hall had heard about our Business Start-Up Loan and thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to introduce them to an ethical and trusted source of finance.  The volunteer application process would allow them to experience recruitment and all it entails - preparing for interviews, providing references, induction and codes of conduct.

Marc and John also felt that parents would welcome a secure means of providing money for their son’s and daughter’s living expenses during their stay on campus. Our Prepaid Debit Card allows students to purchase books and resources on-line and to pay for day to day expenses. Parents could control student spending to the limit pre-loaded onto the cards and of course, the students would have to budget carefully to avoid the Bank of Mum and Dad finding out that their allowance had been used up during Fresher’s Week!

We have been invited to a forthcoming event when students and their parents will have the opportunity to learn more about our Credit Union during their induction to college. College staff, meanwhile, are already asking about Christmas Saver Accounts. Fortunately we already have payroll deduction arrangements in place with the College to help them save up painlessly!

School competition proves a big success
This year's Pennies 2 Pounds Summer Competition was a great success and I'd like to say "well done" to everyone who entered!  We were overwhelmed with some fantastic entries and it was difficult to choose the winners. The winners, who received certificates and shopping vouchers, were Kintija Stivka and Emilia Luczka (Boothferry Primary School); Voilet Recchia and Gabriella Becker (St Joseph's RC Primary School); Alfie Taylor (Reedness Primary School); Miah Stafford (Parkside Primary School); Alexander Watt (Roos Primary School) and Bethany Middlewood (Driffield Infants School).  Well done to all the runners up too; we hope you all enjoy your chocolate coins!

Northern Linconshire Members' Committee
Our latest members' committee held its inaugural meeting on 9 July, with Kate, Mike, Len, Andrew, David and Richard being there at the "birth".  The Committee decided to operate fairly informally, to encourage members to play a full part in its discussions and importantly, to enjoy their participation. 

The Committee was pleased to hear of the efforts being made to develop the Credit Union's business in the area since the merger, with many meetings held to promote our services to local organisations.  Members had also flown the flag for us at Winterton Show.  The CU Prepaid Debit Card is now available to members in Northern Lincolnshire and interest from members old and new is developing.

Committee members also suggested some improvements to our loan application forms and felt it would be a good idea to publicise the Committee’s existence in the High Street branch, along with dates and times of future meetings.  Hopefully this will encourage more members to either attend meetings or pass on their thoughts and ideas to committee members. 

If you are a member living or working in Northern Lincolnshire, we'd love you to get involved with our new Members' Committee.  The next meeting is at the branch (162 High Street, Scunthorpe) on Thursday 13 August at 7.00 pm.

Avoiding Telephone Bank Fraud
Sadly, we are reading more in the press these days of people falling victim to telephone banking fraud.   We'd hate to think that any of our members might suffer this crime, so here’s a few tips to help everyone recognise the threat and take steps to protect themselves.

If someone phones you and does any of the following, they are unlikely to be genuine:
•        Asks for your personal and financial information, including your full security details;
•        Tells you that fraud has been detected on your account;
•        Asks you to transfer money into another account - your bank and the police will NEVER ask you to do this;
•        Suggests that you hang up and call the "official bank phone number" - by not hanging up themselves, they can be sure that you will be reconnected directly with them again;
•        Asks you to enter your PIN into the handset. This sounds like a security measure, but the fraudster is actually stealing your PIN and no bank would ask you to do that.
•        Asks you to put your card and PIN into envelopes to be collected - your bank would NEVER collect your card in person.
Do not agree to the callers requests.  If in doubt, inform your bank or the police.

Credit unions and financial inclusion
A question sometimes asked is "what does the Credit Union do to promote financial inclusion?"

Before I attempt to answer, let's get some definitions out of the way:
According to Transact, the national forum for financial inclusion, financial inclusion is achieved when people have access to appropriate, desired financial products and services to manage their money effectively, and when they have "financial capability" - that is, they understand about financial products, and can use them with confidence and motivation.

Relatively few people are totally "financially excluded" but research and experience shows that those groups in society that are most likely to experience financial exclusion are:
•        Lone parents;
•        Long term unemployed;
•        Long term sick or disabled;
•        Lone pensioners, particularly widows;
•        Households headed by students or part-time workers;
•        Residents in geographically remote locations;
•        Migrants or those with low levels of English or poor communications skills.

Why does it matter?  Well, financial exclusion costs money! Without a functioning bank account, those affected pay more to cash a cheque, pay a bill and buy goods and services. As they can't access an authorised overdraft, credit costs considerably more, and insurance may be out of reach.  These extra costs - referred to as the "poverty premium" - were estimated in 2007 to waste around 9% of the disposable income of a family of four.

