File photo: Life Credit Union
For a long time it looked as if most of the specially filled bottles of eau de vie on the table at the back of the hotel ballroom would remain unopened because of the low turnout.
With every due respect to those who run Naas Credit Union, the annual general meeting, held at the Osprey Hotel recently, is not box office.
Nevertheless every year they set out many more chairs than will actually be filled.
This year’s attendance, despite the assimilation of Maynooth Credit Union and the opening of Newbridge Credit Union, was in or around what it has always been.
The numbers who attend as a percentage of the membership is probably equivalent to the dividend (interest paid on money in your account) and which has now shrunk to an almost invisible .1%.
Maybe 70 people from a membership, which is rapidly approaching 40,000 folk, braved a nippy enough January evening and many of those return year after year.
They came to hear how the expanding Naas CU has fared over the past twelve months.
Obviously we tend to be bored by figures and accountancy terms.
Few and far between are those among us with an appetite for exploring the well concealed delights of tangible fixed assets, qualitative governance reviews and discounted cash flows.
We leave late in the evening after every AGM, making a silent vow to ourselves to roll up the sleeves and get to grips with at least one item.
And we’ll return twelve months later with a well informed question about the non-distributable investment income reserve, which we’ll lob like it was a grenade, out of the blue, at the top table.
“That shook them,” we’ll congratulate ourselves, as they assemble a response.
The AGM last week was a sedate, unadventurous, predictable — if utterly reassuring evening out.
Most of us have been to livelier funerals.
We should be grateful that this is so because when it comes to money, pedantic is good and mindnumblingly pedantic is even better.
Naas CU survived the economic collapse while its equivalent in Newbridge crashed and burned and left the taxpayer with a big bill. It more than survived; it progressed.
And when the high street banks in Naas and elsewhere (the pillars of the financial community possessing the most impressive buildings on any street in any medium sized town in Ireland) brought the shutters down, Naas CU stayed open.
It’s also careful about what it lends for and how much, while at the same time recognising that it needs to lend successfully so that it can continue to thrive. We all remember that the banks took a slightly more liberal approach when Johnny came looking for a loan in the bad old days of a few years back.
We felt we were living on the margins of society if we didn’t have a 100% interest only mortgage on a second property in Turkey, or even Tourmakeady.
The accounts for the most part are not as impressive as last year. Profits are down and bills are rising. But this is explained by Life Credit Union, as it’s known following a name change approved at the meeting, by the costs of setting up the credit union in Newbridge and, to a lesser extent , in Maynooth.
It is clear too that the cost of regulation, largely imposed by the Central Bank, is also having something of an effect.
The Central Bank requires that all credit unions put aside large sums into a reserve.
Central Bank regulation is a solid principle.
We all need to learn from the past.
But regulation was not overly obvious in the good times when it was more needed; or at least not much heed was given to it.
And neither was it exercised with enough vigour against the institutions which needed it most.
It would never have been needed at Naas Credit Union.