Social enterprise supports hundreds of people across Bristol

A local social enterprise in Bristol has supported around 1,500 more local people in accessing a share of £2.8m in borrowing following a £700,000 investment from BBRC’s impact investment fund.

Over the last three months Great Western Credit Union has seen an increase in lending of 22% compared to the same period last year.

Many people using GWCU’s services are underserved by mainstream or alternative financial service providers, so the GWCU provides them with vital access to financial support they otherwise may not have received.

GWCU has designed its services to work for people rather than maximise profits. For example, loan repayments with GWCU can be set up weekly, fortnightly, four-weekly or monthly, which suits many of its borrowers who don’t fit the traditional monthly payment model that big banks have. Setting payments to match when borrowers get their income helps them to budget better, and where payments are more frequent than monthly, the total amount of interest they pay is also reduced.

The £700,000 from City Funds contributed significantly to GWCU’s overall external capital, allowing it to broaden its member base and make significant improvements to its services.

The investment has been pivotal in developing GWCU’s online smart phone platforms, providing crucial access points for most customers applying for loans. In addition, it provided a solid capital foundation to accommodate GWCU’s sustained growth to broaden its reach across the South West to support people in Bath, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset as well as Bristol.

James Berry, chief executive of Great Western Credit Union, said: “This investment was not just a monetary boost but a validation of our mission to serve as a community anchor.

“We are dedicated to making a positive impact by providing fair and affordable financial solutions, and thanks to this funding, we have been able to reach and support even more members of our community, helping to alleviate financial vulnerability and promote economic resilience.”

Jari Moate, investment director at BBRC, said: “Investing in GWCU aligns perfectly with our goals of fostering inclusive growth and empowering communities.

“They raised in excess of £2m from aligned social investors, exceeding GWCU’s fundraising targets and improving their chances of success, which our investment helped to mobilise.

“In backing GWCU, we are investing in a sustainable model that benefits not only individuals but the entire region economically. It’s about creating opportunities and enhancing financial inclusion for all. Models like these need support in scaling up, so they can deliver the meaningful change we know can support so many people across the South West.”

GWCU was founded in 2005 as Bristol Credit Union, but has since rebranded to reflect its growth, while remaining committed to its roots as a financial cooperative that supports people who struggle to access traditional means of financial support.

GWCU is regulated by the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA), operating under the governance of industrial, provident, and mutual legislation, focusing on serving individuals who are often overlooked by traditional banks.

With this financial backing from BBRC and continued support from the community, GWCU is set to further its commitment towards building a more inclusive financial ecosystem in Bristol and the South West, ensuring that everyone, regardless of their financial standing, has access to the resources they need to thrive.