Credit Union Solutions
CUS director and founder Graham Tomlin explains what CUS is and what the business does to support UK Credit Unions.
Tell us a little bit about CUS
It was started in 2000 because at that time I was a director of the Association of British Credit Unions Limited, and I saw that many small credit unions needed help managing the day to day activity of running a CU. At the time there was nothing we could do to support them so we decided to do something more proactive and provide them with the admin support they desperately needed. We set up a small not for profit business called Credit Union Solutions, originally with one or two staff, and it’s gone from there.
Why is CUS so important to credit unions?
We support five UK credit unions and one of the key benefits for the credit unions is that working with CUS means they can provide a five day a week service to members.
CUS offers an important alternative to the models other credit unions are using. We set up CUS using the model we’d adopted at Plane Saver Credit Union, where I previously worked, of providing phone and email support, which allowed unions to not only grow and expand but also made things safer for volunteers. When credit unions were operating drop in centres dealing in cash transaction, there were occasions where volunteers would receive threats from people demanding the cash they held – managing systems via Pay Point means that that risk has been removed.
Most of the successful credit unions were working initially with local councils or hospitals so they had an office to work from and a reliable income stream, but when they came to expand into a wider community concern they need additional support, as well as grants, to make a success of it.
How big is the team that supports Swan Credit Union and what do they all do?
There are three directors, I’m the CEO with Nicola Wareing in the role of CFO and Deputy CEO and Jill Oswell who’s the Company Secretary, as well as a small team looking after the customer service and marketing.
Why do you think credit unions are important in the UK?
I think they’re amazingly important, as they offer customers an alternative to the poor service they’ve had from banks. Credit Unions put members at the heart of things and don’t treat them as a source of revenue. Banks will try to use social media to make people think differently about them but while they are still being taken to court for insurance issues and gambling with people’s money I don’t see anything really changing.