Thursday, 12 August 2021

JOHN’S BLOG – SUMMER 2021


 We hope all our members and supporters are keeping well, and enjoying the sunnier days.  It’s high time we updated you on how 2021 is turning out here at HEY Credit Union…


HOW HAVE WE BEEN DOING? 

At the end of June, we passed the three-quarter point of our financial year, which runs from October 2020 to September 2021.  With all the turmoil affecting personal and business life, you may be keen to know how your Credit Union is faring:


John Smith, CEO

·       Business has been steadily returning to its normal seasonal pattern since Easter and we’ve recently enjoyed a record inflow of loan applications of all sizes.

·       New member recruitment (net) is around 34% ahead of the same period last year.

·       Members’ Savings – now totalling £13.7 million – are up by 14%.  Lots of members have increased their regular savings as they were unable to spend normally.  It will be interesting to see whether these funds flow out as the economy bounces back.

·       After a big fall in demand for Members’ Loans (especially for larger loans), we’ve now issued 28% more loans this year than over the same period of 2020.

·       With income (mainly loan and bank interest) a little higher, and costs well under control, we’ve earned a higher Surplus (after tax and dividends) than a year ago.


New member pack


It also gives me and the Directors some satisfaction that, despite the tough challenges our staff and volunteers faced, we never failed to provide our members with a service for even a day during the whole Covid period.  A big thank you to our fantastic team and to our members for your superb loyalty!




OUR SPEEDIER DIGITAL JOURNEY

I asked Matthew, our Project & Systems Manager, to explain how we’ve moved on apace with adopting new technology solutions to improve our members’ and colleagues’ experience.   While some changes were brought forward in 2020 to help us through Covid times, they form part of a longer term Digital Strategy that we’re developing, in conjunction with our main software partners and other key providers.  

On our Website, we’ve simplified the Become a Member section, making it easier for new members to join, whether to save or borrow, without having to click through lots of screens.  Electronic IDV means applicants often don’t need paper documents to prove their ID and address.   Our Web App, which lets members make transactions and apply for loans from any device, gains new users every week, with over 60% of members now using it regularly.




We’ve revamped our website Loan pages to make it easier to find the loan you want and added online forms for our popular Family Benefit Plan and Members’ Lottery.

We introduced a more user-friendly online loan application experience.  A postcode look-up feature helps applicants enter their home details correctly.  Applicants receive emails to keep them updated, giving them peace of mind and avoiding the need for follow up calls.  For us, it eliminates manual paperwork and data input, helping to turn loans round even quicker (same day sometimes).  

We now use Open Banking during the loan assessment process, to view an applicant’s bank account history and, when a loan is approved, we can use an electronic signature system, and a messaging facility to keep in touch.   On our website, there’s a chatbot called Jude, who answers queries and provides information even when our offices are closed.

Technology has even transformed our meetings!  Instead of our Directors having to travel long distances to a central boardroom, they now use Go to Meeting, connecting virtually from their own home or office, just as members did for the 2020 AGM.  Many business meetings are held this way using various systems (Zoom, Teams etc).

We use Mail Chimp and Social Media to tell our ongoing story and engage with members.   Do make sure HEY Credit Union is “white listed” on your email account to avoid our news dropping into your junk folder.  We collect data (analytics) to learn about the effectiveness of each activity, what works well and what doesn’t.

 

PROGRESS IN BRANCHES

Unlike our major banking competitors, HEY Credit Union isn’t planning to withdraw its branch network.  While many members happily deal with us online or by phone, our walk-in branches offer a vital personal presence, where local residents can call in to see our friendly teams face-to-face.  We know they are valued.

After some temporary closures due to lack of staff cover (some colleagues had to look after family members or home-school their children), all branches are now welcoming members back:

Goole and Driffield re-opened in March, with a free raffle for all members popping in.   Driffield volunteers handled record deposits on their opening day and their raffle prizes were provided by local businesses The CoZee Café and Raffles Fruit Shop.  Goole held a fund-raiser for the Toy Appeal and Yorkshire Air Ambulance plus a Euro 2020 themed draw, with a super prize donated by Morrisons.


