Laois' biggest credit union is set to branch out into Kildare creating a financial body with significant clout in the process.
The members of the People First Credit Union and Athy Credit Union have voted to merge. Members of both credit unions were voted on the plan on Monday, December 19 at their AGMs.
The membership of the People First Credit Union, which takes in Portlaoise, Abbeyleix, Stradbally and surrounding areas were asked this week to back a merger by the chairman of both organisations. In the process the People First Credit Union will expand beyond 35,000 membership and bulk up its balance sheet.
People First will have a new membership of more than 35,000 - Athy has 10,365 members at present. Its combined assets would be nearly €117 million.
The combined membership shares are valued at nearly €100 million. Peoples First has more than €71 million worth of shares - €16.5 milion of this came from the merger with Abbeyleix Credit Union in 2016.
The combined loan book would be worth €31.5 million - it currently stands at €24.5 milllion.
People First investments would also go up significantly. Investments to the end of September 2016 stood at €45.3 million, but this will rise to more than €70 million if the merger proceeds.
People First's operation surplus dropped from nearly a €1million last year to nearly €345k in 2016. This was due largely to the transfer of nearly €640,000 to its operational risk reserve. The net income was nearly €2.8 million.
Athy's operational surplus was worth more than €280k this year down, from €426K in 2015. €275k was provided for bad debts compared to none in 2015. Its 2016 income was just over €1 million.
Clive Davis, Chairman of Portlaoise Credit Union confirmed plans for a merger to members in the People First annual report. He said Athy made the approach to merge.
“I am confident that the proposed transfer of engagements with the Athy Credit Union will strenghten our position and help to continue to provide an efficient and effective service to all our members,” he said.
The credit union will continue to be known as the People First Credit Union. Mr Davis said the merger would also bring the prospect of debit card banking closer.
Ross Philips, Chairperson of the Athy Credit Union was “delighted” to inform his members of the proposal and confirmed that it had made the approach.
He agreed with Mr Davis that the move would benefit members.
The merger is the latest in a series of changes in the local credit union movement. Apart from the creation of the People First through the merging of Portlaoise and Abbeyleix, Rathdownee, Durrow and Mountrath have all moved to St Canices Kilkenny.