WHAT IS A CREDIT UNION?
A credit union is a member-owned financial institution which provides an array of services to its members including savings, loans and insurances. Credit unions are owned by the people who use their services and are connected by a common bond based on the area they live in or the occupation they work in. They are operated on the principal of people helping people which allows the members to save together and lend to each other at a fair and reasonable rate of interest.
Each member has one vote and the volunteer directors of the Board are elected from the membership, by the membership. As credit unions are owned by its members and not by external shareholders or investors the emphasis is always on providing the best services to members and not maximising profits – they exist only to serve members.
Surplus income generated is returned to members by the way of a dividend and/or is directed to improve or add additional services for members, within the capability of the credit union. Credit unions may also choose to pay a loan interest rebate, which is a refund of loan interest paid to all members who borrowed from that credit union during the preceding financial year.
THE BEGINNING OF THE CREDIT UNION MOVEMENT
The Credit Union movement traces its origins to Germany and to Friedrich Willhelm Raiffeisen, the Mayor of a small town in Southern Germany, who in 1849 formed societies, which later evolved into Credit Unions. The purpose of these Credit Unions was to enable people to help themselves in relieving debt and poverty.
A Credit Union is a democratic, financial co-operative owned and controlled by its own members. Each Credit Union is run only to benefit its members. All of whom have something in common – its common bond.
The credit union movement is built on an ethos of mutuality, volunteerism, self-help and not for profit philosophy.
The Credit Union movement was introduced into Ireland in 1958 by Nora Herilhy with the support of a number of other dedicated pioneers.
Since then, the Credit Union philosophy of mutual self-help has proven very popular and there 351 credit unions affiliated to the Irish League of Credit Unions.
In Ireland, millions of members have recognised the value of credit unions. There are thousands employed in the sector and many more thousands are volunteers in the movement.