The Welsh Government’s Social Justice Minister has praised the role of Credit Unions in widening financial access.
Launching the newly-refurbished Blackwood Smart Money Cymru branch, Jane Hutt said she wholeheartedly endorsed the Credit Union movement.
“I support all the work that the Credit Unions do and would encourage people to become members. The Welsh Government has a long and proud record of supporting credit unions across Wales.
“They provide an excellent way to improve financial resilience, through offering savings products and ethical loans. Credit unions are there for everyone in our communities, supporting households to access affordable credit locally, and to save a little extra for when it is needed.”
Their work was vital, she said, in helping reduce financial exclusion by providing access to financial services.
“It is so important that people can access affordable and ethical finance, especially the most vulnerable in society”.
She congratulated staff at Smart Money Cymru who had revitalised the Blackwood branch, which would, she said, boost the profile of the organisation in the area.
The former Islwyn Credit Union in Blackwood, now part of the larger Smart Money Cymru Credit Union network in Caerphilly and Tredegar with over 7000 members, has benefited from the major revamp during Lockdown.
As well as its new, fresh look, the branch now boasts improved technology enabling a wider range of services. Customers now benefit from a phone app for balance-checking and access to the Engage Current Account which supports direct debits, standing orders, and processing of card payments.
While many traditional banks are retreating from Britain’s High Streets, the Blackwood credit union now has a new, upgraded interior and better facilities for staff, following grant support for the works from the Welsh Government and Caerphilly County Borough Council.
Chair of Smart Money Cymru, Alun Taylor, said:
“We are delighted that Jane Hutt is here today to relaunch the new branch, of which we are extremely proud. It is an acknowledgment of the important role Smart Money Cymru has played in supporting the community in these difficult times.”
Smart Money Cymru recently celebrated 30 years, having grown into a sophisticated organisation offering a wide variety of financial services to individuals, business and charities.
“Credit Unions offer a wider range of financial services than many people expect,” said Mr Taylor. “The CU philosophy is to be financially sympathetic to its members and offer fair and reasonable access to finance and financial services where possible.”
He explained that Credit Unions had a flexible and collaborative approach to lending to their members.
“We have a broad, more sympathetic policy which looks at the individual circumstances of potential borrowers. Lending decisions are not based on credit ratings alone, but on a wider financial picture.”
Credit Union loans are at fair and reasonable rates, and both savings and loans are protected by Cuna Mutual Life Insurance. As a not-for-profit organisation, a Credit Union returns profits to members, rather than paying them out to shareholders.
Services to the local business community include payroll saving. In Wales more than 140 companies take advantage of this scheme, meaning that employers can contribute positively to their workforces’ financial wellbeing by enabling the employee to save directly from their wages into a savings account with the local credit union. The scheme is free of charge and administration is light.