Credit unions — what do they do?


Credit unions — what do they do?

Sunday, June 16, 2019

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Credit Unions worldwide operate on the philosophy of “People Helping People”. In a nutshell, they exist to serve their members through the mobilisation of collective savings and making loans to members.

These members have shared interests and a common bond. The bond is usually established through being a member of particular organisation such as Jamaica Constabulary Force, Jamaica Defence Force, or the Jamaica Teachers Association.

Membership can also be established via association with a particular group such as being a public sector employee, or if one lives or working in a particular parish such as Manchester or Portland.

A credit union is owned, controlled and operated democratically by its members, with each member having one vote irrespective of the number of shares he or she holds.

Through this vote, members are vested with the supreme authority which they exercise by electing a board of directors, supervisory committee and credit committee in general meetings.

Members of the board of directors, supervisory and credit committees are all volunteers charged with responsibility of governance over the affairs of the credit union. They report on their stewardship to members at the annual general meeting.

Due to their shared interest, credit unions provide financial education for their members and promote their financial well-being by providing them with a range of products and financial services.

Chief among these are loans and savings of various types and for various services, but they also provide health and general insurance services and financial advice.


There are many benefits of saving with a credit union. First, the motive is “not for profit, not for charity, but for service”. In a credit union, members are usually known by each other and by employees; thus, there is an emphasis on personalised member service.

Operating like a safe community, credit unions provide a place for their members to save and borrow at affordable rates of interest and on reasonable terms and conditions. Credit union members pay low or no fees to operate their savings and loans accounts. Loans and savings are also often insured at no direct cost to members. Members enjoy competitive rates of interest on their savings.

And because they are aware of the continuous and growing need of their members, credit unions facilitate a cycle of borrowing.

This means that their members are able to benefit from multiple loan facilities at any given point. Credit Unions are also willing to work with their members who have fallen on hard times, in a bid to assist them with improving their financial standing and well-being.

Finally, credit unions see themselves as owing their members more than just quality products and services at a fair price — they demonstrate concern for the community by engaging in various corporate social outreach programmes in critical areas of education, health, housing and the environment, through which they give back to the wider community.

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