So, what is HEYCU doing to help?   Well, as a not-for-profit organsation owned by our members, you'd expect us to be passionate about promoting financial inclusion, while accepting of course that there are some limitations imposed by regulators and that we can't change the world all by ourselves.  But here are a few examples:
•        Between 2006 and 2012 under the DWP Growth Fund we issued over 15,000 affordable small loans to people who had previously struggled to obtain credit cheaper than offered by doorstep lenders (250% APR and above).  With our interest rate capped at 2% per month (26.8% APR), the DWP estimated that we saved families in our region over £5 million in interest charges and, since the scheme ended, we’ve continued to lend, despite barely covering the cost of doing so.
•        In 2007 we were a pioneer of the Credit Union Current Account, which helped over 2,500 members to get a proper bank account for the first time, paving the way for them to use Direct Debits and standing orders, and obtain cash at ATMs, for a low weekly fee.  
•        We introduced a Prepaid Debit Card to help people access online shopping and budget effectively without the risk of going overdrawn.
•        In 2014 and 2015 we've run highly successful incentive-based Christmas Saver campaigns, targeted at small savers and low income families, to help them plan ahead for the festive spending burst, while minimising the need to take out expensive short term loans;
•        Our School Bank project is an investment in the future, opening up access to saving for the next generation, as well as their families, helping them to achieve the best possible start to adult life.
•        With partner organisations we have developed a Jam Jar budgeting account to help families to cope with the impact of the new state benefit, Universal Credit.
These are just a few examples of initiatives taken and the way we are working with key partners, and our members, to promote financial inclusion in our region.

Member Survey 2015
There's just a couple of weeks left to take part in this year's Member Satisfaction Survey.  I am delighted that we've had a great response already this year (higher than last year), especially with paper copies in our branches.  But we'd like to hear from as many members as possible, as you are the reason why we are here!

So, if you haven't taken part, please do so before 31 July.  You can fill in the electronic survey on our website or, if you'd rather, pick up a paper version in branch and pop it in the box when completed.  You'd not only be helping us, you might be the lucky winner of a £50 prize!

Have you considered one of our Prepaid VISA cards?

Need a VISA card to use online or in-store?   Our Prepaid Card is an excellent alternative to carrying cash.

Friday, 3 July 2015

This week, ending 3 July 2015

A chance visitor during Co-operatives Fortnight!
It was a pleasant surprise recently to welcome to Central Office an unexpected visitor, all the way from the Isle of Man!    David Talbot is one of an enthusiastic band of Manx residents who are beavering away preparing the ground for the Island to have its very own Credit Union.  David happened to be passing through our fair city on the way to the North Sea Ferry terminal en route for a family holiday and, finding himself with a couple of hours to spare, called in to Brook Street to take a look at us!

I hadn't taken a break so it was a perfect excuse to go for a coffee with David and learn a little more about the Manx Credit Union's ambitions.  For me, it was something of a trip down memory lane because I had previous connections with the beautiful, magical Isle of Man, having been the Chairman from 1999 to 2009 of the Manx Co-operative Society. (If you haven't been to the Isle of Man for a holiday, I can wholeheartedly recommend it!)  I well remember back in those days the idea of a credit union being talked about, and something that was generally felt to be a good idea.  The problem was that, unlike in Britain where we have our Credit Unions Act 1979 and its regulatory framework, there was simply no legal provision for them!

However, David tells me that the idea has gradually but steadily accumulated a groundswell of support - the Church and some key Manx Government officers are backing it - and we all know that when that happens, you find yourself knocking at an open door.  Some very patient and determined folk have spent a lot of hours putting together a legal framework to allow a credit union to be registered and to enjoy similar protection for its members' funds as we enjoy.  So, with a fair wind, it won't be too long before the founders' dreams are realised and we can witness a credit union coming into flower in that part of the world.

Everyone here at HEYCU certainly wishes David and his colleagues every success and we hope to keep in touch as their plans unfold.   You can find out more about their progress at

With so much ground to cover, I'm afraid our coffee break became extended and it must have been very boring for David's wife having to roam around Hull's shops while waiting for him!  Apologies Mrs Talbot!

The above chance meeting seemed very apt for Co-operatives Fortnight.  But what else has the CEO of Hull & East Yorkshire Credit Union been up to this week?

