18th February 2013

I recently visited the Bristol Credit Union (BCU) to learn more about this local banking provider. The Bristol Credit Union was formed after the merger of four smaller credit unions and has been at its current location for over 5 years. They now have over 9000 members and are continuing to grow every month.

The Credit Union specialises in personal banking services and small personal loans. Unlike larger banks the BCU doesn't just rely on a person’s credit file, but rather they carry out a full financial audit of the person’s ability to repay. This allows them to lend to a wider section of society than more traditional lenders would, but with a high assurance on actually being repaid.

As BCU Chief Executive, James Berry DE, said after the visit “We are a local banking provider with the needs of the community at the core of our business model. If people are after a safe, local and ethical place to bank then we can provide that service. If people are struggling and looking at taking out a pay-day loan or accepting credit from a door step collection service then I would suggest that they consider our services before embarking on what may be a ruinous debt spiral.”

I first came across credit unions whilst working on the EU’s Mortgage Credit Directive, where I have been working with other British, and European, colleagues to ensure that both Credit Union and ‘Buy-to-Let’ mortgages are exempt from the proposed regulations. Credit Unions have been around a long time and provide a genuine banking alternative to both mainstream banking and the pay-day loan lenders that appear to be preying on the financially vulnerable in our society. They are a real example of ethical banking at its best.

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