Louise brings vast experience to BCU, having worked in financial services for over 15 years.
Our dedicated Board of Directors is a fundamental part of the team here at Bristol Credit Union (BCU), and we are endlessly grateful to them for offering their expertise and time for free. Last year, we announced four new members to the Board and we thought it was the perfect time for you to get to know them better.
This interview is with one of our newer members, Louise Eaton-Terry, who joined in October 2019. Louise brings vast experience to BCU, having worked in financial services for over 15 years. Currently, she works for a large mutual life and pensions provider, where she is responsible for developing life insurance and funeral planning products. A well-published expert on funeral poverty, Louise actively campaigns and lobbies the Government on the issue of funeral costs and their impact on society.
What is your definition of credit unions?
Credit unions are not-for-profit organisations that provide affordable savings and loans as well as promoting financial wellbeing in their communities. They are member-owned, and as such, there are no shareholders with all profits benefiting members through improved products and services or dividends.
Above all, for me, they play a crucial role in building financial inclusion and promoting financial capability and resilience.
Why were you motivated to join Bristol Credit Union (BCU)’s Board?
I was very keen to contribute to Bristol, which has been my home for over 25 years. But most of the volunteering opportunities I spotted were near my work in London. So I was thrilled when somebody suggested BCU.
BCU plays a vital role in increasing financial inclusion to often vulnerable people who are overlooked by the traditional financial sector. It improves the financial resilience of our members and reduces the burden on an underfunded local and national welfare system. I’m passionate about the importance of increasing access to finance and financial inclusion and felt that BCU was the perfect fit for my skills and experience.
What do your responsibilities include?
The role of the board and its directors is to oversee the running of the organisation to ensure that it is on track to deliver its business objectives and regulatory obligations. We also ensure the credit union is financially sustainable so that it can continue to offer great value products and services to its members.
Every month, we meet to review business performance and progress with key initiatives as well as developing long term plans. Of course, we’ve been meeting virtually at the moment.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
I’m still learning lots about the organisation, and I am enjoying being part of a business which has its members at the heart of what it does. It has been incredibly rewarding to see how quickly and effectively the team reacted to the Covid-19 crisis. We were able to continue to offer our vital services, as well as identifying evolving needs to provide additional support to those struggling to meet repayments. I’m also proud that BCU introduced interest-free loans to NHS staff.
What skills do you bring to the BCU?
I bring experience in the development and delivery of product and business strategies in a regulatory environment, as well as a passion for consumer advocacy and making a positive social impact. Coupled with my enthusiasm, I hope this will stand me in good stead to help steer the organisation through the exciting period of growth that we’re entering.
What’s the impact and importance of alternative finance now?
Alternative finance plays a critical role in providing access to equitable and affordable products to vulnerable people excluded from mainstream sources of finance. This promotes financial inclusion and offers additional support for often marginalised groups to increase their financial capability and resilience.
Beyond this, the not-for-profit banking model provides a credible alternative for the increasing number of savvy, but socially conscious consumers, looking for ethical sources of financial products.
I’m optimistic for the future of credit unions as non-traditional attitudes to finance are increasing, and the importance of the social credentials of providers are becoming more critical to consumers. The credit union model can strike the right balance between fair and competitive products and ethical values which aligns well with this growing trend. I hope this will enable scaling up in more affluent segments to ensure the sustainability of the services and benefits credit unions offer to lower-income households.
What about the future of BCU?
The future is bright for BCU! There is a potential for growth through typically non-traditional customer segments for the credit union. The digital platform will make the services and experience better for our existing members but also help to expand our reach to new members too and allow us to make further impact in our community. This strategy will better enable us to compete with traditional providers and provide solid foundations to continue to expand our reach by attracting customers who historically may not have thought credit unions were for them.
Finally, what is your message to the public about BCU?
Not to discount us when looking for financial products because the perception is that we only serve the most vulnerable in our community. As a not-for-profit, we do not have shareholders. This allows us to offer fair and competitive products, which also have ethical credentials and contribute to our ability to focus on our social impact objectives. We offer members the opportunity to manage their finances while giving back to the community.
Thanks to Louise for chatting to us and for her continued support as a Board Member. If you would like to find out more about volunteering opportunities or our work, feel free to get in touch.