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Credit unions fear for the future as members stop borrowing during crisis

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Challenges: Gerry Thompson

Challenges: Gerry Thompson

Challenges: Gerry Thompson

Credit union managers have warned that a lack of demand for loans is the biggest challenge facing the sector.

A survey of managers and chief executives found that 74pc of them are worried about a lack of appetite for borrowing by members.

Lending is the main income source for credit unions.

The lobby group for the sector, the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU), warned in May that many credit unions are facing pressure to remain in business due to a collapse in lending.

The league said then that applications for loans were down 80pc compared with last year as the coronavirus pandemic makes people reluctant to borrow.

And many of the loans that have been advanced to members are not being fully paid at the moment.

A new survey carried out on behalf of the ILCU found that more than 60pc of credit unions are offering payment holidays because people are unable to meet the terms of the lending due to the impact of the pandemic.

Operating costs, including regulatory levies, and a decline in income were also cited as big concerns that are leading to viability issues for credit unions, according to the new survey carried out by i-Reach.

When credit union CEOs and managers were asked what measures were most important for the new Government to introduce to underpin the long-term sustainability of the credit union movement, the most prevalent responses called for changes to the capital- reserving structure required of credit unions.

Last week provisional liquidators were appointed to Drumcondra Credit Union after the Central Bank convinced the High Court the lender has been unable to get its capital reserves to sufficient levels to satisfy regulatory rules.

Credit Union managers want to be able to expand mortgage lending and offer more business loans. However, regulatory rules restrict the amount of such lending they can do at the moment.

ILCU president Gerry Thompson said the research raised issues around the long-term viability of credit unions.

"It is clear that Covid-19 and its effects, such as a lower appetite for borrowing or the reserving requirements which must be met by credit unions, will present challenges in the months ahead," he said.

Irish Independent