What views does the national body hold about credit unions and the services they require?
ACE’s views are:
- That credit unions are businesses and must operate in accordance with sound business practices. However, credit unions are also social and mutual organisations that take into account their members’ needs, particularly those who are financially excluded.
- That credit unions are companies and are entitled to be given choices and unbiased advice about selection of insurance provision, computer software, banking etc.
- That the size of the credit union is not its most important characteristic – rather the quality of the services it provides for its members and its ability to be in touch with, and respond to, members needs.
- That training and support should be provided as far as possible on site or within reasonable distance of where the credit union is situated.
- That the costs of training and support should be kept as low as possible.
- That credit unions need to be confident that the national body will fairly represent their views with the Government and regulator and campaign for a regulatory regime that is appropriate, but not unnecessarily bureaucratic.
ACE’s Services Support and Advice
We aim to offer a high standard of support and training and to provide stationery etc. on a low cost ‘no frills’ basis, so that credit unions are able to access the services they need.
We can provide either a full training package for study groups to take them through to registration, including the pre-registration visit, or training for established credit unions.
With regard to affiliation to ACE, we were aware that some credit unions resent paying large affiliation fees for services they felt they either did not need, or did not receive! We therefore charge low affiliation fees at 40p per adult member per year due each January for a basic, specified service and charge for training separately, as required. Steering Groups are charged £1 per annum until the credit union is registered. Credit Unions with over 8000 members are charged a fixed rate of £3200, which does will not rise as their membership increases. However they will have to make their own financial arrangements to cover any legal costs that may arise.
ACE meets regularly with the other national credit union organisations and aims to work co-operatively with them on the key issues facing credit unions.
At present we have over 44 credit unions/study groups affiliated to ACE situated in Cumbria, Devon, Durham, Gloucestershire, Kent, Lancashire, Oxfordshire, Scotland, Tyne & Wear, Wales, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Yorkshire, and Jersey. We are particularly interested in working with small credit unions, although we also have several large credit unions affiliated to ACE.
What training and support is available?
ACE trainers have qualifications, skills and experience both in training methods and in operating credit unions. They have provided training to over 86 credit unions of varying sizes and common bonds through to registration. Preparation for the pre-registration visit is included in the training. Once a credit union is registered further support is available to help in the early stages of development.
ACE has also developed its own unique training materials based on the trainers’ experience of working with credit unions. It helps that ACE trainers are directly involved in the running of workplace and community credit unions which ensures that our training is up to date, practical and relevant.
Credit Unions are regulated by the Financial Services Authority and every credit union must have a business plan, a comprehensive manual of policies and procedures and comply with reporting requirements. Credit Unions affiliated to ACE have access to ACE's Dropbox where they can access model policies, procedures and job descriptions, with the necessary training to enable them to adapt these to their own circumstance and a wide range of other information. These are regularly updated so that credit unions can be sure they keep abreast of regulatory requirements. This is necessary as the regulations are subject to change.
Training is provided either at a credit union’s own base, or at workshops in various parts of the country - Scotland, Wales, Cumbria, Tyne & Wear, Yorkshire, the South West and the South East.
Training fees vary according to what study groups and credit unions can afford, although training materials, travel and expenses must be covered.
Does the national body have Model Rules?
ACE has new Model Rules 2012 approved by the FSA governing all aspects of running a credit union. If a credit union changes its affiliation to another trade organisation, it can apply to the FSA to adopt the new trade organisation’s model rules, or it can continue to operate on its existing model rules.
The FSA has developed a set of regulations called ‘CREDS’ that credit unions are required to follow, in addition to model rules, which are primarily concerned with constitutional matters.