  
Driffield raffle; Goole Euro 2020 display

Bridlington branch was given a mini-refit and painted inside and out, to greet members with a sparkling new look when it re-opened, and a new team member – Helen - joining Sarah.  They have started a Bridlington Members Facebook page – if you live in the area, please give it a Like, and keep in touch with all the news!


Bridlington branch

Withernsea branch works with the new Shores Community Pantry to make users aware of Credit Union services; a Spring Newsletter went to all homes via Royal Mail and some cheery window stickers were issued to local traders to show support for our Big Local funded Credit Union Town project.

Scunthorpe and Hull Central branches remained open throughout, but with restricted hours and Covid safety measures always in place.

Finally, Grimsby/Cleethorpes is the only large urban area (population 127,000) in our region without a branch.  I am pleased to say we are seeking a suitable town centre base and plan to be up and running very soon.

 

CREDIT UNION PEOPLE NEWS

It’s been a time of change on the “people” front, too, with our long-serving, first ever Finance Manager, Eddie Hotham, retiring at the end of March after 22 years’ service!   John says, “We shall really miss Eddie; she started along with me as one of the founder volunteers back in 1999, and has been a constant presence, ever willing to take on new challenges, but always determined to keep our finances in good shape.  We all wish her a long, happy and well-earned retirement.”


Eddie's retirement


Two new members recently joined our volunteer Board of Directors:

Terry Dagnall is a self-employed shop owner in Withernsea.  He is passionate about improving the East Coast town and getting a better way of life for its residents. A member of Withernsea Big Local, a Town Councillor and Town Mayor 2017-20, Terry is also a Director and Chairman of the Meridian Centre. 


Terry Dagnell

 

Matthew Kelly has nearly 20 years' experience working in social housing and currently serves as Income Manager for Ongo Homes in Scunthorpe, one of our payroll partners.  He served on the board of Advice North Lincs and is a member of the Institute of Leadership and Management.  


Matthew Kelly

 

On the staff team, we welcome Lauren (Branch Development) back from maternity leave after the birth of her daughter, Eleanor.  And Matthew Lloyd (Withernsea Branch) has been selected nationally to take part in this year’s CU Futures, a leadership development programme for young credit union professionals.

 

WE’VE BEEN OUT AND ABOUT…

Pleased to see our Social Impact Report getting some great coverage in around 20 newspapers and web magazines recently.   The articles, tailored to each of the main towns where we have branches, explained how we’ve been helping people and families across the Humber Region, and beyond, to improve their financial wellbeing since 1999.   Thank you to the local members who agreed to be interviewed for these stories, you did a fabulous job.  Take a look at the stories here.




Some of you may have spotted us at the Hull Big Malarkey this year.  This popular weekend festival, a celebration of arts, crafts and literature for young people organised by Hull Libraries, was held in East Park at the end of June and we were proud to sponsor it.


Hull Big Malarkey

We’re also featured in the Hull & East Riding Mumbler, a much-visited online parenting community.   Head over there to see our articles, ads and offers.

 

A SPECIAL VISIT

Finally, in May we were honoured with a visit from the Lord Mayor of Kingston upon Hull, Councillor Lynn Petrini, accompanied by Councillor Gwen Lunn.  They made two presentations, one to our staff team in recognition of the way they’ve gone the extra mile to help the people of Hull during these difficult times.  Steve Verity, Acting Branch Co-ordinator, accepted on behalf of all colleagues.   And then, much to my surprise, they presented me with an engraved tankard and Lord Mayor’s Certificate in appreciation of my work for the community over many years, as a local government officer, Co-operative Group director and first ever CEO of HEY Credit Union.  I was very thrilled with my award and will treasure it always.



Lord Mayor's Certificate presentations




Don’t forget, we are here to help – please give us the chance.  Here’s 3 ways to support us too:

·       Leave a review on Trustpilot.

·       Recommend a friend, family member or work colleague to join us.

·     Vote for us in the Consumer Credit Awards – by 15 August – you could win £1,000!


Friday, 15 January 2021

Planning a successful D-I-Y Project



Planning a successful D-I-Y Project

More of us than ever are spending our lockdown time tackling those Do-it-Yourself projects that we’ve been thinking about for long enough.

Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned Do-it-Yourselfer, it can be hugely satisfying to enjoy the results of your handiwork.  Often it can be a great way to save some money as well.

