Major credit union plans to limit savings accounts to €40,000

Move prompted by cost of putting money on deposit and lack of loan demand

Founded in 1970, HSSCU was originally set up to serve the financial needs of health services staff in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

Founded in 1970, HSSCU was originally set up to serve the financial needs of health services staff in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

 

One of the country’s largest credit unions plans to introduce a maximum limit on savings accounts of €40,000 from July 1st due to the cost of placing money on deposit with banks and a lack of demand for new loans resulting from the Covid-19 lockdown of the economy.

In a letter sent to its members last month, Seán Hosford, chief executive of the Health Services Staffs Credit Union(HSSCU), said: “As you may be aware, members’ savings which are not borrowed by other members are invested in the financial markets to make a return. However, at present, financial institutions are so well funded some are now charging the credit union to hold your savings. This has meant that income from investments has dropped significantly in recent years.”

Mr Hosford added that there is also a regulatory requirement on the credit union to increase its reserves as the level of savings rises, to provide a capital buffer. The Central Bank requires credit unions to maintain 10 per cent of their assets as a minimum reserve.

He also cited the impact of Covid-19 on the Irish economy as a reason for the introduction of the cap. “The recent onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen loan demand reduce and savings increase to the point where we now need to act.”

Mr Hosford said the board of the credit union had “therefore taken the difficult decision” that from the beginning of July, a savings cap of €40,000 would apply for adults and €10,000 for children.

“This will affect less than 2 per cent of our membership and to those valued members, I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause,” he said.

Mr Hosford also stressed in the letter that HSSCU was a “strong, safe and secure credit union”, adding that it looks forward to improving and expanding its services in the future.

The move means that members who have less than €40,000 on deposit with HSSCU will not be allowed to go over that amount, while those holding more than that sum with the credit union will have to reduce their balance below that level. They might also have to amend direct debits or payroll deduction instructions.

Amalgamation

Founded in 1970, HSSCU was originally set up to serve the financial needs of health services staff in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow. Its common bond was extended in 2007 to include health-sector staff across Ireland and it has amalgamated with 12 other credit unions in the past decade as part of a wider reorganisation of the sector.

These included a number of credit unions for CIÉ staff and the Law Library. The Dublin-based credit union introduced current accounts for its 30,000-plus members this year, according to its website.

HSSCU is not the first credit union here to put a cap on savings held by members. According to research conducted by The Irish Times last year, at least 36 credit unions across the State have imposed limits on their members. Drumcondra Credit Union in Dublin has imposed one of the lowest limits, telling members that they will have to reduce savings to €15,000. Life Credit Union, with nearly 40,000 members, imposed a limit of €20,000 on savings last year while Kildare Credit Union put a cap of €40,000 in place last year.

Like other credit unions in the country, HSSCU has had to restrict its opening hours as a result of the pandemic.

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