Swan Community Bank Services

Wed 11 Nov 2020 - posted by Melanie Hyde

Swan Community Bank logo showing a white and blue swanSwan Community Bank is the trading name of Swan Credit Union Ltd, which is a locally based “not-for-profit” financial organisation owned and run by its members.  We offer savings and loans at affordable rates, to help our members save and manage their money ethically and responsibly.  We can offer a safe place for you to save; and loans at rates below those offered by high street and internet based consumer loan companies. All those who live or work in Milton Keynes, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire can join and there is no joining fee just a £1 minimum saving. 

We first started our operations with only about 50 initial members in 2006 as MK Credit Union. In 2013 we merged with Aylesbury Credit Union to form Swan.  At the end of September 2020 we had 2,200 members; savings of £1,200,000 and outstanding loans of £800,000 and continue to grow. During the 12 months to end September we granted over £1 million in new loans to our members. 

We exist to provide financial services to all residents in our areas of our operation, but we have a particular focus on assisting those who are not served well by commercial banks; who often find themselves in financial difficulty; and who also often facing excessive interest rates from high street and internet lenders. We are not a charity, but a community based financial cooperative, which returns any surplus above that required for reserves to its members through annual dividends. Unfortunately we have not been able to pay dividends last year nor this year, because of the costs of moving to run our own office and setting up a new computer system. 

A good reason to save with us is that your funds are used to help other members in financial difficulty. All savings are fully protected by the official government deposit protection scheme. Regular savings also means you are more likely to be accepted for a loan from us when needed.

Why do members borrow from us? Many do so because of our community links and ethical policy; others do so because they have been turned down by the banks and thus face high interest rates from non-bank commercial lenders.  A third reason is that we specialise in small loans from £650 upwards and the banks are mostly not interested in making small loans, to even their best customers. The range of loans we offer and our current interest rates are shown in the box. 
Note that the official APR rates assume no repayment; while the actual amount of interest paid on our loans is based on a declining balance. We have no arrangement fees, no hidden charges and no penalty for early repayment. For example with a standard loan of £1,000 over 12 months the APR is 34.5%. However the monthly repayment would be £97.49 and the total repaid after 12 months would amount to £1,169.85.

Normally we ask new members to save regularly for three months before they can apply for a loan. This ensures we know them and that they can afford regular payments. However because of the huge demand for instant credit (which explains the “success” of payday loans and internet lenders) we have a special scheme known as the “Child Benefit Savings and Loan Plan”.

Immediate loans of £650 are available to new members with one child; and up to £1,250 for new members with 2 or more children; provided they agree to pay their Child Benefit directly into their new credit union account. For one child this amount is currently £21.05 per week. Over 52 weeks repayments would be £15 per week and the remainder is either savings or paid back to the member. Once the loan is cleared then the member can continue to save and borrow from us. Top up loans are also available before the end of the loan term.

Swan Community Bank has been financially supported over the years from grants from a number of local organisations including: MK Council; MK Community Foundation; Buckinghamshire Council; Heart of Bucks Community Foundation; and the following Town and Parish Councils:  Aylesbury Town Council; Bletchley and Fenny Town Council; Bradwell Parish Council; Buckingham Town Council; Campbell Park Parish Council; Kents Hill & Monkston Community Council;  New Bradwell Parish Council;  Simpson Parish Council; Stantonbury Parish Council; Stony Stratford Town Council; West Bletchley Council; Winslow Town Council; Wolverton Town Council; and Woughton Community Council. The Milton Keynes Christian Foundation was a founding member of the credit union and continues to provide our registered office free of charge. 

Joining is easy - you can do it online at www.swancommunitybank.org.uk or you can download our smartphone app by searching for “Swan Community Bank”. You can then complete the membership form online. Once you are a member you can manage your account online - check your balance, withdraw savings and apply for a loan.  You can save any amount regularly by standing order or by bank transfer.   We are also in partnership with an ethical organisation called ENGAGE, offering pre-paid debit cards. These can be used for spending or ATM withdrawals just like any other Visa card, but cannot become overdrawn and thus incur high interest charges. For more information about joining and all our services go to our website at: www.swancommunitybank.org.uk.   You can get also get advice or any information weekdays by telephoning: 03030 300147 (national rates apply) between 10am and 2pm or by sending an e-mail to enquiries@swancommunitybank.org.uk.  

Finally a plea to all readers - assist us in becoming larger and financially sustainable for the longer term. Join us yourselves and let friends, family, work colleagues and others know about us. We struggle to get publicity, lacking sufficient funds for paid advertising. You could also help by encouraging your employer to join our payroll deduction scheme, allowing staff to easily save and repay loans via an automatic deduction from their wages.

To see a full copy of this article including a table of current loan products and Christmas opening hours please click here