Always keen to help our members to make the most of their money, we’ve put together some top tips to help you to make a success of your project:


Get inspired!

Think about what you are hoping to achieve.   What is your project for?   Do you want to add colour or warmth to your drab living room?   Maybe you’re aiming to make life easier by rearranging your kitchen?  Making extra wardrobe space for your clothes?  Or modernising your bathroom fittings?   Whatever you have in mind, Pinterest or Instagram are good places to look for ideas and inspiration.

Do your research

Before tackling any project, you should take time to gather as much information as possible about it. Read, research and watch tutorials to be better prepared. Look around and see if anyone you know has done anything similar.  If they are enjoying their finished work, they may be happy to share some tips about their experience. 

Set an overall budget for your project

Think how much you can afford.  It’s important not to overstretch yourself, as your enjoyment will be short lived if you end up with huge unexpected bills.  Or if you have to leave it unfinished because you run out of money.   Shop around – look on the internet to get an idea how much things cost and compare different suppliers. Try to cost the whole project out, so that there will be no surprises, before you start buying.   Perhaps a Credit Union Loan could help you by spreading the cost over a reasonable period?

Divide your project into stages

Dividing your DIY work into stages may help you to decide what needs to be done first and how much time you have to do it.  If you are working on a tight budget, it could also help you decide on your priorities.  Working in stages with clear time allocations gives you focus and discipline, aiding you to complete your project in ideal time.  You may need someone to help you with certain tasks, so plan ahead to make sure they’ll be available at the vital time.

Buy some decent tools

You’ll most likely need to buy some tools or equipment.  Don’t necessarily go for the cheapest you can find, as they may not perform to your expectations.  If you are new to DIY, then simple, easy to use tools could be best.   And it might not be such a good idea to use Grandad’s 100 year old tool kit!   The tools may look strong and sturdy but are probably worn and not as sharp or effective as a new set.

Learn how to use your tools and equipment

Be sure to follow the instruction guides, as they contain sound advice on safety and good practice.  For many items, there are handy online tutorials that show you what to do.  Some of the well-known DIY stores have help available both for novices and more experienced hands, both online and in-store.

Make a survey of the job

Before you start knocking walls down, survey the DIY site and make a list of everything that will need doing.  Do you need to move a light switch or socket? Are there any pipes or cables in a wall that you’re going to alter?  Where will you put the furniture and belongings while the room is out of use? Where will you do your sawing, pasting and so on?   Write down your plan of action – step by step – so that you don’t forget any important tasks.

Buy everything you need before you start

Try to buy everything you need at once, otherwise you may have problems if supplies run out.  You might not be able to match up the exact shade of wallpaper or the tiles you selected so carefully may be out of stock, and you may have to pay extra for a small quantity.   It’s not a bad idea to buy a little more than you think you will need, to cover breakages or faulty estimating.  It can be very stressful to run out of materials near the end of the job and have to rush to the shops for a top up. 

Don’t rush it

Finally, although you’ve made a plan and have a good idea of your intended timescale, take care and don’t rush your project.  Hopefully, you’ll have done everything necessary to enjoy working on your project and soon you’ll be able to sit back and savour the fruits of your labour for a long time!


Good luck!

Monday, 21 December 2020

JOHN’S BLOG – DECEMBER 2020




We’ve had an extremely busy autumn season here at HEY Credit Union, so here’s an update for you on what we’ve been up to:

 

OUR THRIFTY CHRISTMAS SAVERS    

This year’s Christmas will be very different for many of us, but one thing won’t have changed.  Ever since 2007, we’ve been helping our members to lock funds away safely for the festive season in our popular Christmas Saver account.  Despite temporarily unlocking the accounts this spring and summer to help those who were impacted by the pandemic, over 1,300 of our members managed to save up £869,644 this time round, and we started paying them out on 2 November.  If you haven’t had a Christmas Saver before, now is the ideal time to start one for 2021.  It’s worth noting that no major bank offers anything like it.


