The UFCU Success Story
The success of the Ulster Federation of Credit Unions (UFCU) clearly demonstrates the enterprise and industry of the Ulster people. A member of the worldwide credit union family, the seeds of the UFCU were sown in 1986. At that time concerned community leaders in South Belfast were conscious of the need to encourage the formation of community enterprises that would help and support the people in their areas.
It was also recognised that there was a need to encourage the formation of community enterprises that would help and support the people in ther areas. They believed that an excellent way to bring benefits to the people was for communities to organise their own credit unions. Up until then although there were well-established credit unions operating in Northern Ireland there were still huge areas in which these credit unions were either unwilling or unable to develop their organisation.
Since little or nothing was known about how to start up let alone run credit unions, it soon became apparent that there were a number of major obstacles to be overcome before there was a credit union movement that would have a distinct Ulster British identity. The National Federation of Credit Unions (NFCU), whose headquarters were then in Bradford, were contacted with a request to organise in Northern Ireland. The Main Board of the NFCU were split down the middle on deciding for and against promoting their federation in Northern Ireland. On the casting vote of the chairman the NFCU agreed to take Northern Ireland on board. The difficulties, however, were only beginning. As there were no NFCU field officers in Northern Ireland enthusiasts had to travel across to Bradford on a regular basis, initially at their own expense, to acquire the knowledge on how to commence and manage credit unions.
However, since the legislation of credit unions in Northern Ireland is different from the rest of the United Kingdom, it meant that an amended set of rules of the NFCU would have to be produced for Northern Ireland. After gaining the expertise and confidence to develop credit unions, and armed with new model rules the task began of encouraging people to start up credit union study groups.
Such credit union study groups has to satisfy the Registrar for Credit Unions, from the Department of Economic Development, that they have the necessary abilities to be registered as a credit union. Shaftesbury, which serves the Donegall Pass, Sandy Row, Donegall Road and Lisburn Road areas of Belfast, became the first registered credit union member of the NFCU (Northern Ireland) in November 1987.
The next stage was to undertake the enormous campaign to form Ulster credit unions throughout the country. Through the sheer hard work and efforts dedicated volunteers who travelled the length and breadth of the land, these new credit unions took off in a very big way. Communities that had been denied credit unions rushed to join and the movement spread like wildfire.
By 1988 the number of credit unions had grown so large it was decided to form the Northern Ireland Regional Association of the NFCU, and its first AGM was held in the Conway Hotel. This growth did not come without its problems. The Association was guided by a Main Board, which was made up from a representative from each member credit union.
However, this structure was now proving to be far too unwieldy. It was therefore decided that zones be set up on a county basis with Belfast being treated as a county. Each zone would elect their own representatives to serve on the Main Board.
The Ulster Federation of Credit Unions then had an even more difficult decision to make. The Association had now become stronger and larger than the rest of the NFCU. In the interest of the Ulster people the Association decided to organise its own body and in 1995 formed the Ulster Federation of Credit Unions (UFCU).
The UFCU goes from strength to strength and in real terms is the fastest growing community enterprise to be found in Europe and it is an achievement that the Ulster British people can be well proud of. Member credit unions can be found from Londonderry to Kilkeel, from Enniskillen to Carrickfergus and all points in between. The headquarters of the UFCU are in Belfast. Dunmurry where the Federation has purchased and refurbished an old building to provide modern and up to date offices from which to administer Ulster Federation of Credit Unions.
REGISTERED OFFICE 218-220 Kingsway, Dunmurry, Belfast BT17 9AE.