Part of a series of interviews with Bristol Credit Union's Board Members
It’s another chance to get to know our Board of Directors. Today, we’re pleased to welcome Denis Lindsay as one of our newer Board Members, who joined in December 2019.
Denis, who says that his home is like living in an episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, has been living in Bristol for over 26 years ago with his wife, two children and a nephew who has been living with them for over 10 years. His nephew is the “Will” character, even though his son would like to believe that he is Will.
With his own IT consultancy, he joins the board as a technology and digital transformation expert with extensive experience of working on multinational programmes. He is also a partner in Cambridge Management Consulting, which is a specialist management consultancy with an emphasis on digital transformation. He is also a member of their Senior Leadership Team.
Denis is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and is a Board Member of their CMI South West Regional Board and brings experience from voluntary non-executive roles, including with St Paul’s Carnival, as Chair of School governors and a Non-Executive Board member of a technology start-up.
Find out more about Denis, how he wants to extend Bristol Credit Union’s reach and is inspired by BCU’s reaction to the financial fallout of the Covid-19 crisis.
What is your definition or interpretation of credit unions?
My way of answering this question is to say why I wanted to get involved. My parents are from the Caribbean - Jamaica and Guyana. In the days before they came over to the UK, the Caribbean did not have a well-structured banking system for the majority of the citizens that lived in the region. Therefore, communities set up savings clubs so that they could put money away safely. What we now call the Windrush Generation brought this ‘pardner’ system to the UK. When they arrived here, it was difficult to access banking services, so these savings clubs enabled them to save up for larger purchases, such as cars and houses. I think of ethical banking as an extension of this. Credit unions, like BCU, are there to help those who can’t access traditional banking.
Why were you motivated to join Bristol Credit Union as a board member?
I feel I have lots of experience to share from my varied professional life and also from serving at board level. I joined St Paul’s Carnival Committee when it needed to reconstitute a new governing body. After two successful, award-winning carnivals, I stepped down in 2019. But I wanted to continue to give back to the community. I had just returned from holiday and saw a programme on the BBC, “A Matter of Life and Debt”, which motivated me to get involved with Bristol Credit Union.
What is your role at BCU?
I’m a Non-Executive on the Board and assist with the monitoring and implementation of strategy. I’m also on the People’s Committee, which I first attended in July.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
I joined in December, and then in January things started to look worrying in China with the Coronavirus outbreak. I was away in New Orleans, and when I returned, the world seemed very different.
The most rewarding part is how we reacted to the pandemic. As Martin Luther King states:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Immediately, BCU looked for ways to help its members with the particular financial difficulties from Covid-19 and extend beyond it as well as assisting those working for the NHS. In a crisis, we are not insular but outward-looking. In fact, the team got energised to expand the reach of the organisation to help even more people. In the future, I would like to get involved here to use my network to broaden membership to more communities.
As a board member, what do you bring that benefits BCU?
I’m a seasoned Non-Executive Director and a member of IoD with varied experience in terms of community engagement. I also bring my experience as a digital transformation consultant which is an important area for BCU at the moment. I’m keen to use my skills to help the organisation digitise and expand reach in the future.
I also have a strong network in Bristol community settings and can help to bring BCU to the frontline.
What do you feel its role is for the city and the wider region? How would you like the impact to be recognised?
Before getting involved, I knew broadly what BCU was all about but I feel that there is the potential for it to be more embedded in the community, such as at the St Pauls Learning Centre. It would be great for more people to know about this wonderful organisation and how it can help the community.
It would also be a positive step to work with the city of Bristol to bring greater diversity to the board and management teams and create partnerships to maximise and widen the benefits that BCU offers. I would also like to help BCU develop further partnerships and mutual strengthening opportunities, such as with Bristol City Council and SW Fintech partnership.
What is your message to the public about BCU?
Here is an organisation owned by its members and not beholden to shareholders or motivated by self-interest. We replace self-interest with interest in our membership and the community of Bristol. We’re here to serve you - come and join us!
What is the impact and importance of alternative finance? What can it do that other means of finance cannot?
Based on my experience of growing up on a council estate in Newport, South Wales, accessible financial services are not available for many. Alternative finance is a beneficial option to keep communities safe from loan sharks. Ethical banking protects their members and offers them access to financial support that they would not get otherwise. I can’t overstate how valuable it is.
What do you think the future holds for credit unions as a whole?
We need credit unions more than ever before. For a brighter future, we need to organise ourselves by capitalising on new technologies while also reaching into the community.
What would you like BCU to do next? And how would you like the city of Bristol to help?
I would like BCU to continue with its good work, but also broaden capability and reach in a sustainable, safe and secure way so that we can help people even more.
Interested in getting involved at BCU? You can find out more about volunteering opportunities here.