North Lincolnshire Council sign up days
I have spent a couple of days over in Scunthorpe, with David Martin, promoting our Credit Union to the employees of North Lincolnshire Council.   A fair amount of interest was shown with Council staff especially keen to take up the offer of the £10 matched bonus on our Christmas Saver, which is open across Northern Lincolnshire until the end of July.  The events took the form of a couple of "drop in" sessions at the Civic Centre and Church Square, but also set presentations to those teams who wanted them.  We had employees very excited about the payroll deduction facility - several of them quoting "once set up you won't miss it" while others were asking about loans for car purchase, and saving up for children.  The Housing Team were particularly interested in how we'll be able to help local residents to sort their rent payments in the new world of Universal Credits (the new state benefit that has now washed its way into Lincolnshire).  We also met Councillors who were keen to join and become CU Champions.

We are most appreciative of the Council's support and they'll be seeing more from us, with another sign up day on Wednesday 8 July at Hewson House, Brigg from 10 am to 2 pm, and an advert and feature in their next residents' magazine, North Lincolnshire News Direct.

School banks project
Earlier this week a lady called Jessica visited us from our trade association, ABCUL. The purpose of the visit was to find out how we run our school banks and just what sort of administrative challenges they pose.  Jessica is visiting several CUs who operate in schools and she hopes to create some ideas for sharing good practice, streamlining systems and helping to make school saving even more appealing to today's "tech savvy" rising generation.   It was nice to meet her and we look forward to reading the results of her work.

Meanwhile, we're still receiving enquiries about opening more school banks and this week we launched at Paull Primary, a tiny gem of a school near the Humber foreshore just east of Hull.  Aldborough Primary, on the Holderness coast, has also been in touch.   It's "all go" in school just now, even though the summer holidays will soon be here!

Staffing matters (it really does!)
On Wednesday I attended a meeting of our Personnel Committee.  This Committee, comprising four of our volunteer directors, is responsible for overseeing our role as an employer (of 22 staff).  We meet four times a year to discuss staffing topics, training and welfare and, importantly, to review our personnel policies, making sure that we're not only keeping on the right side of the law, but also honouring our ethical intent to be a "good employer".

It's an area of work that our members popping into a branch to make their transactions perhaps wouldn't realise we do, as it's "behind the scenes" but a very essential one nevertheless.  This time we discussed an action plan following our successful award of the Bronze Standard of Investors in People.  It's very important that we don't rest on our laurels, but strive for the next awards - Silver and then Gold!  So we're planning to re-run a training session for our staff on the Credit Union's Values and Principles, but this time extend it to volunteers as well.  We will also introduce a set of Members' Promises, to monitor how well we are improving our customer care.  It will be exciting to see these plans come to life and I am leaning heavily on our new elected Employees' Council to help me in this work.

Which brings me neatly to . . .

Summer E-News
I hope those 4,000 or so of our members who have given us their email address have received our Summer E-News, which was issued on 2 July.  It's packed with snippets of information about our products, services and projects.   But there's also an opportunity to take part in our 2015 Member Satisfaction Survey which offers a chance to win a £50 prize as our "thank you".   I hope you will take part in the survey, it only takes about 5 minutes and can be done on your computer, or if you prefer on paper in a branch.  The directors take these surveys very seriously and we have brought in several changes as a result of the things members have suggested.  We'll also share the findings with you at the AGM in December. 

Online Loan Applications
I am so thrilled to announce that you can now apply for a Credit Union Loan on line!  Take a look at our Loans page and then why not have a go?  You'll need to scan your bank statements and (if any) payslips when prompted, so have them at the ready.

Are we falling out with cash?
According to the Payments Council, cashless payments have overtaken the use of notes and coins for the first time ever.  Apparently in 2014 the use of cash by consumers, businesses and financial organisations fell to 48% of all payments.

Electronic transactions, ranging from high-value transfers to debit card payments, and cheques made up the remaining 52%.  Over the next ten years, they say we're likely to see cash volumes fall by 30%, with the moves towards debit card, contactless and mobile payments driving the change.

The Payments Council, which oversees the system of transactions, says that 4.4% of adults rarely use cash at all, and only 1% of consumer payments were made by cheque last year.   Cash is still the most common method of payment, though, with a staggering 18 billion cash payments worth £250 billion in 2014.   In fact it was used in 8 out of 10 purchases in pubs, clubs, and newsagents last year, but only 3 out of 10 in petrol stations.

Did you know there is to be a new 12-sided £1 coin entering circulation in 2017 while the Bank of England is to bring in plastic £5 and £10 notes over the next couple of years?   Well, I never!

Could our Prepaid VISA card help you this holiday season?
Going abroad this year?  Take your money with you on one of our Pre-Paid VISA cards. It’s a hand way to keep things separate!