Thursday, October 19, was International Credit Union Day.
Credit unions have a long history, dating from the mid 19th century in Germany, and are prevalent throughout the world - they exist in over 100 countries with more than 200 million members.
They came to the UK in the early 1960s, where membership is now over one million. There are more than 100 Credit Unions in Scotland.
A credit union is a financial cooperative existing to promote thrift and provide credit at competitive rates. They exist to serve people, not to make a profit. Members have to share a ‘common bond’. In some cases that is who they work for, often where they live.
Bute and Cowal Credit Union (BCCU) has about 400 members. It dates from 1994 and its common bond is where members live.
Originally that was just Bute. In 2015 the area was extended to include Cowal, and BCCU has offices in Dunoon and Rothesay where members can make deposits and apply for loans – deposits can also be made by standing order. Both BCCU branches are staffed entirely by unpaid volunteers: the board of directors are also volunteers.
All UK credit unions are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme which protects members’ deposits up to £85,000.
UK credit unions are not allowed to charge interest rates above 3 per cent per month. BCCU charges just 1 per cent per month, which is equivalent to 12.68 per cent APR.
There are no early repayment fees, and no hidden charges. It costs just £1 to become a member, and all members can vote at the Annual General Meeting, which elects the Board of Directors.
At BCCU the ability to provide services depends entirely on the efforts of the volunteers who run it. As well as new members, BCCU is looking for new staff. Its capability to continue to serve the two communities would benefit greatly from an infusion of new blood.
There are individual benefits to becoming a BCCU volunteer - staff members are given training and can acquire IT and administrative skills.
If you are interested in serving the community and acquiring skills, and have some time available, please contact BCCU for more information about volunteering.
Contact can be made by calling into the office at 5 King St, by phone at 01700 500145 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rothesay office is open from 10.30am to 1.30pm on Tuesdays and 10.00am to 12.30pm on Saturdays.