Welcome to Gateway Credit Union
Who owns Gateway Credit Union? Our members do!
Unlike the banks, we're owned by our members and believe that everyone should get a fair deal, whether you are well off or struggling financially. Over 4000 local members agree, and more people are choosing us as a safe, ethical home for their money every day.
Credit Unions exist to serve their members and their community and to offer products and services unavailable elsewhere. Members of the Credit Union save regularly and their savings are used to make loans to other members. We charge reasonable interest rates, which cover the core running costs of the Credit Union and pay a small dividend to our savers.
We aim to offer you at least as good a deal as you can get on the high street, but with the friendliness and flexibility that come from being local.
We are here for everyone, in all walks of life. We have members who are on low incomes, perhaps saving a few pounds a week, who choose us because we will lend them a few hundred pounds at a reasonable rate. We also have members with well-paid jobs, saving hefty regular sums, and choosing an ethical home for their money. We have members who come to us to save, and members who come to borrow, aged from birth to 100 and they're all equally welcome.
Gateway Credit Union is run by a volunteer Board, elected at the AGM, and relies on over 30 local volunteers to run the service in local communities. We also employ a team of professional staff to look after the day to day needs of our members. All our staff and volunteers are committed to the continuing success of the credit union and to its business ethics and philosophy. We are supported by the Welsh Government, Monmouthshire and Torfaen Councils and by other local partners who are helping us grow, but we are completely independent and confidential in our operation. Give us a call or send us an email if you would like to get involved. Our latest Annual Report is here
Credit Unions have been around since the 19th Century, and we are part of a worldwide movement. The four principles of the Credit Union movement are:
- The promotion of thrift among its members by the accumulation of their savings.
- The creation of sources of credit for the benefit of its members at fair and reasonable rates of interest.
- The use and control of members savings for the mutual benefit, and;
- The training and education of members in the wise use of money and in the management of their financial affairs.
On the 19th November 1996 the Register of Friendly Societies formally registered the Pontypool and District Credit Union Ltd.
In the Beginning
Where the idea of forming the Credit Union came from is now rather hazy, for the subject had been talked about in a number of places, and by various groups. Eventually it was put on the agenda of a Rectorial Benefice Council of the Church in Wales in Pontypool as a result of asking the question: "What can the church do for the community?" The answer to this question contained a number of suggestions and one was the setting up of a Credit Union. The idea was investigated by inviting a member of the Diocesan Community Development Team to speak to an open meeting of the Rectorial Benefice Council. There was a great deal of suspicion and scepticism but it was still felt worth pursuing and especially to gauge the level of support in the wider community. As a result of this meeting the Benefice Council took it upon itself to form a working party that would look into the implications of a Credit Union, to find the level of interest that might already be in the community, to stimulate some interest and seek some kind of response.
Discovering the Need
When we consider the purposes of a Credit Union, to supply a saving facility and a source of affordable credit, it was plain to see that we were living in an area where it would not only be useful, but that it was needed. It was discovered that many families were spending a large part of their income to pay the expensive interest rates demanded by the doorstep finance companies. Often the rates charged by licensed money lenders worked out far more than the credit cards or the banks. We were seeing the poorer members of the community paying the most for their credit.
The Working Party
This small group took a practical approach and immediately set about contacting as many groups as possible in the area. The use of the local authority voluntary organisation directory was a most useful tool at this stage. All the organisations in the anticipated Common Bond area were notified of a public meeting to which an expert on the Credit Union Movement had been invited as the guest speaker. We were already in contact with the Wales Co-operative Centre in Cardiff, so the Credit Union officer came to Pontypool.
A background to this meeting was a stimulation of interest in the subject by church notices, magazine articles, press releases and talking personally to anybody with a listening ear. The church membership and the local councillors were especially targeted.
From the public meeting the next stage developed naturally. Fifteen people at the meeting expressed an interest and a willingness to train. We saw the formation of the Steering Group. This group was made up of the church and non-church members so it was no longer appropriate for this group to be a sub-committee of the Benefice Council. The working party was dissolved.
There are a number of ways that training can be achieved, and we were fortunate to have the services of the professionals from the Wales Co-operative Centre. This was financed by a grant awarded by the County Council.
The tasks to be completed by the training are common to all Credit Unions, whoever supplies the training. Pontypool Steering Group set about getting a working knowledge of the Credit Union Rule Book, as well as becoming familiar with the practical issues that running a Credit Union entails. Alongside this the many meetings were held to put together the various documents that were needed for registration.
On reflection it seems that we took the long road to achieve our aim, for we met fortnightly over two years. A number of factors caused this, but in the main it was the makeup of the group, and the fact that most members were already busy people.
Eventually the meeting with the representative of the Registry happened, and having been successful we move towards completing registration and opening to the public.
We opened quietly on February 7th 1997.
The story since opening changes every day with every new member who joins us.
Though we have not broken records we have managed to achieve most of the projections contained in the business plan we began with. We have also had the thrill of seeing the benefits of the Credit Union actually being enjoyed by the residents of an area of "social and economic deprivation" (Welsh Office definition).
