Big brother Central Bank calls the shots

BIG Brother was at Portlaoise Credit Union annual general meeting in The Heritage Hotel on Monday night (January 28)--in the form of the Central Bank.

BIG Brother was at Portlaoise Credit Union annual general meeting in The Heritage Hotel on Monday night (January 28)--in the form of the Central Bank.

Not that there seemed to be anything untoward or that the Bank’s presence was obvious. But it called the shots.

Take an example. A speaker from the floor asked why the Credit Union was “so mean” in planning to pay a members’ dividend of only 0.5%.

Whereupon Chairman Philip Coonan explained that the CU Board of Directors no longer had the discretion to decide on a dividend. The figure of 0.5% had been arrived at “through negotiations with the Central Bank,” he stated.

He said the Bank, under new regulations, had powers to set out regulations and a code of fitness and probity for 
Credit Unions.

Directors, or individuals, involved in a Credit Union, had to be “honest, ethical, financially sound and to act with integrity,” Mr Coonan said. And no-one could serve more than four years as a principal officer in 
a CU.

Furthermore, he went on, they had to have the necessary qualifications, skills and experience to perform their duties.

He said Portlaoise CU, to be compliant with the regulations, had to satisfy itself that standards were met by completing a due diligence process.

He was satisfied that the CU was meeting the new standard--and, he promised, it would provide all the necessary training for existing and new volunteers.

Mr Coonan said Portlaoise CU, despite economic challenges, had in 2012 remained 
financially stable and well capitalized, and continued to engage in responsible 
lending practices.

He added: “Success is measured in many ways, none more important than the service afforded our members in their everyday interactions with 
the CU.”

Treasurer Trudy Nealon told the well-attended meeting: “In what has been another very difficult financial year, we have continued to perform well in these challenging times. Members can be confidant that the policies and procedures laid down by the Board have enabled Portlaoise CU to maintain a strong position.”

She said the CU continued to prioritise management of bad debts and was committed to supporting any member under financial pressure.

CU Assistant Manager Bernard O’Grady, replying to a question from the floor, said they were trying to use any avenue available to collect 
bad debts, including 
Stubbs’ Gazette.

Speaking for the Credit Control Committee, he said the CU in 2012 had 634,432 euros in what he described as bad debt “charge-offs.”

Seamus McGrath, of the Credit Committee, said loans issued in 2012 had dropped by 18% when compared to the 
previous year.

Marcella Dowling, Membership Committee, said the number of members had also reduced in the same period--from 12,593 to 12,553.