Robert Kelly, CEO of the Association of British Credit Unions

Fortnightly financial five minutes #7 Robert Kelly

Nigel Yeates, Communications & Stakeholder Business Partner asks Robert Kelly, CEO at the Association of British Credit Unions (ABCUL), about the role of credit unions as they celebrated International Credit Union Day. 

Can you tell us a little about ABCUL and your role in the organisation? 

ABCUL is the pre-eminent trade association for the credit union sector across Great Britain.  ABCUL represents over 60% of total credit unions across Scotland, England and Wales and our main services are advocacy, representation to legislators, regulators, and additional stakeholders, training and development and providing information guides to member credit unions, along with dealing with day-to-day business operation enquiries.   

My role in ABCUL is CEO/lead executive officer, leading a staff team of 17 people and working alongside our volunteer board of directors in developing and implementing our strategic vision.  ABCUL is a co-operative of co-operatives, and our value base and ethics are aligned with the credit union sector overall e.g., transparency, equity, fairness, equality, collaboration, co-operation and promoting diversity. 

Last Thursday (20th October) was International Credit Union Day, what is the day all about and how did ABCUL celebrate it? 

International Credit Union (ICU) Day is celebrated by the global credit union movement on the 3rd Thursday of October each year. The day reflects upon the credit union movement's history, promote its achievements, recognises hard work and shares member experiences from across the globe. 

This year the theme was: ‘Empower Your Financial Future with a Credit Union’. Across Great Britain, credit unions raised awareness about the tremendous work and impact they make in their communities.  ABCUL was delighted to spotlight some of our member credit union success stories and to raise awareness of the celebrations on a variety of social media channels.   

In our London and South-East Forum area, credit unions from across the country gathered in London on Saturday 22nd October for a special conference event which included a keynote speech from a leading representative of the Polish credit union sector.  This highlights the truly global nature of our sector and how we collaborate and cooperate for the greater good and development of products and services that make a real difference to people’s lives. 

Why do credit unions play a key role in the financial services sector? 

As a very short and snappy statement – credit unions help consumers/members afford their daily lives.  Credit unions offer safe savings and access to affordable and ethical credit facilities alongside access to a range of associated products and services.  Credit unions build financial resilience across employers, households, and communities all over the world and promoting that savings culture and savings habit has been a key element of our success story for many decades.   

As member-owned financial co-operatives credit unions have an overriding desire to support members on a day-to-day basis and to ensure that excellent financial outcomes are delivered.  For anyone who is keen to learn more about credit unions associated with their employer or in the community in which they live, then they can visit the Find Your Credit Union website 

There is some talk of credit unions being able to offer additional services, can you tell us more about that? 

Credit unions are bound by a legislative framework/act that was originally created and implemented in 1979 with some iterative changes and updates over the years since.  ABCUL has been lobbying tremendously hard behind the scenes with legislators and regulators for many years to call for a major reform of the Credit Union Act 1979 and we are delighted to confirm that a more enabling legislative framework forms part of the proposed Financial Services and Markets Bill that is currently being debated in both parliamentary chambers.   

And what new products and services could this lead to? 

The expectation is that legislative reform for the credit union sector will be delivered by April/May 2023 which will allow credit unions to get involved in additional products and services such as: 

  • Car Finance under Hire Purchase (HP)/Conditional Sale/PCP arrangements 
  • General insurance products and services 

Credit unions are also developing a proposal to implement a credit union card product in the months ahead and are already able to offer mortgages (subject to regulatory permissions being granted), corporate membership and corporate lending and second-charge secured lending.  We believe that 2023 and beyond will be a hugely exciting time for the credit union sector and our ability to serve many more consumers across the country and to serve a wider share of the financial needs of households and communities. 

Thanks very much Robert for that information and we look forward to seeing how this evolves over the next few months. 

If you hold money with a UK-authorised credit union that fails, we’ll automatically compensate you up to £85,000 per eligible person. For more information on what FSCS protects, see our What we cover page.

The content of any discussions shouldn't be taken as an indication of future FSCS policy positions. The views expressed by guests are their own and don't reflect the views of FSCS.

We would also love everyone to dedicate a regular extra five minutes to check their financial products and services are FSCS protected.