RESEARCH

Current Research Programme and Latest Publications

Borrowing from a Credit Union: Messages from Members

This short report summarises survey and focus group data from two credit unions on their members’ experience with borrowing from their credit unions. It also includes mini-case studies on the initiatives and practices of five other credit unions who have been notably successful in getting loans out to members. All seven of the credit unions are CFCFE members, and we are grateful for their assistance in producing this report.

The paper offers actionable insights that CFCFE members can consider in developing their own lending strategies. It will be publicly available here for download later this year.

‘The Business Case for a Credit Union Central Finance Facility’

Movement-owned central finance facilities (CFFs) have been key to the success of credit unions around the world. Basically functioning as a ‘credit union for credit unions’, CFFs use the aggregate scale and buying power of the movement as a whole to obtain the best rates safely possible on investments, to assure credit unions of dependable access to liquidity at wholesale borrowing rates, and to employ the professional expertise to do so safely and profitably. Using case studies from the US, Canada and Australia, this paper shows how CFFs were instrumental for credit unions to evolve into full-service financial providers. The paper suggests possible ways forward to creating CFFs in Ireland and Britain, where they do not yet exist.

We intend to put this paper in the public domain in October, and it will be available here for download.

‘Lessons Learned by US Credit Unions in Mortgage Lending’

Over the past 40 years home mortgages have grown to represent about half of credit union lending in the States. This paper was developed in the belief that the US experience would provide useful insights to credit unions over here that are looking to expand into the mortgage market.

The paper is available here for download.

‘The Revolving Credit Opportunity for Credit Unions’, June 2018

Our most recent project – a ‘think / do’ paper on revolving credit as an opportunity for credit unions in Ireland and Great Britain. Revolving lines of credit are a core service of credit unions in other countries, notably Australia, Canada and the USA. This paper identifies the operational, regulatory, risk and other factors that are unique to revolving credit and suggests practical steps for dealing with them.

Our primary conclusion: revolving credit has the potential to largely replace the current practice of top-up lending, with far greater convenience to members and at lower administrative expense to the credit union.

The report is now available to download here.

‘The Irish Credit Union Business Model: Is it still fit for purpose?’ November 2017

Our previous – and first – publication was a review of the business model for credit unions in Ireland, and the case for change.

The key messages are that: the objective evidence demonstrates the case for change to the existing business model, international examples show an expansion of the proposition to members is a successful model, and that collaboration within the sector will be required to build the necessary capability. But first, we need a shared vision of the future, and an appetite for change.

It is available for download here, or click on the image of the report.

We welcome feedback and comment on all our research; contact us here.

We have developed a research programme for 2018 in consultation with our members. Projects include:

  • International experience of mortgage provision by credit unions (mentioned above)
  • A study of credit union member and non-member attitudes to borrowing
  • International experience in the development of central finance facilities for credit unions
  • An analysis of credit unions’ role in the community, and a methodology for measurement of community and social impact, in partnership with Small Change, experts in social investment and social finance
  • Financial literacy and governance for social inclusion, in partnership with Romanian and Italian co-operatives and credit unions, a two year, EU-funded programme concluding in late 2019

Previous Publications

The directors, through their other institutions, have previously collaborated on several important projects, most recently an exploration of best practice in governance for credit unions and a study of credit union experience of GB’s Credit Union Expansion Project, which are available to download below. Some further report examples, published by Liverpool John Moores University, are also shown; contact us if you would like a copy of any of these reports.

Research approach

We aim to publish academically rigorous research papers and other outputs that will be of practical and actionable help to the Centre’s stakeholders, for them to identify and adopt new services, better engage their communities, improve their business practices, protect their values, mitigate the risks they face, and facilitate their collaboration for the common good.

We wish to be a thought leader in our field.

We collaborate with Members and other stakeholders to the greatest extent possible, to ensure that ideas and concepts are tested and proven.

We have a Research Advisory Board to support the Centre with its research methodology, standards and quality, and oversee peer review of publications.

We make our research available first to our members, and then to the public.

SCOPE

Our subjects include co-operatives and mutuals (such as credit unions), social enterprises (such as the UK’s community finance development insitutions) and co-operative banks and building societies, as well as social businesses in other sectors that engage with community finance (such as housing associations seeking affordable credit to residents). The Centre’s current focus is Ireland and the United Kingdom, but in due course we will undertake research across Europe. In all cases, our work is informed by experience and knowledge from around the world.

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OUR RESEARCHERS

We engage academic, professional and practitioner experts who are recognised for their expertise, integrity and quality of work in Centre-relevant areas. The Centre has a special, collaborative relationship with the Research Unit for Financial Inclusion at Liverpool John Moores University. Certain research papers and publications will be published in collaboration with the University.

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PROGRAMME

We select research projects in consultation with our members, funded by subscription and / or external grants, and seek to engage and work with similar organisations throughout Europe and internationally. We are happy to discuss projects brought to us by interested third parties such as academics, consultants or sector agencies.  Please contact us if you wish to discuss a research project partnership.