The Pentecostal Credit Union was one of the first 6 credit unions to be registered in the UK in 1980. In June 2015 they celebrated their 35th Anniversary with a glittering gala dinner which was a chance to reflect on the past and tocelebrate the services they offer to a growing number of members.
The credit union was founded by Reverend Carmel Jones, who first saw the potential of credit unions to address issues of debt and poverty in black and minority ethnic communities and churches at a time when some people struggled to get loans from traditional lenders due to discrimination. The Caribbean community were already familiar with the concept of community banking, and credit unions fitted in with the ethos of saving and supporting others through lending. After contacting the Credit Union League of Great Britain (now ABCUL), he founded the Pentecostal Credit Union which at that time gave loans to help build the Pentecostal church ministry as well as offering personal loans. The credit union grew very quickly during that period, and for many in the Pentecostal church community Rev Jones is regarded as a hero.
Following a time of transition and transformation the board of directors are now looking towards the future, drawing on the passion and concern of the founders whilst reshaping the services they offer to meet the needs of current members. A key consideration is how to tap into the huge potential of the rapidly growing Pentecostal church community by raising the profile of the credit union. This means focusing on growth and offering contemporary and competitive financial products, including an investment in digital services.
The board are clear that it is vital that the credit union reaches younger people to help them establish the habits of saving and using money wisely. Through a partnership with the Church Credit Champions Network they are piloting a Young Christian Savers project in a number of churches in the Pentecostal network. The project begins by holding a Money Talk with young people in a church. This explores their experiences and attitudes to money and is then followed by offering them the opportunity to open a Junior Savers Account with a generous £25 initial deposit contributed by a charity. Elaine Bowes, credit union executive assistant, describes this partnership as a "match made in heaven" and "absolutely key to getting younger people to engage with the credit union".
Like many credit unions in the UK, the Pentecostal credit union is most definitely looking to the future whilst building on it's rich heritage. Elaine puts it like this: 'This is about refocusing - our vision hasn't changed - we want to be the financial provider of choice for our community. This has always been the case, but it means different things now in 2015 than 1980".