It has now been 15 months since Rothersave Credit Union merged with Sheffield Credit Union.
In this 3 part Q&A session, we catch up with 3 of the people involved in the merger, to hear their thoughts on how the merge went, and whether there will be long lasting benefits for the members of the combined, larger credit union.
We started by speaking with Jackie Hallewell, CEO of Sheffield Credit Union. Jackie has worked for Sheffield Credit Union for over 7 years, initially as the Finance Manager, before taking on the role of Chief Executive Officer 5 years ago.
Q: How did the idea of a merger come about?
A: We were approached in late 2015 by the directors of Rothersave Credit Union, and asked whether it was something we would consider. When we looked into the proposal further we felt that the merger could be highly beneficial to the members of both Rothersave Credit Union and Sheffield Credit Union.
Q: Did you have any experience of merging two credit unions?
A: Prior to this, Sheffield Credit Union hadn’t merged with any other credit unions for at least 10 years. There were a few board members and at least one member of the staff team who had experience of merging, but on a much smaller scale than we were attempting.
The more we considered it though, the more we felt it was a good fit, and that both credit unions would bring certain strengths and ways of doing things that would be of benefit to the merged credit union.
Q: In the last couple of years there has been a huge increase in the volume and complexity of regulations which credit unions are required to abide by. Is this easier to deal with as a larger organisation?
A: Yes definitely. One of the reasons why we were approached by the directors of Rothersave was that they felt the new regulation was too much of a burden on the small staff team they had.
When you have 3 staff members it is nearly impossible to keep up with all the change. There have been certain cost savings that the merge has enabled – things like only needing one IT support contract, one finance function etc. These efficiency savings have enabled us to strengthen other areas of the business – like recruiting a Compliance Officer to keep us up to date with all the regulatory changes.
Q: What did you feel were the biggest challenges of merging the two organisations?
A: It’s always a challenge to ensure that two separate systems and ways of working become synthesised, so that the staff team across both offices are working in a compatible way and feel part of the whole organisation. Ensuring that all staff members understood the changes involved a lot of training and discussions, but this has made a big difference to how the larger organisation is operating.
It’s also been difficult to reassure members that the Rotherham office will not be closing and that Sheffield will not totally dictate how their services will be received. Rotherham based members will be listened to in the same way as Sheffield members – we are a member owned organisation. We welcome feedback from all members, and would love to hear more from members so that we can answer their concerns and consider their suggestions against the regulatory requirements that we have to fulfil as a financial organisation.
Q: What do you feel have been the main benefits to the members in Rotherham and Sheffield?
A: Rotherham members have an office they can call on Thursdays and Saturday mornings, where they did not have this before, and have access to a much more responsive and useful online services portal on the website. They have an extended range of services, with more savings and loans products, and the additional budgeting account product.
Sheffield members have benefited from having a second office that they can go to in Rotherham, which is generally quieter and less formal, ideal for having a chat about their options, needs or ideas.
All members also have the reassurance of knowing that a larger organisation is able to offer them more products and services, and if they are willing to spread the word further, the credit union will continue to grow and introduce further products and services for its members.