Saturday 21 September 2019

Savvi move as revamped credit union to challenge main banks

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe with SAVVI Credit Union’s chief executive Robert Cooper and president Valerie Little
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe with SAVVI Credit Union’s chief executive Robert Cooper and president Valerie Little
Minister for Finance & Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohue at the official opening of SAVVI's €4m retail hub in Dublin's Docklands with members. Photo: Andres Poveda

Alan O'Keeffe

The country's second-biggest credit union has announced plans to compete with commercial banks with a retailing banking hub.

Savvi Credit Union launched its new hub in Dublin's Docklands at Sir John Rogerson's Quay which was formally opened by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe yesterday.

Savvi, formerly known as Saint Patrick's Credit Union, has served ESB employees for decades. It merged with five other credit unions in Dublin in recent years, including both the INM media group and Irish Times credit unions.

Savvi's new €4.5m retail premises brings with it the promise of the full range of services on offer from retail banks.

"There are in excess of 100,000 people living and working in the Docklands area, many of them without a connection to a credit union," said Savvi's CEO Robert Cooper.

"Our research indicates a strong appetite among this community for an alternative to the main-street banks, for a member-owned financial services provider centred around members rather than shareholders.

"We see this as fertile ground for Savvi. From the moment they enter our new hub, people will see we do things differently to your average credit union or your typical bank," he said.

In addition to the loan products, in the short term, Savvi will deliver services such as internet banking, mobile banking, current accounts and debit cards. In the future, this will extend to wealth management and insurance, he said.

This is in line with its promise to provide "banking without banks", he said.

Savvi is partnering with corporate employers in the Docklands area to facilitate the traditional credit union model of payroll deduction at source.

Following the recent mergers, Savvi now has more than 20,000 members and has assets of more than €360m.

"Since 2012, when new legislation was introduced, credit unions such as ours were required to improve our governance frameworks and organisational capabilities," said Mr Cooper. "For our part we embraced such change.

"However, the bargain was that commensurate change would be made at regulatory levels to support our sustainability. I would suggest that credit unions such as Savvi have fulfilled our part of the bargain.

"It is appropriate to acknowledge the recent change in regulation that will facilitate credit unions in the provision of current accounts. However, it is only changes to items such as the ability to conduct appropriate levels of longer-term lending that will ensure sustainability," he said.

"I would suggest that the changes required could be brought about through innovative legislation such as the introduction of a Community Banking Act. Such a statute could succeed both the current Credit Union and Building Societies legislation in governing a new breed of personal financial services in Ireland.

"From what we are reading, it is what Irish society needs and we know it is what our members are demanding."

Irish Independent

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