Westminsters Credit Union is a community based financial cooperative
and the social responsibility aspects of its operations
as a financial institution cannot be divorced from its position
and responsibilities in the community. The large community
outreach projects that the credit union has undertaken since
2003 are a testament to its commitment to integrating the
social concerns of the community into the way it carries
out its business.
FINANCIAL EXCLUSION - This is a key CSR issue in the borough of Southwark. Financial exclusion is an issue where poverty, unemployment and deprivation are endemic, although these are not the only factors that determine exclusion.
Westminsters Credit Union is committed to address social
and financial exclusion. We do this mainly by providing
appropriate products to meet the needs of those who are
at risk of financial exclusion and also, in collaboration
with a number of partners, by developing new ways of outreach
to raise awareness in the community of the range of financial
services providers that are open to residents.
In addition to its traditional savings and loan products, the
credit union now offers products and services that will
lower the barriers experienced by those at risk of exclusion.
These products and services would bring financially excluded
residents into the level of financial services enjoyed by
those who are at work (financially included residents) who
tend to have access to mainstream financial services. As
one of our members said 'having the debit card would allow
me to shop around and buy things from the Internet or pay
for my groceries using the Debit card like the normal people
BENEFIT DIRECT ACCOUNTS - These are designed to serve the needs
of the financially excluded residents in London who don't
have access to mainstream financial services such as savings,
loans, current account and insurance. To date (Sep 12) over
7700 current accounts have been opened. The growth rate of
these accounts is exceptional. Our flexible savings plan means
that members are encouraged to save, on a regular basis however
small the amount, so that they get into the habit of saving.
From September 2006 to September 2012 the Westminsters Credit Union granted $21,135,255
in benefit direct account loans, all to low income members.
If these members had borrowed from home credit companies,
often one of the few choices otherwise available to them,
they would have paid over $14,498,785 in additional
interest payments, over and above the interest they paid to
the credit union. This $14.5 million, potentially saved
on interest charges by members, would in part have been saved
or spent within the local economy.
Cost of loan from
Cost of loan from
borrowing from us
over 12 months
for $21.1 million loans
There is evidence that Westminsters Credit Union is succeeding
in creating a pathway to financial inclusion for its members.
A number of members who initially opened a Benefit Direct
Account have been able to migrate to the new Credit Union
CREDIT UNION CURRENT ACCOUNT - For those people who have had poor or no access to current accounts and transaction banking, the credit union current account is a positive development. It offers an ATM and VISA Debit card as well as transaction services such as Standing Order payments and a Direct Debit facility. As it has no cheque book or an overdraft facility, the product is designed to guard against increasing indebtedness.
GROWTH FUND INVOLVEMENT - Westminsters Credit Union was
the first credit union in Britain to sign up to deliver
the Department of Work and Pensions' Growth Fund. The Growth
Fund delivers loans to some of the most economically disadvantaged
people in the country.
OUTREACH - In addition to the range of new products that have been developed, the credit union employs outreach workers, whose role is to deliver community outreach projects. Outreach workers enable the credit union to understand better the needs and concerns of the community and to be more effective in addressing those needs.
We work in partnership with many local community groups, housing associations, local and central Government and financial services organisations to address financial exclusion.
SHARING EXPERIENCES - Westminsters Credit Union regularly
shares its experiences with other credit unions both in
the US and abroad, money advice groups, the financial services
industry and other parties that are interested in financial
exclusion through seminars, research reports, presentations
and receiving visitors and on one occasion giving evidence
to the Treasury Select Committee at the House of Commons
on financial exclusion issues.
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