Saturday 24 February 2018

A credit union option to boost, not damage, community spirit

Rural co-ops have banded together effectively to supply milk to food processing firms
Rural co-ops have banded together effectively to supply milk to food processing firms

Noreen Byrne

There are currently 392 independent credit unions in the republic and, according to Charlie Weston's article in the Irish Independent (December 2), these could be reduced down to 18 independent credit unions, each with a number of sub-offices.

What concerns me is how amalgamations on this scale will take place while keeping the credit union rooted in the local community. It is a challenge that has not been considered to any great extent, if at all, by either those who designed, or those who are implementing, the credit union restructuring programme.

While mergers will be a solution for some credit unions, wide-scale mergers as the only model would, over time, weaken the community origins of the credit union movement. Another model that could be considered, in conjunction with mergers, is collaboration or federation between credit unions. This allows each credit union to remain independent and concentrate on primary front-office services to members while collaborating with other credit unions on secondary back-office operations or specialist services to reduce costs. How would collaboration between credit unions offer a different outcome for members and the local community?

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