Swindon community bank celebrates first birthday with £2m lending milestone

By Nick Batten on 8 April, 2024

Acorn Community Bank is celebrating its first birthday by passing a £2 million lending milestone and welcoming more than a thousand new members. 

The bank was formed last April after a merger between Wiltshire and Swindon Credit Union, Clivey Credit Union (WASCU) in Swindon, and Swan Community Bank in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire to create one entity.

Since then Acorn has seen its membership rise from 4,184 to 5,308 – with 30 new people joining each month. The company has so far loaned £2.2 million to its members. 

Credit unions, which are owned by their members and run on their behalf, provide affordable loans for people who are unable to get credit elsewhere to prevent them from going to payday loan companies or loan sharks. Members open savings accounts and, provided they meet loan criteria, can take out loans which are repaid monthly. 

Manager Clive Henly said, “It has been a fantastic first year for Acorn and none of us can believe it has passed so quickly. In the months leading up to Christmas we saw an increasing demand for loans, though this has recently eased up a little.” 

In response to a rise in the number of members asking for loans to buy school uniform just before the start of the autumn term, Acorn has launched a Uniform Saver account so that families can put away money throughout the year.

Clive said, “Our savings incentives have proved to be very popular with 470 people taking part, saving £42,600 so far.” 

Based in Cavendish Square, Swindon, the bank is also set to launch a project in Salisbury with Wiltshire Council to help people facing life-changing situations such as long-term illness or loss of employment get financial support and plan financially for their future. 

The bank has been nominated for the Best Credit Union (South) Award in financial website Smart Money People’s annual Consumer Credit Awards.

Staff at Acorn have been working alongside loan shark experts from England’s Illegal Money Lending Team to highlight the dangers of borrowing from loan sharks and encouraging members to save regularly. 

Clive is expecting Acorn to see demand for loans continue despite the recent fall in inflation.

He explained, “The rise in membership and demand has been consistent in all areas. The cost-of-living issue continues to put pressure on people’s budgets, and we are seeing this when we assess their affordability when they apply for a loan. 

“Now that inflation is easing, we are preparing to support our members as they take new steps in their financial journey, perhaps looking to fund home improvements, cars and holidays.” 

For more details about the bank’s services or to get in touch go to: acorncommunitybank.co.uk and vote for the bank in the Smart Money People Awards here.

Pictured above: Acorn Community Bank’s staff celebrate the company’s first birthday and an award nomination