sign up log in
Want to go ad-free? Find out how, here.

New Zealand Association of Credit Unions, keen to attract new members, says 'we treat customers better than banks do'

New Zealand Association of Credit Unions, keen to attract new members, says 'we treat customers better than banks do'

The New Zealand Association of Credit Unions (NZACU) says new research it commissioned shows credit unions have a greater focus on their customers' needs than banks.

NZACU chief executive Henry Lynch says the research by Brandmanagement Group places New Zealand credit unions "well above" banks in terms of the overall experience when people are looking to become a customer.

The research, undertaken through a mystery shopper format with the ‘customer’ asking to set up a new savings account with the bank or credit union and recording their experience of the process, compared New Zealand credit unions with their Australian credit union counterparts as well as New Zealand banks. Lynch says areas compared include disclosure of repayments, what the customers' sales experience was like, quality of information, expertise and professionalism, general staff impressions, and initial contact. 

The average Australian credit union scored around 5, New Zealand banks 5.5 and the average NZACU member 6 out of a possible score of 10. A total of 32 mystery shoppers were used in New Zealand, with a Brandmanagement Group affiliate also surveying Australian credit unions across the Tasman.

"We are obviously very proud of that," Lynch says. "As Brandmanagement suggested in their presentation to us, New Zealand Credit Unions should be doing the ‘financial services haka’ right now."

Local credit unions rated significantly ahead of banks in the areas of keenness of staff, professionalism and disclosure of fees, he added.

The NZACU has 21 credit union members, the bulk of the country's credit unions, which in turn have about 177,000 members/customers. Lynch says as credit unions are fully owned by, and exist solely for, their member-customers, they don’t have the pressure to maximise profits for external shareholders. NZACU members include Aotearoa Credit Union, Fisher & Paykel Credit Union, Credit Union Baywide, New Zealand Firefighters' Credit Union, Credit Union Auckland and Alliance Group Credit Union.

Common bond and tax free

An individual credit union's members all must have what's known as a common bond. For example, this could mean that they all work for the same company or live within the same region. Credit unions have a favourable tax status in that income derived by credit unions, except for that derived from a business carried on beyond the circle of membership, is exempt from taxation.

The NZACU says its members have more than NZ$490 million in savings accounts, assets of NZ$625 million, capital of NZ$109 million and a BB speculative grade credit rating from Standard & Poor's. The credit rating, two rungs below S&P's lowest investment grade rating of BBB-, suggests an orgainsation faces "major ongoing uncertainties to adverse business, financial and economic conditions." The NZACU also has its own member owned and operated insurance company - Credit Union Insurance Ltd.

New members welcome

The NZACU is keen to attract new members whilst retaining its fundamentals of looking after the member-customers in key areas such as thrift and bolstering their financial literacy, says Lynch. See more here on who credit union members are and the Registrar of Friendly Societies and Credit Unions last annual report here.

Lynch says his message to customers, or potential customers, is: "You own the organisation that you belong to - the credit union. So in some form or other the value goes back to you in reduced fees, your local community, sponsorship, better rates because you own it and it (profit) doesn't go offshore to Australian banks."

"We discuss that we only have four worries in our life - yourself, your family, your health and your finance. And credit unions are really good with helping people with their financial worries," Lynch added.

“Credit unions are very popular in Australia, the UK and US in particular, but are still largely unfamiliar territory to a lot of New Zealanders."

"Having said that, word is getting out that anyone can be a credit union member and they’re a great option for anyone who is looking for truly personal, friendly service. There are no joining fees and plenty of benefits for Kiwis to shift their everyday banking needs to a locally owned organisation that genuinely has their best interests at heart."

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


What utter Rubbish . Credit Unions are a collective of Tin Pot Organisations who are a very high Credit Risk , Unprofitable and serve the interests of a few lame Clients who would not meet the quality thresholds of mainstream banks.

It is worth noting the % of income applied to salaries particularly some of the smaller regional outfits.



Dear SCF

On behalf of the NZ Association of Credit Unions, I'd like to respond to your comment.  

Throughout the GFC, of the 170,000+ members of credit unions in NZ not a single one has lost funds or had funds frozen due to poor liquidity or mismanagement.  Not a single credit union in New Zealand has asked for or received a government bailout.  All credit unions are overseen by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, with the largest ones also having credit ratings from Standard & Poor.  

New Zealand's 170,000 credit union members represent a wide cross sector of Kiwis from all regions and socio-economic groups.  All members have an equal vote in the governance of their credit union, unlike publicly listed organisations, where votes are based on a percentage shareholding.  

Credit unions don’t seek to maximise income as such.  They distribute surpluses back to members and their community through a combination of better rates, fairer fees, responsible lending, community support and outstanding customer service (as confirmed by brandmanagement Group research). 

I encourage you and anyone else wishing to know more, to contact me directly on +64 9 306 1240 for further information.


Henry Lynch

Chief Executive Officer