Questions about a proposed merger with Great Western Credit Union

  • To increase credit union membership in Stroud District by a significant amount

  • To improve services to our members

  • To modernise

SVCU is still not engaging with enough people in our district to stop them choosing high-cost
financial services, even though their credit union is a better alternative. We feel that joining up with a much bigger organisation with a track record of winning over new members is the best choice. Hence, Great Western Credit Union.

SVCU is a mutual organisation which means it is owned by its members. The Board of Directors believes merger is the best outcome for SVCU, but a two thirds majority of the members voting need to agree also. You will be invited to an on-line Special General Meeting at 11am on July 10th to vote.

Great Western Credit Union was formed by a merger of Bristol Credit Union and Wyvern Savings and Loans earlier this year. Its purpose is to help thousands of people across South West England access an attractive range of alternative, low-cost financial services. The merger created the region’s biggest credit union with 19,000 members and £8.9m in deposits. For comparison, SVCU has around 800 members and £0.6m in deposits. Bristol Credit Union’s origins in the late 1990s are very similar to our own. A collection of small credit unions formed around the Bristol and Bath areas, joined together over time to become Bristol Credit Union. SVCU has a long association with Bristol Credit Union. Because our two Common Bond areas adjoin one another and because our philosophies are so similar, Bristol Credit Union often guided SVCU on matters like applying for grant funding, implementing IT and launching new accounts.

In the spring of 2020 and again in 2021 we asked members what they wanted from their credit
union? Becoming a member of Great Western credit union delivers most of these, including the ability to manage accounts on-line and a means to reward our savers.

There are no current plans to close the branch. In fact, an IT upgrade for Stroud is part of our merger conversations. Longer term, everything depends on how many members want to deal with us face-to-face and how many volunteers we have continuing to come forward to be cashiers. Although Great Western Credit Union has a main office in Bristol providing many of its phone and on line services it also has a big network of volunteer-run branches and collection points.

No, there is no need to do anything. The terms of your loan will stay the same until it is repaid. We will let you know about any changes to your membership number or how we want you to pay (if this changes).

No, Great Western Credit Union already have Gloucestershire (hence Stroud District and Tetbury) in their Common Bond area. Longer term, this will have many advantages for members. Currently we have to decline requests to join from applicants who live just outside of our current common bond area and we have to redirect them to start the process again elsewhere. Current Stroud members will be able to use services at other Great Western branches if, for example, they live in Stroud but work in Bristol or Bath.

If more than one third of the members attending our Special General Meeting vote against our resolution to merge with Great Western Credit Union then SVCU has to carry on as before. This means that all of the challenges discussed at the February 2021 AGM must be resolved before the end of September 2021 for SVCU to have a future, on its own, as a small credit union. These include getting significant outside investment to build up our capital and update our IT plus we need more suitably qualified members stepping forward to become directors. If we don’t solve all of these problems, this summer, we may be forced to return everyone’s savings and wind up SVCU.

We need at least 15 adult members present at the SGM to vote on the resolution. Of those attending two thirds need to vote in favour. If we do not achieve both of these then the resolution is Rejected. If the resolution is Accepted, you will receive another invitation to a further SGM two weeks later to confirm or reject the decision of the first. Please don’t assume there will be lots of other members who think like you so there is no need to bother. Every member’s vote counts.

Yes and probably more. Although we will not have to maintain our own Board of Directors, we will need Stroud Ambassadors who represent our district to the Great Western Credit Union Board. Anyone with aspirations to be a director can take on this role. If demand from new people wanting to become members takes off as we hope, we will need lots more volunteers in customer service positions. These might be at the branch, but we also need to think about taking information and service out into the community in the towns and villages where members live or the places where they work.

Yes mergers are common and they are increasing. Credit unions, no matter how small, are now subject to regulations applied to banks then building societies following the 2008 banking crisis. Combined with this, the financial impact of lockdowns and restrictions over the past year has caused even more small credit unions to question their viability. . In 2004 there were 565 credit unions in the UK. Now there are 277. Some have closed, but most have merged into bigger organisations. Expectations are that this number will continue to fall.

If you still have questions then please put them into an email to admin@svcu.org and we will get back to you. Alternatively, you can phone 01453 298785 during our usual office hours.