The venture – launched on International Credit Union day – comes in response to fears that military life can make it harder for service families to access financial services and to build a strong credit rating, and have been forced to turn to predatory payday lenders.

Dubbed ‘Joining Forces’, the credit union is an alliance of some of the UK’s most successful existing credit unions, including London Mutual, the Police Credit Union, and PlaneSaver, which already serves those employed in the airline industry. The service will provide savings accounts and loans to active and retired service personnel and their families, and the ability to save or repay loans via payroll deduction.

It follows a successful 2-year campaign by the Co-operative Party, and its Chair, Gareth Thomas MP, to convince the MoD to establish an armed forces credit union. Their efforts were inspired by Navy Federal, which serves US forces personnel. Navy Federal is the World’s largest credit union, with over $70bn in assets, and nearly 5.7 million members.

Commenting on the launch, Gareth Thomas MP said:

“Today’s launch of Joining Forces is a huge step forward. I’m pleased that after our two-year long campaign, the Ministry of Defence has finally accepted the need for a credit union catering to the specific needs of armed forces personnel and their families, many of whom find it hard to secure services via ordinary high street banks. Particular thanks must go to the three credit unions who have worked together to deliver this new service and to take it forward.

I and my colleagues in the Co-operative Party will continue to champion the continued growth of the vital credit union sector, working to ensure that everyone is able to access affordable, fair and ethical financial services at the heart of their community.”