Industry19th October 2023

Case study: transforming the member experience at Manchester Credit Union

Manchester Credit Union blog
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  • Cost-effective Faster Payments (FPS) access, delivering real-time payments to members’ credit union and savings accounts
  • Manchester Credit Union (MCU) has managed 30% customer growth without hiring additional operational staff
  • Increased payment automation and operational efficiency, saving two senior team members a full day of work per week
  • 55k payments, including 3.5k savings account withdrawals, are processed seamlessly through ClearBank every month
  • A third of all payments are made ‘out-of-hours', ensuring critical funds are available on demand and when members need them

Manchester Credit Union is a financial cooperative owned and controlled by its members. Founded in 1991, initially as Beswick and Openshaw Credit Union, it exists solely for the benefit of its members and any surplus generated is returned to members in the form of a dividend on savings or used to improve services to members.

Over the last 30 years, it amalgamated with several other smaller credit unions in Greater Manchester and now has more than 30,000 members, serving anyone who lives or works in the City of Manchester, Bury, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and the High Peak.

Challenges and requirements

MCU had worked with several bank partners but found these services were creating operational issues as its membership grew. For example, with one provider, it could only upload 250 payments and approve 50 payments at a time which meant two members of staff would spend an entire morning uploading and processing member payments.

“We’d have members phone up or get in touch through the website wanting a withdrawal of their savings, and we would then collate those requests into a batch-based system and would sit there until we pushed them out three times a day,” explains Mandy Wilcock, Chief Operating Officer, Manchester Credit Union.

During busier periods, particularly before a Bank Holiday or between Christmas and New Year, this created significant operational pressures. Staff would need to come into the branch and process payment requests to ensure members received their funds.

In preparation to meet its business growth goals, MCU conducted a review of its delivery partners to strengthen its messaging on technology, resilience and growth. It selected ClearBank through our partner incuto, whose platform is a crucial piece of infrastructure for affordable finance providers enabling them to update legacy technology, enhance the member experience and improve access to customers.

Delivering 24/7, 365 access to funds with real-time payments

With a growing loan book and approximately £14 million in savings to manage, the ability to offer real-time, 24/7 access to funds through Faster Payments has been transformational for MCU and its 30,000 members. Between October 2022 (the start of its financial year) and August 2023, it has seamlessly processed 550,000 share withdrawals and more than 35,000 loan payments with ClearBank.

While every bank claims to offer Faster Payments, the reality is that many incumbents do not provide processing outside of core business hours. That, however, doesn’t meet the needs of some credit union customers who may be in dire need of access to funds.

Previously, if a payment request had been made over a weekend, members would have to wait until Monday morning until they could access it. Through ClearBank, MCU is now processing approximately 33% of its total payments ‘out of hours’, transactions made after 4pm and before 8am the next morning. This ensures members can request and access funds when they’re needed, rather than waiting for the next business day.

“Since starting to use ClearBank, our self-serve offer to members has been transformed. Being able to offer members access to their savings 24/7 has been transformational for how we serve our customers. Everything just works,” comments Wilcock.

Further, members who receive payments such as Child Benefit directly into their MCU accounts can now access their funds by 10am rather than 1pm with the previous systems.

“It is making a big difference to people’s lives, in what seems like a small way. But it’s so important. They absolutely love the fact that by the time school starts on a Monday morning, the child benefit money is already in their account to draw on,” Wilcock adds.

Improved operational efficiency for ongoing growth

The combination of online access for members and automated back-office processes means MCU is significantly improving service levels. It can automatically upload and instantly process member payments for loans and withdrawals from savings accounts without manual intervention. With ClearBank, it can also automatically reconcile payments made to and from member accounts.

“The difference has been huge. We no longer have to get the data into our operating system that people want to withdrawal, then collate it and extract it from the system and then upload it into another system. With ClearBank 87% our savings account payments are self-serve and completely hands-off for our staff. It just saves us so much time,” comments Wilcock.

By reducing manual processing and turn-around times and boosting operational efficiency, MCU estimates it saves £15k a year in staff time. For savings account withdrawals alone, it equates to 3,000 phone calls a week that the team no longer needs to answer.

These savings enable MCU to run a lean organisation and grow its membership without compromising member support or service levels.

“We’ve freed up two senior team members for two mornings a week, just from no longer having to authorise payments. We’ve also grown our business by, conservatively, about 30%, since going live with ClearBank, and we haven't needed to take on any more staff to manage the rise volumes. We've used up that spare capacity to grow the business without having to recruit, so it saved us a lot of money there as well,” explains Wilcock.

Working with ClearBank has also made a significant difference to MCU staff. As branch footfall has reduced, they can perform their roles from home and no longer need to work extra hours before busy periods such as Bank Holidays or between Christmas and New Year.

“We don’t need to worry about the payments processing and have confidence that our members will be served because so much of it is automatic,” adds Wilcock. “Our staff can spend quality time with their families during those holiday periods. That’s something we didn’t even consider when we began looking for a new provider, but it has been really beneficial.”

Services that strengthen financial inclusion

MCU, like all credit unions, specialises in offering services to people who have historically struggled to access these products or have found themselves locked out of the financial system. But, as Wilcock explains, that doesn’t mean their members have lower expectations for great service, particularly when it comes to accessing savings and benefit payments.

“There is absolutely no reason for the most vulnerable in society to receive sub-optimal services. Providing efficient payments and ensuring that they can access funds is a fundamentally basic, respectful thing that is so often overlooked. There is real dignity in having easy access to your money when you need it and I’m incredibly proud that we can provide that,” Wilcock comments.

“Now, my biggest worry is maintaining the high service levels our members have come to expect. They’re so used to everything working that, for example, we’ve had people call at 10:01am as they’re so used to getting funds before 10, and usually, as they’re getting in touch, the funds arrive in their accounts. That shows just how transformational this has been. It’s a good problem to have.”

Learn more about how ClearBank is addressing challenges facing credit unions with modern banking technology.

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