Current Research Programme and Latest Publications
Summary of Proceedings, Members Conference 18 January 2019
This is a brief record of the presentations and discussions that took place at our recent conference in Manchester, attended by 100 delegates from the movement in England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Romania and Scotland. The report can be downloaded here or by clicking the image to the right. The themes were Collaboration and Communities, with presentations from several practitioners.
A number of key points, practical insights and learning outcomes emerged during the day. At the close, Dr Paul Jones, Director of Research, picked out just a few, including the importance for collaboration of:
- Clarity about business outcomes
- Good and effective governance – and the role of the board in driving collaboration
- Coping with the loss of autonomy
- Recognising that there is not one sole path to collaboration – there are multiple models and approaches
- Developing relationships based on trust.
And in relation to ensuring the social and economic difference of credit unions, Paul stressed the criticality of:
- Ensuring a culture clearly based on co-operative values and principles
- Communicating those values and principles to the membership and the community.
Paul ended by thanking all participants for coming to the conference and making the day such a success. Go raibh míle maith agaibh! Mulţumesc mult!
Further conference materials, including presentation and brochure, are available here.
The Remuneration of Credit Union Directors, December 2018
This is a ‘hot topic’ in more ways than one. Historically, directors on credit union boards have not been paid, and this remains a strongly-held principle for many credit unions in Britain; in Ireland it is not permitted by law (apart from an honorarium for the treasurer). In Britain there has been a trend in recent years to bring one or more senior executives onto the board as directors. More recently, against a backdrop of increasing operational scale and complexity as well as regulatory demands, a small number of British credit unions have introduced or are considering introducing remuneration for directors who are not executives (traditionally, elected from the membership). This remains a contested issue.
Our paper does not explore substantively the pros and cons of this approach, but is aimed at credit unions who are seeking a robust and appropriate approach to setting the level of remuneration of directors. The report draws together lessons and best practice from credit unions, co-ops and financial services mutuals in Britain, and from credit unions in North America. The paper is based on a 2017 study, subscribed for by a CFCFE member credit union to inform thinking on its board. We provide some conclusions and recommendations for developing and implementing a director remuneration policy consistent with credit union principles and values. Click here or on the image to download the report.
Borrowing from a Credit Union: Messages from Members, September 2018
We are now making this short report publicly available here (or by clicking the image), following circulation to members in September. The paper summarises survey and focus group data from two large credit unions on the member 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 credit unions can consider in developing their own lending strategies.
The Business Case for a Credit Union Central Finance Facility, August 2018
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.
This paper is now available here for download.
Lessons Learned by US Credit Unions in Mortgage Lending, June 2018
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.
Major lessons learned by the Americans: the need to mitigate interest rate and diversification risks by creating collaborative support companies to interface with secondary mortgage markets, obtaining affordable liquidity from credit union-owned central finance facilities, hiring and retaining staff with specialised mortgage lending skills, and developing win-win relationships with local estate agents (the major influencers of where people go to finance their new homes).
The paper is available here for download.
The Irish Credit Union Business Model: Is it still fit for purpose? November 2017
Our 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 have developed a research programme in consultation with our members. Projects include:
- 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
- Priority modernisation changes to primary legislation in the Irish and British credit union acts.
- Best practices for effective collaboration among credit unions
- 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
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.
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.
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.