Home Credit union Members approve merger of Birr Credit Union with Athenry

Members approve merger of Birr Credit Union with Athenry

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Andrew Barrett, CEO of Birr Credit Union.

This is a landmark week in the history of Birr Credit Union as its members voted almost unanimously to approve its merger with Athenry Credit Union.

The merger passed with 98% support at Birr Credit Union’s AGM on Monday and then passed unanimously at Athenry Credit Union’s AGM the following night.

This means that, pending formal approval of the arrangement by the Central Bank in the coming weeks, the O’Connell Street Credit Union is expected to close on February 25 and then reopen as a Birr branch. from Athenry Credit Union on Tuesday, March 1. .

Speaking to the Offaly Independent this week, Birr Credit Union CEO Andrew Barrett said the change would bring a variety of benefits to local members.

“It’s fantastic for Birr,” he said. “The first and most important thing for members is that there is no doubt that the branch will close. It will remain open.

“The name above the door will still say Birr Credit Union. They might end up changing that name in the future, I don’t know, but for now we will be the Birr branch of Athenry Credit Union.”

He also said that a number of new services, such as access to ATMs via debit cards and improved online financial systems, would be made available to Birr members as a result of joining the larger Athenry group.

Also, he said, “with every loan product we have, interest rates will drop from day one” when the merger is complete.

“We have 12 million euros loaned so for the Birr area in real terms there will be a minimum of 100,000 euros in savings that our members will have in their pockets and can spend locally (due to the rate of (interest reductions). This is important,” he explained.

The transfer of some ‘back office’ functions to Athenry will mean a reduction in the number of staff working at Birr, but Mr Barrett said all the redundancies, including his own as CEO, were voluntary. “Obviously we don’t need that many staff as many back-office functions will be done centrally,” he said.

“A number of staff here have asked to move on and be part of the new organization, and a number have said they would rather not. They have been offered a generous severance package , but everything is voluntary.

“The attitude of the board was: ‘If you want to stay, there’s no problem and if you want to leave, that’s no problem. We’ll take care of you anyway. “”The path to this merger – or transfer of commitments as it is officially known – began after a review of Birr Credit Union’s strategic plan in late 2018 and early 2019.

“It became apparent from the plan that there were potential issues down the road to Birr where we were not going to be able to offer new services because we could not afford them. “said Mr. Barrett.

“We started looking for potential partners and reviewed all the credit unions within a 100 mile radius of us.”

This was eventually narrowed down to five potential partners for Birr and it was decided that Athenry, which also has branches in Ballygar, Kilkerrin, Kinvara, Menlough and Portumna, would be the most suitable solution.

“We found that the philosophy of Athenry Credit Union was very much in line with ours. They had already been through a number of transfers of commitment, so they knew where they stood and it was a bigger co-op of credit offering facilities that we couldn’t,” Barrett said.

He said the merger would have been completed faster if not for the pandemic. “The process got stuck a bit with Covid, otherwise it probably would have been done a year ago,” he said.

As Birr Credit Union’s board is disbanded as part of the merger process, Mr Barrett said some of the volunteers will become involved in the new Athenry organisation. “It is important that the people of Birr continue to seek involvement in their credit union in any way,” he said.