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The credit crunch - Are credit unions able to ride out the storm?

Ryder, Nicholas; Chambers, Clare



Credit unions are financial co-operatives that conduct their business for their members. The principal purpose of a credit union is to receive deposits from and make loans to members. They do not serve the general public. Membership is restricted by a qualification that is referred to as a common bond or field of membership. The origins of credit unions are to be found at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, when Robert Owen established two famous co-operatives in Rochdale and New Lanark.
The most prominent co-operative influenced by his ideas, the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, opened their famous co-operative shop on Toad Lane in 1844. This was an important step in the social and political change that was taking place throughout Europe and of which the people of Rochdale can justifiably claim to be leaders. By 1848, the Co-operative had 140 members and the society’s membership
increased to 390, by 1880 the national membership of consumer societies had reached over 500 000, and
by the turn of the century it had reached 1.5 million. The members of the two co-operatives subscribed
to shares and paid small amounts to raise sufficient funds in order to purchase goods below the market
value and then resell them to the members at a savings. These co-operatives were the result of the ‘growing
complexities of modern economic life for both farmers and workers’. Importantly, the Rochdale Society
of Equitable Pioneers developed a number of principles that have assisted the development of credit
unions. These principles were open membership, the democratic control of the organisation, a limited interest
on share capital and the return on member’s interests being in proportion to the member’s patronage.
These principles illustrate why credit unions are a unique financial co-operative. Under the guidance of
the World Council of Credit Unions, the growth of credit unions has been remarkable. In 2007, there were
49 000 credit unions and 177 000 000 members in 96 countries. The aim of this article is twofold. First, it
aims to illustrate how credit unions are able to grow in times of economic hardship – a situation that is
demonstrated by examining the impact of the ‘Great Depression’ in the United States of America (USA)
and the ‘Credit Crunch’ in the United Kingdom (UK). Second, the article highlights the importance of
deposit protection schemes when credit unions face financial difficulties in the USA, UK and the Republic of
Ireland (Ireland).
Journal of Banking Regulation

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 21, 2009
Journal Journal of Banking Regulation
Print ISSN 1745-6452
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan (part of Springer Nature)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 1
Pages 76-86
APA6 Citation Ryder, N., & Chambers, C. (2009). The credit crunch - Are credit unions able to ride out the storm?. Journal of Banking Regulation, 11(1), 76-86.
Keywords credit unions, credit crunch, United Kingdom, United States of America, Republic of Ireland
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