FIRST EVER VIRTUAL AGM A BIG SUCCESS   

A lifetime in the Co-operative Movement has taught me the importance of the Annual General Meeting (AGM), where the members we serve can hold their directors and managers to account, ask challenging questions and cast their votes on various important topics.
   Our traditional December AGM, held in the impressive setting of Hull’s historic Guildhall, is a highlight of my Credit Union year and I know many of our members feel the same.  We were therefore a little nervous about switching to an online alternative this year but, given the rules restricting large gatherings, there was little choice.   We needn’t have worried.   Although the directors and I missed seeing our members in person very much, we had some great feedback from those who logged on to our first ever virtual AGM on 8 December. I was especially pleased that we had members join in from every one of the seven towns where we have a branch, and even from Scotland!

A big thank you to Jackie from the ABCUL Virtual AGM Service, who hosted and administered the meeting superbly! We can thoroughly recommend the service to any credit union planning an AGM. 

 

REVIEW OF THE YEAR  

At an AGM, our directors report to our members on how the past year has gone and set out their plans for the future.   We’ve produced a quick-read summary here of our 2020 Annual Report.

   

COMMUNITY DONATIONS

On moving to a virtual AGM, we decided to donate the funds normally budgeted for the AGM room booking, members’ buffet tea, printed materials and so on, to a selection of organisations who support vulnerable people in the communities we serve.   We were pleased to donate £150 each to:

·        Kingfisher Café, Bridlington
·        Driffield & Wolds Food Bank
·        Goole Foodbank’s Christmas Toy Appeal
·        The Forge Project, Scunthorpe
·        Shores Community Pantry, Withernsea
·        Beverley Cherry Tree Community Pantry
·        Hull Trades Council Unity Shop Food Bank

 

MEGA LOTTERY DRAW      

HEY Credit Union’s Friendly Folk have made their Grand Christmas Draw and given 48 members an early Christmas present, with prizes totalling £1,750.  The Members’ Lottery is drawn on the second Wednesday every month and you could be among the next batch of prize winners – but only if you’ve signed up to take part.  Tickets cost £1 (deducted from your CU Membership Account each month until you tell us to stop).   At least 60% of the ticket sales are returned to members as prizes over the year, the rest being donated to HEY Credit Union to help with advertising, training and admin.  We’re now taking applications to join our Members’ Lottery fun in 2021 – here is a joining form.


SHORES BECOMES OUR LATEST PAYROLL PARTNER    

The Shores Centre in Withernsea has become the latest in a growing band of employers in our region to offer its workforce our unique Payroll Save & Borrow staff benefit.  Shores employees can now save as they earn, with deposits taken care of effortlessly straight from their pay packet.  It’s a safe and flexible way to put money aside knowing it’s there for sunny holidays or rainy days.  The Shores Centre Chief Executive Jayne Nendick, said: “It’s been a tough year with the pandemic and we’ve all had to be more mindful of our finances, so we are delighted to be working with the Credit Union to help support our teams in making their money go further”.   If you are an employer and would like to find out more about this simple, free wellbeing benefit, please click here or email info@hullandeycu.co.uk.

 

OUR FIRST SOCIAL IMPACT REPORT  

We have recently launched our first ever Social Impact Report.  We’ve always been clear that credit unions have a different purpose from banks and other financial service companies, as they are not run simply to make monetary profits but to make a difference to the lives of their member-customers, and the communities they serve.  In short, they are about financial wellbeing, helping members to afford their lives and be better off as a result.  HEY Credit Union has been around for 21 years, but how much difference has it actually made?   That was what our member-elected directors wanted to find out, when they challenged me to produce this report. 

I hope you will enjoy reading it and please give us some constructive feedback to help us improve future reports.    By reporting on their social impact, credit unions can help to advance the cause of fair, affordable and co-operatively-run financial services, which we are so passionate about.

 

CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR OPENING TIMES    

Remember, we are here for you but our branch opening times will be a little different over the holiday period.  Here are the changes.

 

That’s all for now and for 2020, but I’ll be back with more news next year.   Before I close, though, I’d like to say a big personal “thank you” to our HEY Credit Union staff, volunteers and partners for all their hard work.  They have truly gone the extra mile to help and support our members this year in very difficult circumstances and I am so proud of them.  The kind messages we often receive from members shows that they share my view.   

I hope all readers will have the best possible Christmas, some time for a well-earned rest and be able to look forward to better times to come.