Since it was set up in 1992, the National Association of Credit Union Workers (NACUW) has been the only professional association for credit union workers throughout Britain (whether employees or volunteer staff of a credit union, or those who provide support, training or development advice). During that time ts members have worked with the majority of credit unions in Britain. Most of its members have been managers and staff actively working in credit unions across the country. Consequently, NACUW has had an important representational role as its members have worked in all types and sizes of credit unions. This has enabled it to offer a unique perspective to government and the Financial Conduct Authority on improvements to policies, legislation and the regulation of the credit union sector.
NACUW has always met regularly with representatives of all the national credit union bodies and through its members has links to the majority of credit unions in Britain; national and regional organisations supportive of credit union development; business sector initiatives; the wider co-operative movement; organisations involved in community economic regeneration; the Financial Services Authority; universities and their research departments; colleges of adult and further education; Central, National and Regional government; and credit union movements in other countries.
For many years, NACUW was the primary provider of training, consultancy and development services in the UK credit union sector, but much has changed since it was founded. Almost everyone in the UK now has access to a credit union, sometimes more than one. Many other sources of training have emerged, including trainers trained by NACUW in the early day, and credit unions themselves have become better equipped to provide in-house training an mentoring as their employees' and volunteers' experience has developed. There is generally less need for external training than there once was, although there remain some unfilled gaps.
NACUW was instrumental in helping to set up many of the credit unions throughout the UK, but their basic sevices at least (as savings and loans co-opratives) are now almost universally available. During the past quarter century, credit union members' expectations have changed greatly, driven to a great extent by technological development and the growing diversity of lending services available, many of which are well-sourced and advertised prominently. Despite the overwhelming advantages credit unions offer over profit-driven lenders, especially the far lower cost of borrowing, those advantages are often far from obvious to those who most need their services.
In many cases, smaller credit unions have been absorbed by larger and stronger neighbours - often their only option to maintain service provision for those who most need it - and such "mergers" have been driven by many factors. Consequently the number of credit unions has been shrinking, their average size has been growing and and the factors separating larger urban credit unions from their smaller more rural cousins have sometimes been increasing in significance.
Largely as a consequence of these many changes, some of the needs met by NACUW in the past have become less important. Although NACUW is currently still providing training and consultancy services at this time, few if any new credit unions are being formed and those which have been established for a long time now have many options to meet their training needs.
Despite being the only professional association for credit union workers throughout Britain, NACUW has seen a need to re-evaluate its roles. Although we believe the need for employees' representation to be stronger than ever, perhaps such representation can be met through other organizations. Therefore NACUW is currently undertaking a consulation with credit union employees and volunteers to determine what their current needs actually are and whether NACUW is still best able to meet those needs.