Illawarra Credit Union has been named the nation's best credit union at the 2021 Mozo Experts Choice Awards for Australia's Best Banking.
The awards are held each year to recognise standout banking institutions.
Illawarra Credit Union chief executive Anthony Perkiss said it was very good news the came at a great time to help lift the spirits of employees and members during the present lockdown.
Mr Perkiss said the award was given after Mozo reviewed ICU's products and services and the value they provide customers.
"This independent assessment conducted by Mozo recognises the ongoing efforts of our team to push the boundaries and deliver market leading products for our customers all across Australia," he said.
Mr Perkiss said it was a great achievement after the team had worked particularly hard during the last 18 months. He said it has been a challenging time for all businesses and their customers.
Because of that effort the Illlawarra grown credit union not only took out one of Australia's major banking awards after being assessed from a group of 89 different authorised deposit taking institutions. It also picked up another seven awards for its home loans, personal loans and credit card.
- Two best First Home Buyer Loan awards for our Bare Essentials First Home Owners Special Offer and our Works Special Variable Home Loan
- The Packaged Home Loan Award for its Works Variable Home Loan
- The Best Offset Home Loan Award for its Works Special Variable Home Loan
- The Best Used Car Loan Award for its Secured Fixed Personal Loan
- The Best Secured Personal Loan award for our Online Personal Loan
- The Best Low Rate Credit Card Award for its Low Rate Credit Card
- It was also named a finalist by Finder in its Low Rate Credit Card Award category.
Mr Perkiss said Illawarra Credit Union was planning a staff celebration at Harbourfront Restaurant on Thursday night but change that to an online all staff presentation via Zoom.
"We are coming into our 50th year and it is great to be recognised as Australia's best credit union," he said.
Mr Perkiss said being an essential business the branches in Wollongong, Corrimal, Dapto and Helensburgh have remained open for the last 15 months during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the hours of operation have reduced in all branches apart from the one at head office in Young St. It still operates from 9.30am to 5pm but that is presently being reviewed each week.
"What we noticed is a lot of our older customers used the branches first thing in the morning," Mr Perkiss said.
"So we now operate our branches from 9.30am to 1.30pm from Monday to Friday. We have to transition to new operating procedures to meet public health regulations."
Mr Perkiss said that has included all staff in the branches wearing face masks.
During each lockdown office and administration staff have worked from home. The call centre has also operated remotely.
Mr Perkiss said ICU was being very careful not to put any staff or customer at risk.
He said despite the challenges presented by the pandemic the credit union has kept growing as the buoyant property market continues in NSW.
"Our balance sheet now is about $750 million which is up on the previous year," he said.
"We have grown our local business by about 27 per cent this year which represents a growth of about $140 million."
Mr Perkiss said changing customer behaviour during the pandemic had forced the credit union to rethink its branch strategy.
"During the last 12 months 50 per cent of our customer growth has come from outside the Illawarra," he said.
"We already had 40 per cent of our customer base outside of the region."
Among the reasons for more growth locally and further afield is that more than 99 per cent of transactions now being done digitally.
Mr Perkiss said COVID-19 was really transforming the way financial institutions operate and a lot of banks have closed branches and consolidated their ATMs during the last 18 months.
"And I don't think the mutual sector is immune to that as people change their habits," he said.
Mr Perkiss said it had been good to be able to support ICU customers with home loans through the deferred home loan repayment scheme last year.
"And we have just gone back out to our members and advised them that should they need that support during this latest lockdown we are here to help them through," he said.
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