The Centre for Community Finance Europe (CFCFE) has awarded its inaugural credit union research prize to a team from the Financial Services Innovation Centre at Cork University Business School in Ireland.
The research, which will be led by financial analyst Aaron Cashman, Dr Fergal Carton and Dr Huanhuan Xiong, will evaluate the opportunity for developing SME lending by credit unions, including the role of technology. The prize will award €4,000 (£3,581) to support time and expenses in the production of the paper.
Dr Xiong said: “It is a great honour to win this prize. We are looking forward to this exciting and valuable journey with CFCFE and helping credit unions across Ireland and the UK.”
Mr Cashman added: “Credit unions will play a key role in driving financial inclusion for their members during this difficult time and combining their local trust with aspects such as technology, can offer the potential for the provision of a wider range of community banking services.”
The prize was launched to support researchers who wish to contribute significantly to the development of the credit union movement in Ireland and/or the UK.
CFCFE has received a total of 17 proposals from researchers in England, Ireland and Scotland, as well as Brazil, Curacao and Spain.
CFCFE’s director of research, Dr Paul Anthony Jones, said: “We were delighted with the quality and number of proposals we received, and it has been hard to come to a final decision. We were pleased to be able to take input from the members of our Research Advisory Board.”
Chair Ralph Swoboda thinks the credit union sector in Ireland has struggled in recent years to find lending opportunities to support returns to members.
“We hope that this research will help credit unions in Ireland – and potentially the UK too – to find new ways of serving their communities and benefiting their members,” he said. “This is especially important given the considerable commercial pressures arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.”