It’s an important time for credit unions in this country. As we come out of covid, and the economy picks back up, the reinvigorated movement of money around the country presents great opportunities to examine our financial systems and improve upon them.
The credit unions last year had a mortgage book of approximately €260 million, a figure which has grown 26% year-on-year. This is to be welcomed, but it’s something of a drop in the ocean when one appreciates that mortgage drawdowns hit €10.5bn last year.
I understand that the Minister said to Senator Boyhan that he would be meeting with the Irish League of Credit Unions and that legislation would be coming before the House in due time – I hope that such legislation will be developed with the input of the ILCU, as well as the Central Bank and that the Department of Finance will engage with all other stakeholders in a timely manner.
More broadly I think the role of the credit union in community banking can see development outside of the mortgage market too – a credit union can often provide a more personal touch, being staffed by locals from the community, and that can be of great value – whether to people who are marginalised, vulnerable, or may just be less comfortable in a formal banking situation.
Additionally, credit unions offer an accessible line of credit for people of limited means, who can use the union for small deposits and withdrawals, allowing them to save what they have, and to get a loan if needs be. It allows individuals control over their finances that they otherwise mightn’t be able to have through a traditional bank.
I’d like to see credit unions become hubs for their communities, helping to demystify finance for people and be allowed to develop their financial support mechanisms.
And final, one area of research and development which will serve to future-proof the credit union sector is a digital currency. The decentralised aspect of digital currencies will allow further autonomy of personal finance and empower each individual to save, spend and borrow as they see fit.