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Connexus : Issue 38
6 Connexus www.abacus.org.au 6 www.abacus.org.au NEWS Harnessing growth is a winning strategy for Woolworths Employees’ Credit Union. When Prince William and Kate Middleton set a date for their wedding they didn’t consider that it would coincide with the gala celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of the Woolworths Employees’ Credit Union (WECU). General manager Steve Sampson was even tempted to reschedule the event . Instead, guests had access to a flatscreen TV so they could check in with the royal nuptials while commemorating their own great achievement. “It was a day to remember, ” he says. “We’re not a very big credit union, but we grow around 12-13 per cent every year. I’m looking at the graphs right now and it’s just an upward trend in all areas.” Since its inception in 1971 (as Safeway Credit Union), WECU has grown to 16,000 members and $80 million in assets. “ We hope to grow to around $130 million over the next five years, linked to our strategic plan, and over 20,000 members,” says Sampson. Being aligned with a major corporation does bring a ready-made audience: there are 200,000 employees in the Woolworths Group, which includes Dick Smith Electronics, Dan Murphy’s , Caltex, Tandy and Big W among a number of other companies. Sampson puts the mutual’s continuing growth down to consistent support from Woolworths and continual development of a strong host relationship. “The relationship is very strong because all the directors work for Woolworths or Big W and support the credit union. We’ve only had 10 chairs in 40 years, with Tony Parle, our current chairman, who has been the chairman since 1999.” Nonetheless, Sampson says that part of WECU’s five-year strategic plan is to harness balanced growth. “The idea is to grow enough to generate the profit needed to maintain the required capital levels. Profits generated go straight back into the credit union to improve the products and services.” WECU’s product range reflects its member demographics, which are slightly different to the average community credit union. There are fewer retirees, for instance, more families and a strong showing among the 25-45 year-old target market segment . “ We don’t profess to be everything to everyone. We don’t have business loans, and most of our products don’t have lots of bells and whistles. They’re simple and easy to understand, and I think members appreciate that, ” says Sampson. Easy does it “ We’re not a very big credit union, but we grow around 12-13 per cent every year.” Steve Sampson, general manager, Woolworths Employees Credit Union (From left): Pictured at the WECU anniversary celebrations are WECU directors Peter Heywood, Phillip Mercieca, Denise Von Der Lippe, Tony Parle (chairman), Paul Ryan, Jenny Mowatt, Karen Ware and Steve Sampson (general manager) (From left): Bill Pratt (first Safeway managing director), Tony Parle (WECU chairman) and Ian Agnew (1984 chairman)