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Date: April 2019

By: Seanique Reuben

Bristol Credit Union secures £500k to provide accessible alternative finance for those on the lowest incomes

Bristol Credit Union (BCU) has won £500k in investment from Bristol City Council (BCC). The innovative investment will help the credit union to triple in size over the next 5 years through investment in growth, including  providing affordable loans, creating jobs in the local ethical finance sector and enabling outreach workers in the most deprived wards in Bristol

Bristol Credit Union is a locally based, locally funded ethical institution which provides accessible alternative sources of finance to people who struggle to gain access to financial products such as; bank accounts, savings accounts and affordable credit. BCU will use the investment to build a new online platform and to further develop its face-to-face service in high priority and disadvantaged wards, and to provide more loans to people who may otherwise borrow from high cost lenders. The investment will also allow for more signposting to money services for those struggling with debt.

James Berry, Chief Executive of Bristol Credit Union, said:

“This investment by Bristol City Council is a recognition of the critical role that Bristol Credit Union plays in the lives of so many, and the scope we’ve got to be able to do even more. The credit union is 20 years old in July, and this investment – the first of its kind – is a reward for the hard work that so many have put in over the years in making a difference for people in all parts of Bristol and the surrounding area. Working with Bristol & Bath Regional Capital meant we were able to benefit from the expertise of a partner which understands that social impact is as important as financial returns and there’s a real alignment between their local focus and our own in delivering community, mutual banking.”

The BCC investment forms one part of a broader fundraising effort, with a charitable trust having already committed in principle to £350k, and plans for further sums from smaller institutions and from individuals.

The £500k investment into local communities would not have been possible without the support of Bristol & Bath Regional Capital CIC (BBRC), a Bristol-based impact investor. BBRC’s expertise ensured that the credit union could access investment from the local authority, and helped BCU to design an investment that will create social impact for Bristol, as well as provide a financial return.

Edward Rowberry, Chief Executive of BBRC, said:

“We were incredibly proud to work with Bristol Credit Union to help secure a strategic investment into the next stage of their growth.  Credit Unions are an essential part of a resilient local economy, playing an essential role in the provision of finance across society. Bristol Credit Union has demonstrated a strong track record of delivery over the past 20 years and has had a huge impact on economic inclusion in the region. Congratulations to James and the team for securing this investment and for their continued good work.”

The investment by the Council in BCU was particularly attractive because of the multiple ways it will be help benefit local residents. Not only will it allow for more loans to be delivered to prevent financial problems worsening, it will support BCU’s ability to provide homelessness rent accounts to help Universal Credit recipients to manage better. It will also boost the local economy via loans to social enterprises and local businesses. The diversity and scale of issues BCU is working to address makes this investment a significant development for the Bristol economy as a whole.

Deputy Mayor Councillor Craig Cheney said:

“We are delighted to be able to support the Bristol Credit Union to continue their excellent work to help people across the city get access to credit at a fair level of interest. The investment will allow the credit union to expand and grow providing an increased number of low cost loans for people in Bristol, as well as creating extra jobs. Their vital work includes loans to help people to remain in their own homes and avoid the threat of homelessness, something that remains a top priority for this council.”