Co-op Credit Union appoints Matt Bland as chief executive

He joins to drive a growth and innovation agenda that will maximise impact for members

The Co-op Credit Union reported positive annual results at its AGM in Manchester on 14 Feb, where it also officially welcomed Matt Bland as its new chief executive.

Members attending the AGM heard how the credit union had doubled its surplus to £40k in the year 2018-2019, while rewarding savers with a 1% dividend.

Mr Bland, who took up the chief executive post in January 2020, has been involved in the credit union movement for over 11 years. He joins from the trade body Abcul, where he was head of policy and communications. In this role, he engaged with government and regulators while identifying and promoting credit union best practice.

David Fawell, chair of the Co-op Credit Union, said: “We are pleased to report another solid year’s results for 2018/19.  The credit union has strong fundamentals with almost double the required capital reserves, a skilled and committed staff and board team, and a loyal membership base.

“Having reflected on the credit union’s position, the board took the decision to use these solid foundations as a base for going for growth with a new chief executive to drive this agenda forward. Matt brings a wealth of experience and expertise and an unrivaled network making him the ideal person to take on the role.”

Mr Bland said: “I am immensely proud and excited to have the chance to drive the Co-op Credit Union forward. We have exciting plans to streamline and modernise our services, introduce new technology, invest in our people and get the word out like never before. By replicating best practices from credit unions in the UK and abroad, we aspire to nothing less than making the Co-op Credit Union a leader in the sector.”

He added that credit unions’ services have never been more urgently relevant, with the state of household finances having deteriorated significantly and record levels of debt. “We are troubled by what we see on a daily basis,” he said. “It is up to us as credit unions to show that it is possible to do things differently – being able to supply credit at an affordable level while enabling people to save is a vital service.”

Based in 1 Angel Square, Manchester, the Co-op Credit Union provides savings and loans facilities to employees and members of a range of co-operative organisations. It has 8,579 members and a loan balance of £2.6m.

The Graham Southall Award

The AGM also paid tribute to Graham Southall, founding secretary of the credit union, who suddenly and unexpectedly passed away in October. 

“What was so lovely about Graham was that he was always Mr. Fix It,” said Co-op Credit Union director Chris Smith. “’Leave it with me,’ he used to say. It could be anything from a fridge for the kitchen to paper for the printer. Some people talk about getting things done. But Graham was one of those who just got on and did it.”

Mr Southall was the first recipient of an annual award, created and named in his honour five years ago. “This award recognises the effort and commitment epitomised by Graham Southall, and what it means when people help or volunteer for a credit union,” said Mr Smith. The 2020 award was presented by Mr Southall’s daughter, Lindsay Kirby, to Andy Reich and Carol Parkes. 

“It was a wonderful surprise to be nominated for this award,” said Mr Reich. “We both knew Graham for many, many years, going back to when we worked for the CWS before it became the Group. To be presented with this award today, in Graham’s name, means a great deal to both of us.”