Portlaoise Credit Union (PCU) reports that it has successfully completed another year serving its members and will hold their 43rd Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Heritage Hotel on Monday, January 28.
The delay in calling the AGM this year is largely due to the new governance requirement by the Central Bank of Ireland (CB) for all Credit Unions to submit audited accounts for each financial year and await their approval before arranging AGM’s. This year’s delay in relation to other years is largely due to the arduous and protracted nature of the Central Bank review of Credit Union’s audited accounts and their authorisation process for Credit Union’s to call their AGM’s.
The Central Bank is also of the view that it is appropriate that a Fitness and Probity regime should apply to credit unions. In applying a Fitness and Probity regime to credit unions, the Central Bank’s aim is to improve governance standards at board and management level within the credit union sector by ensuring that individuals who exercise significant influence and control in a credit union are capable, competent and financially sound individuals with the appropriate skills, experience, knowledge and integrity to manage and govern the credit union for the benefit of all stakeholders.
Philip Coonan is PCU board Chairman.
“In order to meet these new regulatory requirements PCU have engaged on a program during 2012 of improving our performance by understanding the needs of our members more clearly. Understanding our member’s needs is the most important element in our strategic planning, leadership development and team building. This member focused approach facilitates the development of custom based programs that meets the identified needs of our members using various approaches to make the services more useful and member friendly. This approach improves strategy, leadership and culture- the fundamentals that drive PCU performance for its members and officers. Whether formulating a strategic plan, creating a leadership development programme or implementing a culture building process PCU board of directors focuses on delivering members needs and engaging the entire management and staff team in the effort to meeting statutory and regulatory requirements,” he said.
In support of this approach the executive board members state that “we are aware of the necessity to focus on the real issues that affects our members, such as, the security of their savings, easy access to their shares when needed, availability of a range of low interest loans without penalty for early repayment, the confidence of knowing a dedicated board of directors, supervisors management and staff are all there in the interest and service of our members, and that we all share a common goal to build a stronger organisational structure where the culture becomes so powerful that it ensures PCU long term continued success”
In order to monitor progress Treasurer, Trudy Nealon said:
“This process focuses on improving the strategic thinking so that strategic decisions are linked to day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month activities. By making sure that the team does not become overwhelmed by trying to do too many disparate things and keeping the strategic plan at the core of the executive management and board activities and conversations, the plan becomes a living part of our credit union, instead of a dusty document on the shelf that is never consulted. Because the planning and control process is built around our credit union and is not a fill-in-the-blanks type of plan, PCU has a sound financial framework that ensures financial security for our members gets more buy-in from stakeholders at all levels”.
The secretary Kieran Brosnan agrees with this approach.
“The common gap here is communication and delegation of actions, if there is no structured focus on the specific (and hopefully limited) action steps that were defined and recorded in the minutes at the last board meeting, so when the next meeting rolls around the same issues will surface again. It is necessary to record clearly the specific measures to be taken ensuring that everyone agrees the scope, impact and desired outcomes”
The board’s Training and Development Officer Tony Mahon is at the centre of the strategic training for board and supervisory officers and he also works closely with the executive management in formulating training and development for management and staff. As a board member and with his background as an educator allows him to connect with the board members and management and guide them to engage in true strategic thinking and he quotes the CB reference to Fitness and Probity and the requirement for continuous training and development.
“Governance standards for credit unions will improve with requirements for individuals in key roles to have knowledge, competencies and skills to carry out their specific functions and this is likely to result in the attraction of more skilled and qualified volunteers to the sector. The expected improvement in governance standards arising from the introduction of a Fitness and Probity regime for credit unions is also likely to offer opportunities for the credit union sector to develop,” he said.
In this regard PCU is pro active in achieving the competencies required by the CB for all officers by working closely with the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) training department and in association with their education partners The University of Ulster (UU) and University Collage Cork (UCC) who provide the certified qualifications for Board Members and Executive Management.
The Chairman wishes to acknowledge the work undertaken by all of our volunteers and states, “an effective governance structure hinges upon the quality of those at board and committee level. A Credit Union that attracts skilled volunteers as part of a structured succession plan will reap the rewards in years to come; our volunteers are the lifeblood of PCU”. On behalf of the board I wish all our members, volunteers, and management and staff a prosperous new year
Chairman Philip Coonan
Vice-Chair Seamus McGrath
Treasurer Trudy Nealon
Secretary Kieran Brosnan
Other board members: Margaret Carroll, Frank Cronin, Clive Davis, Marcella Dowling, Har Fingleton, Tony Mahon, John Meehan and Joe Quigley.
Supervisors current committee: Chairman Patsy Campion, Mary Carmody, Phil Coughlan, Elaine Kelly, and Rita Murphy Kerry.