There is a saying that Britain’s best export is the Co-operative Movement. But I would say that the best kept secret in community finance is Credit Unions – and especially in Britain.

Ask anyone on a typical high street if they if they can name a bank and know what it does. You’ll likely get a 100% accurate response.

But ask the very same people if they can name a Credit Union and what they do – and you’ll do well to get a 50% accurate response.

Yet, the first credit union in Britain began trading in 1964 and there are around 240 credit unions across England, Scotland and Wales – employing more than 1,600 staff. Over two million people use credit unions, including 116,502 junior depositors.

In Ireland, our closest neighbour, North & South there are around 3.6m members or approximately 70% of the population. In the USA, our closest partner, around 50% are members of Credit Unions. But in Great Britain we’ve got approximately 2 million members, roughly 5% of the population.

The credit union movement is global – there are credit unions in 118 countries, with over 375 million members worldwide and growing.

A credit union is a financial co-operative which provides savings, loans and other services to its members. It is owned and controlled by members. Each member has one vote and volunteer directors are elected by the membership. So, the emphasis is always on providing the best service to members – not maximising profits. Credit unions come in all shapes and sizes. One of the many strengths of Credit Unions is that they encourage thrift – so you are encouraged to save as well as pay off your loan.

So let the 2 million of us celebrate International Credit Union Day on 21 October,