Bristol Credit Union celebrates 20th birthday with ambitious growth plan

Bristol Credit Union is celebrating 20 successful years of serving a growing community by embarking on an ambitious plan for further expansion and improvement.

Money-Go-Round, which later became Bristol Credit Union, was registered in 1999 by volunteers in east Bristol to offer services to people who did not have bank accounts and could not access affordable loans.

Following mergers with other credit unions, Bristol Credit Union now serves the whole of the former Avon county. With over 14,000 members, it claims to be the biggest in the south west region and one of the largest in the UK. It now hopes to triple in size over the next five years, thanks to loans and investment from Co-op Loan Fund, Bristol City Council and charitable foundations.

Chief executive James Berry says this will help increase its presence in local communities around Bristol, improve its online user experience and increase the number of affordable loans it can make.

Over the last 20 years, the credit union has provided over £30m of affordable loans, saving up to £17.4m in interest compared to alternative, often high-cost, lenders. And thousands of local people have developed a saving habit, collectively saving nearly £7.5m.

James Berry said: “It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come over the last 20 years by focusing on serving our members and local communities instead of maximising profit at all costs. Some of the first volunteers are still around today, and I’m so pleased for them that their efforts have produced such a great local success story.

“With nearly 700 local businesses, community groups and co-operatives as members, we’re now able to put even more back into our local area and do more good stuff like helping over 1,200 children save in their schools with our Money Munchers saving club.

“With our ambitious but realistic plans for growth – which our investors have shown their confidence in by backing us – we are looking forward to doing good with money for the next 20 years.”

The loan from Co-op Loan Fund will be used to enable investment in IT and marketing, and to support the capital/asset ratio through a period of growth.

Ian Rothwell of Co-operative & Community Finance, which manages Co-op Loan Fund, said: “Co-op Loan Fund is a strong supporter of the credit union movement and has lent to a number of credit unions in the past, including Bristol. We are very pleased to provide finance for the next stage in the growth of this exemplary credit union.”