1st October Newsletter from Jonathan Moore, our Chief Executive
Today is one year to the day since I became Chief Executive. Little did I know at that time quite what a year it was going to be! After all, in October 2019 nobody had even heard of COVID.
Today is also the first day of our new financial year. It is therefore the perfect time to look back at the last 12 months.
A year ago, we were celebrating a record year for the 2018/19 financial year that had just ended. I am pleased to tell you that the 2019/20 year that ended yesterday set further new records. In fact, we have three to tell you about.
Firstly, we provided more loans to members than ever before – almost 350 more than in the previous year, a 13% increase. That means that record numbers of people have been helped by Stockport Credit Union to achieve their goals, manage their finances, or just to live a little easier.
Secondly, we lent out more money. Although our new record is not substantially higher than the previous record, we nevertheless lent out 5% more money.
Finally, our loan book stands at a record high. This is important as the loan book is what generates the income for the credit union, and it is from the income that we can invest in better products and services for our members. Our members own the business so growing the income is good for members.
Overall, the above records demonstrate satisfactory growth. It is perhaps not quite the growth that we would have achieved without COVID, but it is nevertheless pleasing to end the year with three records and we are confident that this result will compare favourably with the performance of the credit union sector as a whole. Although we are a small credit union, we are a successful one.
The records though are only half of the story. We should also remind ourselves of our other achievements over the year. In some ways, these are more significant than the records.
Firstly, we have invested time and effort into improving our customer service. In October 2019 we routinely took seven working days to turn around a loan application. Today, we generally do this within two working days, and some applications are even lent out on the day they arrive. This is a transformation, and I expect turnaround to further improve over the year ahead.
Secondly, we have launched two important new services:
In May we agreed a contract with a fintech company (Nivo) to provide a mobile app, which we are currently rolling out. Over the next few months, we expect to get most of the rest of our members using it, and we are confident that our members will love it. It is already allowing us to modernise our methods of working and making it easier (and safer) for members to engage with us.
In August we launched our Members Area on the website, and many of our members are now using it to check their savings and loans balances, and to request withdrawals for their share accounts. They can also update their personal details through this as well. The feedback so far has been very positive.
Thirdly, we have changed our top-up loan application process, meaning that for many of our members the process is far shorter and has fewer requirements. We also took the process on-line via our website (and it is now also available through Nivo) meaning that there is no longer a need to queue at a collection point to hand in the forms and connected paperwork.
Fourthly, we have recruited two new members of staff:
In January Clare joined us as Business Development Manager and in September Caroline joined us as Finance Manager. Clare and Caroline, together with long-standing Operations Manager Tracey, form a strong operational management team.
There have been other milestones along the way as well: a brand-new website; our first ever ‘virtual’ Annual General Meeting; a refreshed board; the launch of two COVID-related emergency loan schemes; record numbers of new members; an increased dividend of 0.80%. In all, a busy year.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all though, we survived the dramatic transition from being office based to working entirely from home. We ran the credit union from our homes for about three months after the lockdown started. It would have been unimaginable to do this back in October 2019 but somehow – we did it!
I am very proud of my team of staff and volunteers – many organisations found that they were unable to provide their full services during lockdown, but we not only kept the business going, we actually improved it. Throughout this period, we continued to quickly make loans, provided normal access to savings, and welcomed record numbers of new members.
We start the new financial year with well developed plans for significant growth and improvements to customer service, intentions to find new ways of raising our profile within our community, a commitment to roll out the message of our value to more employers across the region, and first and foremost, to ensure that we prioritise the needs of our members which, in the first instance, will be demonstrated by ensuring that we successfully deal with the busy Christmas period.
We know that COVID will still be there, hovering in the background like an uninvited and unwelcome visitor at a wedding, but as far as we are able, we intend to achieve our plans despite COVID. We owe it to our current and future members to support and assist them as well as we can during what is, for many people, a pretty horrible period in their lives.
Stay safe, stay well.