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Bristol Credit Union celebrates 20 years of providing local, ethical saving and borrowing in the community


Local community bank and FEN member Bristol Credit Union celebrated their 20th birthday last month with a look back at some of their achievements.


Now based in Stokes Croft the credit union was registered on 15th July 1999 and was started by volunteers in Bristol to provide services for people who couldn’t access bank accounts or borrow on the high street. Since then Bristol Credit Union have made over £30 million of affordable loans, saving borrowers up to £17.4 million in interest compared to alternative, often high cost, lenders.


Thousands of people have developed a saving habit, collectively saving nearly £7.5m and with over 14,000 members the credit union is the biggest in the South West and one of the largest in the whole country.


James Berry, Chief Executive, said “It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come over the last 20 years by focussing on serving our members and our local communities instead of maximising profit at all costs. Some of the first volunteers are still around today, and I’m so pleased for them that their efforts have produced such a great local success story.”


The credit union now serves the whole of the former Avon county and Berry continued: “With nearly 700 local businesses, community groups and co-operatives as members we’re now able to put even more back into our local area and do more good stuff like helping over 1,200 children save in their schools with our Money Munchers saving club. We’ve developed to serve people of every background and circumstance, and our lending is now seen by many as a genuine alternative to the high street banks that keeps all the interest paid supporting our local area.”


To mark the celebrations BCU had a month of #20GoodThings, sharing and doing good around the Bristol and Bath area, including sharing examples of where they are greening up our local communities. For instance, since installing solar panels on the roof of BCU’s offices in late 2018, they have saved 2,581kg of CO2, the equivalent of planting 8.63 trees. BCU also offer low-cost solar loans to help our members spread the cost of installing solar panels and reduce their carbon footprints. They work hard on their recycling programmes, actively encourage car-free travel to work, and have recently signed up to the Climate Perks scheme, to encourage staff to choose low-carbon holiday travel through gifting extra paid holiday for those using public transport to travel to a holiday destination.


Looking forward, Bristol Credit Union have secured significant investment for their future growth, with a £500k investment from Bristol City Council, and a further £475k of investments from charitable foundations and co-op lenders. These investments will allow BCU to triple in size over the next five years, helping them to increase their presence in local communities around Bristol, improve their online user experience and increase the number of affordable loans they can make to people who need to borrow and want to choose a local, ethical, mutual service.


Berry finishes “With our ambitious but realistic plans for growth which our investors have shown their confidence in by backing us we are looking forward to doing good with money for the next 20 years too – we can’t wait to work with many thousands more local people and businesses.”


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