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Reflections on 2016

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16 Dec 16

ABCUL Chief Executive Mark Lyonette offers his reflections on an eventful year, and looks ahead to an exciting 2017:

2016 began with a significant challenge for the British credit union movement as our regulators had proposed reforms which in some cases would have been detrimental to the sector. It was a great illustration of the power of co-operation that credit unions worked together through ABCUL to make a convincing, constructive case against the changes. We’re grateful that the regulators accepted our arguments, meaning we actually now have a regulatory regime more favourable to the movement’s sustainable growth and development than the previous one.

Political support is also important to credit unions, and it’s a sign of our growing scale and the impact of ABCUL’s public affairs activity that the manifestos of all the main parties in this year’s Scottish and Welsh elections plus the new Mayor of London included pledges to support credit unions.

Securing genuine cross-party support is critical – not least as three different parties lead the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments! But we can be proud that our movement’s objectives chime with politicians of all persuasions, and we look forward to working with our new All-Party Parliamentary Group Chair Seema Kennedy MP and our new Cross-Party Group Convener at Holyrood Ruth Maguire MSP to further strengthen that support in the new year.

We’re always conscious that we can learn from larger credit union movements around the world, and this year saw the launch of a World Council International Partnership between ABCUL and Georgia Credit Union Affiliates in the USA, with the first exchange trips held between Manchester and Atlanta to share learning and experience. Already, some really exciting ideas are coming out of this partnership.

A major highlight this year was seeing the dramatically higher levels of member satisfaction with ABCUL in our annual credit union survey. We’ve made a real effort to improve our service to members, with new innovations like the ABCUL Academy and ABCUL inSight to help equip credit unions for the changing environment we operate in. It’s been great to see the revitalised local ABCUL Forums delivering better value meetings and events for credit unions around the country, and the new CU Futures programme – run by the Credit Union Foundation and supported by Citi Foundation – has proven a really exciting way to engage and develop the next generation of credit union leaders.

A real challenge for the credit union movement is responding to changes in consumer behaviour and expectations. We can’t do things the same way today as we did them 20 years ago and act surprised if consumers go elsewhere.

So a major landmark in 2016 was the first two credit unions going live on the new Cornerstone Model CU, which has been developed as part of the UK Government’s Credit Union Expansion Project. 2017 will see many more credit unions migrate to this new operating model which improves efficiencies for credit unions and delivers faster and better services for credit union members, including a mobile banking app as good as any on the market.

Of course, this year has seen major political upheaval with the vote to leave the European Union and a change of Prime Minister.

Everyone is waiting for details of exactly what Brexit will mean for their industries, and our movement is no different. But we do know that the gloomy economic projections we’ve seen for the next few years means there’s a more important role than ever for credit unions to help people maintain good financial health.

It was great to see the Department for Work and Pensions launch its new payroll partnership with three credit unions this year, following on from the Ministry of Defence launching credit union services for Armed Forces personnel in 2015.

We’ll keep making the case to politicians and employers that making it easy for staff to save and repay credit union loans direct from payroll is good for employees, good for business and good for the country.

I’d like to wish everyone in the credit union movement and all our stakeholders and supporters a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

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