KSCU AGM 11 April 2012 by YaR04Z1

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									KSCU AGM 11 April 2012

JF’s report

According to the tales we hear from our colleagues around the country Kent Savers is now
the fastest growing Credit Union in the UK. Whilst that is hugely encouraging it is
important that we acknowledge that we are still tiny – at the end of the financial year we
had just over 1000 members which, in terms of the growth of a Credit Union from scratch,
is pretty impressive. However the population of our Common Bond - Kent and Medway -
is over 1.6 million people, so less than one person in every one and a half thousand locally
has so far joined us. We have a long way to go. And perhaps the biggest frustration of
the last year has been that despite some very sophisticated marketing and lots of time
and effort, the numbers of borrowers and of savers just continue to rise steadily; nothing
we have done seems to accelerate that growth. And it is quite obvious from the
conversations we have with new members and with those who ring the office to find out
more about Kent Savers, that the one consistent way in which people are encouraged to
use us is that they have been told about us personally by someone they know.

So everyone in this room – indeed every member of Kent Savers - has a responsibility;
we must all tell people about the very significant advantages of being involved with Kent
Savers Credit Union and ensure that they join us. Social networking is now becoming a
feature of Kent Savers – our Twitter account (@twitter) is beginning to take off and we
will soon be opening a Facebook account.

And one of the really difficult, related issues over this last year has been the lack of ‘day-
to-day’ encounters with potential members because of the very isolated and sparsely
accommodated office area up at the Old Town Hall in Gravesend. Not only has it limited
the people whom we have talked to on an informal daily basis but it has also not given us
the opportunity to brief colleagues from other organisations on a regular basis about just
what we are up to. So, moving to Maidstone Community Support Centre will be hugely
important because we will have contact with a lot more people – the building has a footfall
of over 25,000 people in a year and there are 26 organisations based there with over 150
staff; the potential is amazing and we move in on 8 May – 4 weeks yesterday.

The last year has seen a significant rise in the publicity for high interest legal lenders –
the likes of wonga.com, Money Shop, Brighthouse – and has not seen any equivalent rise
for us. We need to get our messages across much more effectively and our coverage on
the local media is certainly helping this by raising a general awareness. But the bottom
line is clearly that we must make the most of the contacts of all of our members – that
includes every one of you!

Whilst loans and savings are the fundamental functions of any credit union, they are by no
means the only way of bringing in income. So we have been very keen to find other ways
in which to bring in members and to generate funds to cover our costs. Accordingly we
have been very encouraged by the response of five local authorities (Maidstone, Swale,
Medway, Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells) and the Kent Housing Group which have,
during the year, enthusiastically supported us and funded us to initiate a budgeting
account for private tenants on Local Housing Allowance. Adam Fagg, a very experienced
financial expert, has been working with us to put this into effect and to contribute in a
wide variety of other ways to the work of KSCU.

And last year we began to set up partnerships with independent Funeral Directors here in
mid-Kent who are facing increasing problems with bereaved relatives who are not able to
access sufficient funds for the costs of funerals. Loan applications have started to come
in.
And talking of funerals, Canterbury Credit Union approached us during the year as it had
been decided that they should come to an end; they requested that we should take them
over. Whilst the process was remarkably efficient and had absolute support from both
sides, it was lengthy and tedious but it worked and the members of DCCU were all
transferred to Kent Savers effectively and efficiently. Jenny Hill did a splendid job making
it all work from an administrative perspective. There were other pluses too; we learned a
lot so that if and when we need to repeat the exercise with any other Credit Unions we do
know what it involves, and we inherited a very committed and competent team of
volunteers who are even now contributing in important ways to the work of Kent Savers.

Our experience with volunteers elsewhere across Kent and Medway has been less positive.
We have had a couple of really impressive individuals who have made very useful
contributions but the lack of staff capacity to recruit, select, manage and train those
people has been a hindrance and has accordingly influenced the ways in which we have
applied for other funding to enable us to supplement the staffing resources. I am very
confident that this will be a major development over the coming year.

Partnerships with other organisations are a key feature of the last year’s operations and
we have been especially pleased to be linked so closely to Housing Associations; West
Kent, Orbit, Golding Homes, Russet Homes, Southern Housing – all have promoted us
amongst their tenants and we are slowly increasing the numbers of members there. And
we have developed payroll deduction procedures with Kent County Council as well as with
the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral; this process means that savers and
borrowers just ask their employer to pay Kent Savers as part of the monthly payment
process and it has worked well. We will be looking to extend this facility over the next
year.

The successes of the last year have been thanks to lots of useful work by the staff team to
whom I offer my grateful thanks; Jenny Hill and Denis have made some very important
contributions and we are all delighted to welcome Jen Dodd who has just joined us and
who brings a fine set of skills and a very positive and constructive attitude to the team.
And Adam Fagg has brought a really impressive, imaginative and constructive dimension
to our activity for which I am hugely grateful.

And the successes of that year are characterised by over 250 loans issued – worth over
£300,000 and an increase of members from 353 to 1024 – an increase of almost 200%,
with savings of just under£450k. That’s got to be good news.

And from my own personal perspective the really good news has been the way in which
our Board has developed over that year. I have been hugely supported by you all – thank
you. Every single member has made important contributions. Please allow me to
mention – and offer my personal thanks to – some of those members. Chris Hunt is an
immense asset to our organisation; his understanding of the legislation and the
technicalities, as well as his phenomenal capability (especially late at night) have been
hugely important. Gail Devries has given astonishing amounts of inputs into funding
applications and other key aspects of our operation. Will Campbell-Wroe has led the way
in terms of partnerships with Housing Associations. And Ursula; she inspires me every
time we meet or speak. She brings such a wonderful ‘can-and–will-do’ approach that I
find her inspirational, energising and truly superb as our Chairman. And it is such a
delight to have Alison back with us – welcome back, Alison.

It is because of this Board and the team that this really tough year has been as rewarding
as it has. We have really started to deliver excellent services and although we still have a
long way to go, I firmly believe we are moving in the right directions. I give my very
genuine thanks to my team and to the members of our splendid Board. Thank you to you
all.

JF
11 April 2012

								
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