Credit union still banking with the Co-Op Bank?

You might have seen today’s – I have to say not completely unexpected – news that the Co-Op is up for sale.

It’s been coming for a long time.

So, you’re a director of a credit union that is still banking with the Co-Op that still has hundreds of thousands of pounds in it?

Let me ask you something …Why is that?

Is it simply that because you believe in the co-operative movement you will support it where ever you can?

That’s great, the co-operative movement has done and continues to do a lot of really very good things.  But the problem is if you’d been acting on purely commercial grounds – which is the test you are required to satisfy as a director – you would probably have moved the money out of the Co-Op a long time ago.

Let me ask you, given that there’s no certainty that the Co-Op Bank can be sold, and won’t instead be either broken up or go bust, do you think you might be playing Russian roulette with your members’ money given today’s news – which after all followed a pretty inglorious few years (facts like this will be relevant to the points below, it’s not as if you’re in the dark about the Co-Op Bank’s problems or that they’ve happened overnight)?

The point is you might only have a short period of time now to get your members’ money out of the Co-Op and into something safer…

And if you don’t do so, let me ask you another question…

If your credit union should be forced under by the problems at the Co-Op Bank and your liquidator took you personally to court for negligence, would you be able to defeat such an action?

It might just be worthwhile you asking your lawyers this question… you see, your following a principle that is not built on hard commercial grounds is probably no defence.

Oh, and an afterthought… some directors of your credit union will have deeper pockets than others and will therefore be the main targets of such a negligence action.  Are you one of the prime targets? You see it’s easier for board members who have nothing to lose personally to stick to their principles, but if your home and savings are on the line, then it’s a completely different proposition.

Credit Unions – it’s far from good news, in fact it’s awful!

I don’t know if you saw the news today?  – How the UK’s credit union assets hit £3 billion for the first time ever?  – click here to see the news from ABCUL

Great news, eh?

Well no…

Why?

Well, today, yes the very same day that ABCUL announced this ‘great news’ about assets, a letter hit my desk from the Co-Op Bank saying that they are reducing the interest they will be paying on bank balances me as liquidator of credit unions, and indeed credit unions themselves, hold with them.

The interest rate?    O.03% on balances up £500k.  That’s right, one thirty third of one per cent in interest.

To put it bluntly, bugger all on balances most credit unions might be holding with the Co-Op Bank…about one fiftieth of the inflation rate.

Please let me ask you something…

What’s exactly is the point of credit unions putting their savers’ money with the Co-Op?

Why do they do it?

The vast bulk of the £1.23 billion in credit union saver deposits – the ‘good news’ is its ‘s by 7.8% over the previous year –  yes, one and a quarter billion pounds, a lot of money, and counting! – is earning nothing for savers, not after the credit union costs.

I tell you what the point of credit unions putting their savers’ money with the Co-Op and them paying nothing in interest is…

The Co-Op is bust…

And if it goes under – and it is a shambles – the FSCS also goes under, its pocket is simply not big enough to cope with the Co-Op’s failure.

Put another way, all you savers in credit unions are propping up a bust bank because (1) Co-Operatives are incapable of surviving in this country today in the way they used to be able to, and management are incapable of turning the Co-Op Bank around, it’s a shambles internally; (2) The FSCS cannot pay out if the Co-Op goes bust – we’re talking about a bail-in, rather than bail out (a bail out, some government organisation pays you back all your money: a bail in, you do not get all your money back, you have to write some of it off, you might be told that the £1,00 you had with so and so bank is no only £500.

If Co-Op goes bust, there will be a run on all of the banks.  Co-Op is propped up by credit union savers’ and other ‘soft’ money – if you’re a saver in a credit union, have you really asked where the credit union puts your money?  Hopefully time will paper over the cracks at the Co-Op…- but will it, and why haven’t you been told that your money is at risk, why are you being told that credit unions are a good place for you to put your money safely?

Thanks to all you savers, old and new, you are propping up a bust bank that we cannot afford for it to fail because the system can’t cope with it doing so!

Oh, did no one, not ABCUL, not any credit union, tell you why you’re being encouraged in?

It’s a huge game of pass the parcel!

If you are a saver, you are playing the game, the problem is you’ve no chance of winning a prize, because the music will never stop when you’re holding the parcel.   Instead you’ll be left holding all the wrapping paper for which you will have paid handsomely, and you’ll not get your money back because you will be bailed in…

Still happy with the advice you got to ‘save’ with that credit union?

Will you be suing the advisor for bad advice, like the PPI sellers of yesteryear?

Another (small) screw in the coffin of smaller community credit unions

A good many small community based credit unions have had a torrid time in recent years and probably right now aren’t seeing much of an improvement.  The Co-Op Bank’s decision to cut the interest it pays on its community bank accounts – such s their Community Directplus, Co-Operatives Directplu and Social Enterprise Directplus accounts – will prove to be another, small and slow, but certain turn on the screw in the coffin of already beleagured credit unions.

Small community based credit unions are really struggling – at best, they have seen flat income levels, at worst they’ve seen their income fall away, especially from grants and interest receipts.   Yet there is often little opportunity for them to reduce their overheads in line with the fall in income.  Trying to increase income by growing the loan book can often carry a disproportionate risk of bad debts so for some they have a stark choice – grow or merge or die a death of a thousand cuts.  The Co-Op decision will prove to be just another cut…

Let’s look at what the Co-Op is doing…

Interest rates paid on customer balances have never been lower, certainly not in my lifetime.  Until June the Co-Op will be paying a tiered rate of interest – Nil% on balances up to £1,999; 0.12%  on balances £2,000 to £9,999; 0.15% on balances £10,000 to £24,999; 0.18% on balances £25,000 to £99,999; 0.21% on balances £100,000 to £249,999; and 0.25% on balances over £250,000.

