Quarterly · Issue 30


July 2011

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FSA set to give nod to credit co-operative
SurreySave credit union claims to boost local economy by keeping money in area
by Melanie Hall
A NEW credit union for Surrey has got the green light from the Financial Services Authority (FSA), and should be up and running for the general public by next January. SurreySave, a not-for-profit financial cooperative which is owned and run by its customers, who become members, was given approval by the FSA last week. According to SurreySave, with no shareholders to pay and deep roots within the community, credit unions are good for the region because they benefit the local economy by keeping the money in the area. Like banks and building societies, credit unions are regulated by the FSA with strict rules and checks on how they are being run. According to the SurreySave, savings will be invested for the good of the community and are 100% guaranteed by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. The decision to set up a credit union in the county, say those behind SurreySave, is down to the fact that it will ‘increase the flow of credit to all households in the county, improving consumer choice at a time of crisis in the mainstream banking sector’. It added: “There are also thousands of families that only have access to credit at the highest rates, and we wanted to offer an alternative to the doorstep lender, pawnbroker and cheque casher.” Adrian Davies, director of third-sector.co.uk, is in charge of setting up SurreySave. “We have received from the FSA, in principle, authorisation,” he said. “We have one or two bits and pieces we have to do, but it’s getting the go-ahead and likely to get the official approval on July 25.” Mr Davies explained that at the moment, a credit union can only lend to individuals but there is legislative reform on the way, expected to be finalised in the autumn, that will allow businesses to invest in credit unions. He said: “In terms of lending to business, it will be on a small scale rather than anything large.” Mr Davies explained that with SurreySave, anyone who borrows from it will be forced to save too. “There’s a lot of people in Surrey in what we call financial distress,” he said. “We paid Experian to map houseCo-operatives claim to keep cash secure. holds in Surrey who had high household debt and consumer debt and had bought their houses since 2001. “About a quarter of a million people are in financial distress.” For Mr Davies, this is partly down to how expensive it is to live in Surrey, and the high incidence of home ownership in the county. “It’s expensive for people to maintain a reasonable lifestyle,” he said. “Some of that is keeping up with the neighbours but mortgages will be high. “The other thing across Surrey is if you are in a property that’s worth quite a bit, it’s much easier to borrow £20,000 in credit cards. There’s almost a feeling of security that it gives people. It gives them a bit of leverage.” SurreySave is set to benefit the economy, said Mr Davies, as it is open only to people in Surrey, and all the profit that it makes is put back into the business or given to the people who save with the union in the form of a dividend. SurreySave will have a couple of million pounds in assets, which is relatively small, said Mr Davies. Credit unions are said to be very common in places like Latin America and Canada, and there are around 500 in the UK, many of them in the north, although Mr Davies said they are fairly new to the south east of England. SurreySave contacted people in the county asking whether they would be interested in joining them. “I was quite surprised how good the response was,” said Mr Davies. “The FSA said, ‘Are you really going to get 800 people to join in year one?’ “Of 500 people, 400 replied. Only 6% said they wouldn’t join us so we are expecting quite a big proportion of them. “Three quarters are interested in saving and a quarter are interested in borrowing, of those who said they are joining us.” SurreySave is due to sign up people interested in joining in October or November, and the credit union will officially launch at the beginning of next January. Louise Punter, chief executive of Surrey Chambers of Commerce, said: “At a time when finance is difficult to access, particularly for small businesses, it is great to see innovative solutions which have been reached through local partnership working. “A great deal of ground work has been done leading up to this approval and Surrey Chambers is supportive of SurreySave Credit Union as they are members of the chambers and will hopefully be able to help and support other chamber members within Surrey.”

SurreySave says there is a lot of financial distress in the area.

Sensor firm glides to success

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I N S I D E Behind the doors of pioneering local company’s £10m high-tech facility
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SSTL, Guildford’s pioneering satellite company, opened the doors to its new, state-ofthe-art Kepler Building recently. The new £10 million technical facility, which is opposite Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd’s (SSTL) headquarters at Tycho House, will provide assembly, testing and integration, which was formerly housed at the University of Surrey. The move was a long time coming for the satellite company, which was fast outgrowing its original facilities at the university, with projects such as the European GNSS payloads and the DMC3 Earth Observation constellation on the go. An SSTL spokesman explained: “It was very restrictive. They were too small for us for quite a long time. “We were beginning to have problems with space, but also with the cleanrooms – it was very difficult to keep the temperatures stable.” A cleanroom is what the name suggests: the temperature is carefully controlled, and there is a clean-air system to ensure that the room is kept as dirt-free as possible. The room is entered through an air-lock, and everyone has to wear a hair net and a coat, and protection on their shoes, to ensure that not even a drop of sweat or a hair gets on the very delicate circuit boards and other precision equipment. The new 40,000 square feet facility provides a significant increase in capacity, with cleanrooms, laboratories and testing facilities. The Kepler Building will house approximately 40 permanent staff and anything up to 100 further project specific staff from across the company at peak test and integration periods. Satellites currently being assembled and tested in the new world-class test halls include TechDemoSat-1 and the Kazakhstan medium resolution satellite for Astrium. SSTL is a world leader in creating small satellites, delivering operational space missions for a range of applications including Earth observation, science and communications. Since 1981 SSTL has built and launched 34 satellites, as well as providing training and development programmes, consultancy services, and mission studies for ESA, NASA, international governments and commercial customers. One of the many applications that SSTL’s commercial clients employ their technology for is to keep tabs on agricultural use using satellite imaging. For example, a government that gives farmers subsidies if they grow certain crops in their fields can make sure that the farmer is keeping to their word by using imaging technology that recognises the unique fingerprint that every plant creates on the ground. Disaster zones such as New Orleans in the USA following Hurricane Katrina

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A cleanroom inside the facility. have also been surveyed using SSTL’s technology. SSTL CEO Dr Matt Perkins said: “SSTL has delivered growth during the recession, contributing to the UK space industry’s export success through continued technological innovation. “We are actively recruiting with more than 20 current vacancies and The Kepler Building will provide our engineers with the facilities they need to build more satellites and achieve our growth plans for the next 20 years.”

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The Kepler Building.