The Owl Effect
How are you feeling a year on?
Well here we are a year on from the start of the pandemic and, I don’t know about you, but I am beginning to feel there is a light at then end of this tunnel. Everyone I speak to has mixed emotions of excitement and caution.
Excitement because we have not been so close to being able to meet up with friends and family, get back to work or go on holiday. Cautious because it has been some time since we felt able to go about our daily business the precautions of masks, social distancing and hand sanitising.
Still open for business
We are proud that we have never had to close for business in the last year. Our branch may have had shorter opening hours, but use of our online services has more than doubled. Over 4,000 of our members manage their Hoot account via the App or member area. Members have had uninterrupted service during this time and we have had over 1,000 new members join us.
Are you suffering financially?
Sadly, many members have suffered financially during the year and have fallen behind with loan repayments. For those who have contacted us, we have been able to find a way to help them get through this difficult period. It may be just a short-term thing that we can help with; or if something more serious where we can point you in the right direction. If you find you have fallen behind, please don’t ignore it contact us; I am sure we can find a way to help.
Credit unions value their members and are here to help so we dislike taking any kind of action with regard to people who cannot pay their loan. The money you have borrowed comes from the savings pot of other members. We therefore have a responsibility to help you to pay us back. You should remember that, if you do not repay your loan, your credit rating will be affected and you may find it harder to get credit in the future.
Don’t ignore it
If you find you are getting overwhelmed with debt don’t be tempted to go to a debt management company or dive straight into an IVA without getting free advice first. Not doing this may cost you dearly and you could end of paying more to the DMC in fees than you are paying to reduce your debt. Contact an organisation that gives free advice such as Stepchange or Payplan who can help you to get the best solution for you, because they are not taking a fee.
Our help pages have lots of information about managing your money including contact numbers.
Finally, money worries are one of the biggest causes of stress. Make an appointment with your GP or go online to www.nhs.uk and type ‘money worries’ into the search box for advice Often just talking to someone about your worries helps a lot.
Did you know younger adults are more susceptible to financial scams?
I was very surprised to learn this week that 16% of 18 to 24 year olds surveyed by the Financial Conduct Authority’s Financial Lives survey had paid money out to a Covid-19 scam. This compares to just 1% of over 55s.
There are a lot of scams out there and it is upsetting to know that someone will always try to profit from others misfortune. The most common have been offering financial support, charging for the Test and Trace service or offering six months of free TV license. According to the FCA, 1.4 million people say they have paid money out as a result of a Covid scam. And, as you might expect, the most vulnerable of our society have been the worst hit.
I have put together some of the more common scams on our website Hoot Credit Union | Scams
To read the FCA Financial Lives survey 2020 go to Financial Lives 2020 survey: the impact of coronavirus
The key to protecting yourself against scams is to check thoroughly who you are dealing with, never give out personal information unless you are absolutely sure, and remember, if it’s too good to be true- it probably is.
Did you ever wonder why we call you members and not customers?
It’s because when you open an account with Hoot you are joining a special kind of business. We are a co-operative, which means that our account holders – members- own the business. This is not just a shareholding, it is an real stake in the business that provides the services you need.
As a member you get to share in success in the form of a dividend or share of the profit. You also get to elect your representatives, the Board of Directors, who are all members just like you. The Board is responsible for the strategic direction of the credit union, make sure it is managed well and that members interests remain at the heart of what we do.
This is how it works:
Hoot is a co-operative, community business offering ethical and affordable financial products to our members.
The money saved by members is pooled together and used to offer low interest loans. This is how we can offer an alternative source of credit at a fair rate of interest.
Members are encouraged to save for the future and in return, they receive affordable credit and access to low cost loans.
The interest received on the loans pays for the administration of the credit union with any surplus being put into reserves and, when possible, paid back to the members in the form of a dividend.
For this reason both savers and borrowers are essential to a successful credit union. Members know that by saving with Hoot they are benefiting other people in the community or workplace.