As we have grown we have made a deliberate effort to market the Credit Union in certain places. As well as the large housing estate, we also attempt to get key figures of the local tertiary college and of the civic centre involved.
Gateway Credit Union stands unique in Wales, as far as we know, because the Church council actually initiated its setting up. The original Board of Directors was made up with a large contingent of church members. The Rector is the Chair and plays an important role in the everyday running of the Credit Union, especially going out and talking to groups, in encouraging new volunteers and allowing the Credit Union to be seen as a part of the church's contribution to the community. Although many of our volunteers are still church folk, we now have volunteers and members of many christian denominations, some from other faiths and many with no religious affiliation.
On the 7th August 2008, at the invitation of North Abergavenny Communities First, we expanded our common bond to include Monmouthshire and became Gateway Credit Union Limited. We opened in the Communities First Resource Centre in Abergavenny, and over the next two years we opened volunteer-run Collection Points in Caldicot, Chepstow, Bulwark and Monmouth. We currently have a presence in most towns in our area, served from the Head Office at 21 Commercial Street, Pontypool, which we now own.
Our products have changed too. From an early emphasis on cash savings, we now accept standing orders, benefits and payroll payments. We became Child Trust Fund and ISA providers, and have moved from lending only to established savers, to lending to new members as well. In 2010 we adopted a new loans policy, based solely on the borrower's ability to repay. Whilst we remain independent, led by volunteers and wholly owned by members, we have earned the trust and support of our partners, Torfaen and Monmouthshire Councils and local Housing Associations, who are confident in promoting Credit Union membership to local people across the income range. We have also received investment from the Department of Work and Pensions and Welsh Government to help us to grow. We are increasingly an online and phone service, especially since the pandemic, which has accelerated our online development, but aim to still provide a personal service, responding to members needs.
Our aim is to become the first choice provider of financial services for people in Torfaen and Monmouthshire. We hope we can be your first choice too.
Your money is 100% safe because Credit Unions in the UK are strictly regulated, plus we are members of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme
Credit Union Regulation
The main Act of Parliament which governs how credit unions operate is the Credit Unions Act 1979. This sets out the objects of a credit union: -
- The promotion of thrift among the members of the society by the accumulation of their savings;
- The creation of sources of credit for the benefit of the members of the society at a fair and reasonable rate of interest;
- The use and control of the members' savings for their mutual benefit;
- The training and education of the members in the wise use of money and in the management of their financial affairs;
The Act states that credit unions must have their accounts audited annually by a qualified auditor and that they must be insured against fraud or theft.
Since July 2002 Gateway Credit Union has been regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (registration number 214010), as are banks and building societies. The performance of each credit union is monitored by the Prudential Regulation Authority and The Financial Conduct Authority and senior staff and volunteers involved in the running of the Gateway Credit Union must be approved by them.
If you have any concerns about how your Credit Union is operated, you are invited to discuss them with staff or a Board or Supervisory member.
The Financial Services Compensation Scheme
We are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
The FSCS can pay compensation to depositors if a credit union is unable to meet its financial obligations. Most depositors, including most individuals and small businesses, are covered by the scheme.
In respect of deposits, an eligible depositor is entitled to claim up to £85,000. For joint accounts each account holder is treated as having a claim in respect of their share so, for a joint account held by two eligible depositors, the maximum amount that could be claimed would be £85,000 each (making a total of £170,000). The £85,000 limit relates to the combined amount in all the eligible depositor's accounts with the credit union, including their share of any joint account, and not to each separate account.
For further information about the scheme (including the amounts covered and eligibility to claim) please ask at your local branch, refer to the FSCS website https://www.fscs.org.uk/ or call 0800 678 1100.
Credit union members also have the option of complaining to the Financial Ombudsman Service, if they don't get satisfaction from their credit union's internal complaints procedure. If you have a complaint, do please get in touch and give us the chance to put things right.
Our principal partner and supporter is the Welsh Government. Since 2000 it has committed to supporting Credit Unions in Wales. For more information go to the Welsh Government site.
We are also fortunate in having the support of local partners in both counties.
Key partnerships include Torfaen County Borough Council (TCBC) and Monmouthshire County Council who allow us to operate from their premises, encourage schools to open savings clubs, promote payroll deduction to their staff and membership to local residents. We continue to take part in Welfare Rights and Financial Inclusion Partnerships in both counties.
We greatly benefit from the support of Melin Homes, Monmouthshire Housing Association, Bron Afon Community Housing and Charter Housing in promoting credit union membership to their tenants, and promoting payroll membership to staff.
We work with Citizens Advice and other advice agencies in both counties. They can help people in financial crises, debt and benefits issues, while we help people manage their finances for the long term.
We also work with a range of community and voluntary organisations across Torfaen and Monmouthshire.
Particular thanks are due to the Methodist Church in Llanyravo, CoStar, Wyesham Play Project, and Cold Barn Farm Community Centre.