A regulatory change set to take effect next year could lead to significant gains in membership for credit unions in Great Britain.

Beginning in April 2018, the largest potential membership for any CU with a geographical element to its field of membership will increase from 2 million to 3 million, according to Matt Bland, head of policy and compliance at the Association of British Credit Unions, Ltd.

This change, he told CU Journal via email, “will be particularly helpful to those credit unions already pushing the limit – i.e. in large conurbations like Greater London – or that are particularly large.”

In a statement on ABCUL’s website, Bland added that these changes “may help facilitate helpful consolidation of credit unions where appropriate. Over time it will also enable and facilitate the growth of the largest credit unions where they would otherwise have their expansion curtailed by the [original 2 million] limit.”

Matt Bland, head of policy and compliance at the Association of British Credit Unions, Ltd., seen here during a 2015 presentation.
Matt Bland, head of policy and compliance at the Association of British Credit Unions, Ltd., seen here during a 2015 presentation. Photo courtesy of Twitter/ABCUL

These changes are part of a recent budget announcement from the government, though ABCUL’s initial request dates back to 2014.

Bland told CU Journal trade association continues to work “with HM Treasury, the responsible government department, to put forward further proposals for legislative reform. The key focus here is around the powers credit unions have to develop and provide new and innovative products beyond the core savings and loans proposition.”

Unlike in the United States, credit unions in Britain face significant constraints in regard to the types of products and services they can offer, with many focusing primarily on savings and signature loans. In 2016, a delegation of credit union professionals from Scotland and England spoke with CU Journal about some of the challenges they face and how they’re working to overcome those hurdles.