Have your say
We have a couple of Annual General Meetings coming up. Firstly the meeting to review the year to September 2019. This has been delayed because of Covid-19 (what hasn’t!). So this will happen online on Wednesday 27 January at 5pm. All members are invited to attend, find out about how well we are doing and elect your representatives on the Board.
If you have not already booked you can do so here.
News of the AGM for the year to September 2020 will be sent to all our members in March.
Finally, if you want to learn more about how being a member of Hoot benefits you and the community, download our social value report – The Owl Effect.
Over the past year, in the most difficult of times, Hoot staff have worked very hard to make sure service is not interrupted and members receive the best possible service.
Why wouldn’t anyone be proud of being part of such a community led organisation?
It’s hard to believe that it has been three months since the effects of lockdown started to bite.
Here at Hoot we are still busy supporting members and welcoming new members with both savings accounts and loans.
Many members have moved to online services and manage their account via the member area or the App, but we have managed to keep our branch open throughout the crisis. We have been putting into place new options for the small number of members who struggle to access us online and you should be hearing about some of those soon.
We still have some staff working from home, but that does not mean we have reduced our customer service options and we continue to take membership and loan applications. We are also looking at what our service options will look like post-Covid and exploring new ways that our members can reap the benefits of Hoot membership.
What about the next three months?
We don’t anticipate that our services will change in the immediate future and we will continue to support members with particular access needs as much as we can.
Time to start saving
Dare I say it, but only six months to Christmas so, now is the time to think about building up your savings pot. Whether it’s school uniforms, Christmas or the long awaited holiday next year, it’s think about the big ticket items in the next twelve months and work out what you can afford to save to help meet the costs.
Contact us via the App or at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how much you want to save and we will help you to achieve your goal.
30 years of credit unions in Bolton
July marks a huge milestone as credit unions will have been around in Bolton since 1990. Starting in Johnson Fold, then opening other credit unions in places like Breightmet, Hoot Credit Union has 5,500 members with savings of almost £1.8m.
Our plans for celebration have been curtailed because of the pandemic, but we will still mark the occasion in July with online activities and social media. Keep an eye out for this on Facebook www.facebook.com/hootcu , Instagram hootcreditunion or Twitter @hootcreditunion.
If you want to know how credit unions are about people helping people take a look at our FAQs
We will continue to support our members and hope you will continue to support us in providing affordable and ethical financial services.
Well we’re into week four of lock-down now, I hope you are all keeping safe and well.
I wanted to remind you, as a member-owner of Hoot, that we’re always here to serve you as best we can. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support of the credit union, in what is a challenging and rapidly changing situation.
At Hoot we’re working with you, our members, to talk about what support we can offer at this difficult time.
You may have heard about a government scheme that offers three-month loan repayment holidays; however you should be aware that this does not apply to credit unions.
Hoot does not have access to any government funding.
Despite this we remain committed to helping our members where we can, but we need your support to achieve it.
How you can help us
Before contacting us please check out what other help is available; you can get some ideas here.
After you have looked at other options for assistance, if you still find yourself struggling because of a drop in your household income then do talk to us.
Please do not ask for payment breaks ‘just in case’. Only ask for assistance when you actually need it, and for no longer than needed.
How we will help you
At Hoot we’re committed to working with you, our members.
We might need you to answer a few questions online first, to allow us to assess your situation and figure out how we might best help. Once you’ve answered those questions we will contact you to discuss your options.
Please be aware that we can only agree to a repayment holiday if you can prove financial hardship, and you agree to keep a conversation going with us.
Please do not assume that you will automatically get a payment holiday. We need to assess your situation first.
We’re there for you
You know that at Hoot we’ve been there for you when you’ve needed an affordable loan, or when you’ve wanted to save for your future. We are still there for you; providing loans to those that need them, and supporting the most vulnerable members of our community.
Your money is always safe with us.
And for Hoot to be here in the future we need your ongoing support; we need as many of you to continue to save and to repay your loans.
I’d like to thank you once again for your support and understanding during this difficult time; we’ll get through it together. Please keep yourself and others safe.