Thursday 15th Oct, 2020

Credit Union passes milestone

It's International Credit Union Day !

International Credit Union (ICU) Day® celebrates the spirit of the global credit union movement. The day is recognized to reflect upon the credit union movement's history, promote its achievements, recognize hard work and share member experiences. 

That's why today, those who have been here since the beginning of First Rate Credit Union have pulled together our history, recognising our roots and celebrating the major threshold that takes us to being a £15,000,000 large asset Credit Union. 

Time to Celebrate

We are delighted to have received the tremendous news that our First Rate Credit Union (FRCU) has now achieved Category 5 Plus status.

This means we are recognised as a “UK Large Credit Union”, having amassed over £15 million pounds of assets.

For our members that have been following our progress, at our Annual General Meetings, you will recall that the Board Of Directors was aiming to reach the CAT5 Plus milestone this year, and this represents an extraordinary achievement.

To receive the news in June, was also very poignant, as it has been achieved almost 38 years to the month, since we formed and in 1982 becoming the 60th Credit Union in the UK.

The Pioneers

To help us recall the history and events leading up to this, we are very fortunate that we still have two of the founder members, John Geraghty and Les Walker together with one volunteer, Joe Taylor, who have been with the Credit Union since the start. John and les recalled that after reading an article in a Sunday paper they both were keen to find out more, so John agreed to contact the League of Credit Unions (now the Association Of British Credit Unions Ltd- ABCUL) to see which one employees at British Aerospace could join.

John was informed that there wasn’t one to join, but the staff at the league went on to suggest John and Les could start one themselves and 38 years later their decision to go ahead has stood the test/s of time and has surpassed their expectations.

To capture the history of the FRCU John, Les and Joe have recently embarked on documenting our 38-year journey, recalling their memories and stories from “back in the day”.

If you were joining as a member 1982 it was a pretty simple affair, firstly there was no IT!!, you simply received a paying in book or “Members Passcard”, and recorded your transaction history. You can see from the pictures, details were entered by hand and signed off by an authorised officer of the Credit Union.

John Geraghty has kindly provided his Passcard from 1982 to give you an idea of its layout



Life before technology

Joe recalls, to attract new members, we first had to

  • Convince people by word of mouth to start to save with us first.
  • Next we had to explain the Credit Union concept that for every £ saved a member would have a “share” in the Credit Union business.
  • Once members had saved you could then borrow, and to build our capital, we would encourage members to save a little, with their loan repayments. This in turn would build up their savings which could be used as capital to support further borrowing for all our members.

Volunteers would arrange to collect member’s payments, during the weekly payday, when employees were paid in cash typically at lunchtime. Once payments were made the treasurer would then update a member’s ledger sheet to reflect the distribution to either savings or loan / interest payments.

Finally all member’s shares – savings, would attract a dividend (the profit we make - minus expenses) that would be paid back to our savers at the end of each financial year.

Our Annual Accounts

Delving further into our archives we found our first year accounts, which makes great reading. First registered as BRITISH AEROSPACE EMPLOYESS CREDIT UNION LIMITED (WARTON DIVISION),




·         Approx. 21 Members, at the starting 6 months’ point.

·         Our income was just £71.05

·         Our expenses were £282.21 which included our formation fees of £180

·         We made a loss of £211.24, the only time in our history this has been recorded !!



Even more remarkable was the fact that although we started out with 21 members, then grew very slowly during 1982/83 we had registered approx. 70 members.

If we fast forward 38 years and look at the 2018/2019 accounts, our annual accounts show we were just shy of the £15 million pounds’ assets milestone and we have now >4000 members, simply staggering!!




·         4000 employee members.

·         Savings and loans made possible using Payroll deduction, direct to your account.

·         Accounts accessible via secure internet or through your mobile phone

·         Exciting new use of digital technology, as we strive to provide our services at your fingertips.



Building on our past - grasping the future opportunities

Reflecting the achievement Martin Newton our Chair commented, “we have come a long way in the 38 years, since we started our Credit Union and it’s a huge testament to the hard work and dedication of all our operations staff, our volunteers (past and present) to get us to this point”.

The CAT 5 Large Credit Union status is truly justified and many opportunities to further grow our Credit Union for all UK based employees will become our focus in the next few years. Martin reflected on the fact that the recent pandemic experience has enabled us to focus on providing our members with access to mobile banking and we have accelerated our roll out of mobile services under a banner headline of “Drive to Digital”. We believe that this mobile banking capability will become the norm for the future, but we will also be mindful that we may need to supplement this with centralised office capability serving the whole of our many UK locations.

UK Credit Unions such as ours are now considered to be a real alternative to major banks, we can offer employers such as BAE SYSTEMS a means to improve financial awareness amongst its employees. As safe, secure and responsible lenders the FRCU can provide a route to addressing financial wellbeing. The FRCU Leadership team will be collaborating with senior lenders within BAE Systems to explore how we can continue to grow within the company. To see what he art of the possible may look like the Boeing Employees Credit Union was created in 1935 and now has 1.2 million members and more than $22.2 billion in assets.



In total the UK Credit Union status stands at (Source ABCUL)

  • Around 280 credit unions across England, Scotland and Wales employing more than 1,700 staff
  • 1,434,492 people using credit unions, including 129,591 junior depositors
  • Total assets of £1.78 billion
  • Total loans of £1.1 billion
  • Total deposits of £1.510 billion
  • Annual turnover of £134 million (year to December 2019

The Government can now see a huge opportunity for Credit Unions to fill the void left by elimination of extortionate pay day lenders in offering a competitive service with a very competitive savings and loan interest rates.

Did you Know.

The Duchess of Cornwall is the patron of the UK Credit Union movement; you can see more by following this link to YouTube - https://youtu.be/KhRWudNbTmg

Charting our history

To chart the complete history of your Credit Union, in one article, would be impossible, so we look forward to further articles from John, Les and Joe as they continue to document our history and for us to share this with all our members.

If you have a story or a memory of the FRCU, that you would like to share with John, Les or Joe, please email Joe at joe.taylor@firstratecu.co.uk


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