That’s to say the most the Co-Op will ever pay any credit union right now is one quarter of one per cent per annum… peanuts.

Yet those peanuts are being crushed!

The new rates from June 2015 will be: balances up to £24,999 Nothing, yes absolutely nothing – the Co-Op will get to keep your money for free!; £25,000 to £99,999 0.06% – a third of the already derisory amount it had paid previously; £100,000 to £249,000 0.09% – less than half it had previously paid; £250,000 to £499,000 0.18% – a cut of one third from the rate it had paid previously; over £500,000 0.25%, no change.

The message is clear… the Co-Op isn’t interested in supporting small organisations, it’s using you, the small credit union, to extract itself from its own financial difficulties … it doesn’t have the cohonas to abuse bigger organisations in the same way as they’re prepared to abuse you.

So it’s you, the smaller community based credit unions, and organisations just like you who will feel the brunt of this decision… it will be another straw on the camel’s back…

You see, right now, because you’re getting virtually nothing on the money you are sitting on and with additional grant income difficult to come by, the only way you can meet the regulator’s solvency targets might be by increasing the interest you receive on your loan book.  As you’re limited by law as to the maximum interest rate you can charge on the loans you make, this means you need to grow your loan volumes – the number of loans you put out and the amount you loan out.

The issue is you need to do this without increasing your bad debts.  Desperate people will go to any lengths – you will be lied to, some applications will be pure fabrication. How robust are your application procedures throughout your credit union?  You might get credit reports on potential new lending, but how reliable are those reports? – they are not as accurate as you’d hope!  And you probably can’t always rely on your longstanding members’ past savings history as an indication of their ability to repay any new loans – because people have so many ways nowadays of avoiding repaying their debts – not just the formal insolvency processes of bankruptcy, DRO, and IVA, and informal debt solutions such as DMP and DRO, but also pleading poverty in any debt collection process passing through the courts, and even disappearing.

It’s easy to see the situation whereby a credit union that’s already struggling with the the regulator could be forced into administration and then closure because of its bad debt experience and low level of bank interest income.

 

Another (small) screw in the coffin of smaller community credit unions

A good many small community based credit unions have had a torrid time in recent years and probably right now aren’t seeing much of an improvement.  The Co-Op Bank’s decision to cut the interest it pays on its community bank accounts – such s their Community Directplus, Co-Operatives Directplu and Social Enterprise Directplus accounts – will prove to be another, small and slow, but certain turn on the screw in the coffin of already beleagured credit unions.

Small community based credit unions are really struggling – at best, they have seen flat income levels, at worst they’ve seen their income fall away, especially from grants and interest receipts.   Yet there is often little opportunity for them to reduce their overheads in line with the fall in income.  Trying to increase income by growing the loan book can often carry a disproportionate risk of bad debts so for some they have a stark choice – grow or merge or die a death of a thousand cuts.  The Co-Op decision will prove to be just another cut…

Let’s look at what the Co-Op is doing…

Interest rates paid on customer balances have never been lower, certainly not in my lifetime.  Until June the Co-Op will be paying a tiered rate of interest – Nil% on balances up to £1,999; 0.12%  on balances £2,000 to £9,999; 0.15% on balances £10,000 to £24,999; 0.18% on balances £25,000 to £99,999; 0.21% on balances £100,000 to £249,999; and 0.25% on balances over £250,000.

That’s to say the most the Co-Op will ever pay any credit union right now is one quarter of one per cent per annum… peanuts.

Yet those peanuts are being crushed!

The new rates from June 2015 will be: balances up to £24,999 Nothing, yes absolutely nothing – the Co-Op will get to keep your money for free!; £25,000 to £99,999 0.06% – a third of the already derisory amount it had paid previously; £100,000 to £249,000 0.09% – less than half it had previously paid; £250,000 to £499,000 0.18% – a cut of one third from the rate it had paid previously; over £500,000 0.25%, no change.

The message is clear… the Co-Op isn’t interested in supporting small organisations, it’s using you, the small credit union, to extract itself from its own financial difficulties … it doesn’t have the cohonas to abuse bigger organisations in the same way as they’re prepared to abuse you.

So it’s you, the smaller community based credit unions, and organisations just like you who will feel the brunt of this decision… it will be another straw on the camel’s back…

You see, right now, because you’re getting virtually nothing on the money you are sitting on and with additional grant income difficult to come by, the only way you can meet the regulator’s solvency targets might be by increasing the interest you receive on your loan book.  As you’re limited by law as to the maximum interest rate you can charge on the loans you make, this means you need to grow your loan volumes – the number of loans you put out and the amount you loan out.

The issue is you need to do this without increasing your bad debts.  Desperate people will go to any lengths – you will be lied to, some applications will be pure fabrication. How robust are your application procedures throughout your credit union?  You might get credit reports on potential new lending, but how reliable are those reports? – they are not as accurate as you’d hope!  And you probably can’t always rely on your longstanding members’ past savings history as an indication of their ability to repay any new loans – because people have so many ways nowadays of avoiding repaying their debts – not just the formal insolvency processes of bankruptcy, DRO, and IVA, and informal debt solutions such as DMP and DRO, but also pleading poverty in any debt collection process passing through the courts, and even disappearing.

It’s easy to see the situation whereby a credit union that’s already struggling with the the regulator could be forced into administration and then closure because of its bad debt experience and low level of bank interest income.