Tuesday, 5 February 2019

JOHN’S BLOG – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019


Here are HEYCU we’ve now ‘resurfaced’ after the most hectic Christmas season ever!   We issued the highest ever number and value of loans as well as record pay outs of Christmas Savers - £806,000 in fact.    On top of all that we had our year-end accounts to put to bed and an AGM to arrange.  So a big well done to our staff and volunteer family for coping so well and keeping the ship on course.

Here’s a round-up of the past few months’ activity:




OUR AGM  

We were pleased to welcome over 80 members and guests to Hull’s splendid Guildhall on 11 December. A big part of what makes credit unions so different from banks is the ability of member-customers to take part in shaping our future by asking questions of the Directors and voting on the big decisions.   As well as an increased dividend on savings, members voted to disband the Credit Committee and to extend our field of membership to include more Government departments and all who live or work in postcode area YO (North Yorkshire).

Thank you to members attending for their great feedback: All had found attending a positive experience and we will ask for the chairs to be spread out a little more next time.


£100,000 SHARE OUT

Following our much improved financial results we posted a dividend of 1% to all members’ savings accounts the day after the AGM – based on the average daily savings in the year ended 30 September 2018 – that’s nearly £100,000 from the rewards of mutual trading going back into the pockets of our members.   If we were a commercial business, the money would most likely have been sucked out of our community, away to the City of London or even a foreign tax haven!


WHY DISBAND THE CREDIT COMMITTEE?

At the AGM it was explained that the growth of the credit union and changes to the way loans are processed had reduced the need for a members’ committee.  When we started 20 years ago, each and every loan was looked at individually by the Credit Committee, who met specially on a Thursday evening to go through them.   On Friday mornings our office phone was red hot as members called in to find out if their loan had been granted! 

Before long that was no longer practical, and we appointed staff loan officers with the professional knowledge to underwrite loans, following policies set by the Committee and Board.  Gradually the Credit Committee’s role moved on from making loan decisions to one of oversight – checking that its policies were working and tweaking them as necessary.  The Board of Directors became more involved in loan strategy too, as we made growing the loan book a key part of our annual business plan, recognising that it is a major driver of our future sustainability. 

As in many credit unions of our size the need for a Credit Committee had passed and the AGM agreed to disband it (in line with the Rules), with a big “thank you” to all members who had served it so diligently over the years.


AIMING HIGHER 

A nice touch at the AGM was the presentation of £735 to our Charity of the Year, Aim Higher.  The funds raised by staff and members during 2018 will make a difference to the charity, which supports families challenged by mental health, autism and learning difficulties. It was my pleasure to meet some of them at their monthly drop in session at 171 High Street, Hull on 9 January, when I explained the different ways that we help families to make the most of their money, for instance Christmas saving, junior savings accounts and our Child Benefit Loans.

We are currently consulting with staff, volunteers and our local member groups to select our 2019 Charity of the Year, so watch this space!


REFER A FRIEND PRIZE DRAW
  
In the run up to Christmas we encouraged members who were happy with our services to ‘refer a friend’ and many did so.  Our computer randomly selected two lucky members – Simone Priestman of Greatfield, Hull and Helen Harper of Newport, Brough – to each win a £50 shopping voucher.  Just in time for those New Year Sales!


BUSY WINTER IN WINTERTON 

The start of 2019 has seen a big increase in credit union activity in Winterton, North Lincolnshire where we have a weekly contact point in the Co-op Store, supported by Winterton 2022 Big Local project.  On 16 January we relaunched the Pennies 2 Pounds school bank at the Infants School which now takes place every Wednesday at the end of the school day.  Penny our pennywise penguin waddled into the opening session, much to the delight of the children, who received a piggy bank and £1 to start their savings off.  Patrick, our man in Winterton, is also presenting some money information sessions at the Hub and the Cornerstone CafĂ© on alternate weeks for the benefit of local residents.


WITHERNSEA NEXT!  

Last time we mentioned our ambitious plans to make Withernsea a Credit Union Town.  We’ve now received approval from the funding body, Big Local, to recruit a Development Worker to spearhead our expansion project.  As I write the closing date for the role has passed and we hope an appointment will soon be made.  We know the local community is very enthusiastic about it; as usual we are taking a different approach to the big banks who are retreating from such towns at an ever faster pace.


LINCOLNSHIRE CO-OP SUPPORT FAIR FINANCE 

We are most grateful to our friends at Lincolnshire Co-op for including HEYCU in their current Community Champions.  The scheme is their way of giving back to local communities.  Since it launched in 2013 they’ve helped hundreds of local charities and groups, raising amounts from £200 to over £200,000.  Every time a Co-op member shops in their branches they make a donation to a good cause, chosen by their staff and members for a three month period.  The theme, from December 2018 to March 2019, is financial well-being and we are to benefit from donations made at Crowle, Bransholme and Molescroft Co-ops.  If in an area served by Lincolnshire Co-op, please support their stores – they are one of the UK’s leading Co-operative businesses.


OUR MEMBERS’ LOTTERY 

One way that our own members can support our ongoing development is by joining our Members’ Lottery.  For just £1 a ticket, deducted monthly from your savings account, you get the chance to share in a monthly prize fund of around £600.  The top prize is usually £250, with several others ranging from £75 to £10.  At Christmas time there are triple prizes to win!   60% of the ticket proceeds are paid out, with the rest supporting our training and development activities.  We are grateful to the Hull Branch of UNISON, the public service union, for kindly sponsoring some prizes again throughout 2019.


ENGAGE ACCOUNT RELAUNCH 

With the coming of the Universal Credit benefit system to Hull and East Yorkshire, many more people are needing a transactional banking facility, to help them manage their monthly benefit payments, and some would clearly prefer to bank with their local credit union.  Although we can no longer offer our own Current Account, we work with a partner called Engage to provide a VISA card, exclusive to credit union members, with many useful features.   We’ve recently relaunched this account, with a lower monthly fee of £2.99.  Find out more here.


BIG ANNIVERSARY YEAR  

2019 is a very special year for our Credit Union – on 10th June it will be  20 years since we were founded.  We are looking forward to celebrating this special anniversary with our members old and new.  If you have any bright ideas for ways that we might mark the occasion, please let us know!  We’ll keep you updated with our plans as the year unfolds.


WHAT’S IN A NAME? 

Our credit union has come a long way in 20 years and its shape and size is nothing like it was when formed, covering not only the entire Humber Region but also the work family of national employers like the DWP.  We hope we haven’t lost any of the personal touch or friendliness of those early days.

However, we have reached the point where we need to think about our trading identity and how relevant it is to all our members.  Our official name is, and will remain Hull & East Yorkshire Credit Union.  But perhaps it’s time to consider a different trading name – one that: is relevant and acceptable across all parts of our common bond; is short and simple to fit easily on to shop fronts, posters and leaflets; but pays due regard to our proud heritage (ie where we first began).

We have therefore started to experiment with using HEY Credit Union in our communications, and would be interested to have your feedback on this.  One member called it a “cool name”, saying it acknowledges our roots but in a modern way.   Changing a trading name is not to be done lightly – as lots of businesses have found to their cost – especially when we’ve worked hard to build up a respected brand.  But, this is your credit union, and we’d really welcome your views as we approach our 20th anniversary.

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