Credit unions in push for freer hand

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 10/09/2012

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Credit unions and building societies are pushing for legislative reform so they can make a tilt for the lucrative small to medium business market.

The first big revision of the Friendly Societies and Credit Union Act 1982 passed into law last week. The most notable change lifts a cap on deposits, which were previously limited to $250,000 per owner member.

Henry Lynch, chief executive of the Association of Credit Unions, said the previous legislation was out of date for its 200,000-plus membership.

"It's been a long, hard-fought battle around something that to our average member-owner sounds a bit silly. Like when you sell your house for $400,000 and you can't put all your funds into your credit union account to pay off your mortgage."

But the association wants more reform, including an end to the ban on credit unions lending to commercial entities.

Lynch said the ban was not imposed in other countries.

Credit unions considered they were part of the community, which was where small businesses operated, he said.

"A lot of New Zealand is small to medium enterprise, and so we cannot lend to someone who wants simple working capital of, say, $10,000 for their lawnmowing round. We can make that loan but it has to go to them individually."

Credit unions also want to peel back some of their compliance costs. They want the option to leave the Reserve Bank's non-bank deposit takers scheme and to get rid of their external trustees.

Credit unions are required to have a statutory trustee in addition to two internal trustees and a trustee committee.

Lynch said the sector would rather report directly to the Reserve Bank, as banks do.

He said the association would be making its voice heard when the non-bank deposit takers scheme came up for review in September next year.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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