By C. Chris Williams, SLUWCU
THAT is the question most frequently asked by my friends the minute they discover that I am involved with the Saint Lucia Workers’ Credit Union Limited.
Credit unions are focused on people, not profits. They operate by a “people helping people” philosophy that is hard to find at other financial institutions. Credit unions exist to serve people–including people of modest means. Financial education is available to all members which in turn assist members to become better educated consumers of financial services.
Credit unions are available in places where banks typically aren’t, such as in the rural communities. As a member of a credit union, no matter how much money you have on deposit, you have an equal voice in how your credit union is run. Superior service and convenience are at the forefront of any credit union’s operations.
The philosophy of the credit union movement is not for profit, not for charity, but for service. Credit unions promote thrift and teach the wise use of credit. They encourage their members to develop a systematic savings programme and they provide a source of low-cost credit. Since credit unions are not-for-profit and have low overhead costs, they are usually able to offer lower interest rates on loans and higher dividends on members’ shares (savings). A credit union is also non-profit in the sense that its purpose is to serve the members, not to make money. It needs money to provide services and benefits. But money is the means, not the end itself. Credit Unions are known to be the role models in offering practical programmes in poverty alleviation to the underprivileged communities.
A credit union is a not-for-profit financial cooperative that is owned by its members. Member savings form a pool of money from which low-cost loans are made to other members. Once all operating expenses are paid and reserves set aside, income from loans and any other income is returned to members in the form of dividends on savings, expansion of services, a larger cushion against loss, loan interest rebates, etc.
In a nutshell, credit unions mission – including Saint Lucia Workers’ Credit Union Limited – is to provide their members affordable financial services – not to gouge them as profit centres as other financial institutions do.
Today is International Credit Union Day. It’s time to join a Credit Union.