Guidance Note on Credit and Credit Control for Credit Unions. October Office of the Registrar of Credit Unions

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1 Guidance Note on Credit and Credit Control for Credit Unions October 2007 Office of the Registrar of Credit Unions

2 Contents Page Introduction 2 1. The Board of Directors 3 2. Credit Policy 5 3. Credit Control Policy 6 4. Commercial Loans 7 5. Single or Lump Sum Repayment Loans 8 6. Interest Rates on Higher Risk Loans 9 7. Provisions for Bad and Doubtful Debts Loan Rescheduling Security for Loans Role of Supervisory Committees Loan Records and IT Support 15 Appendix 1: Recommended minimum contents of a credit policy 16 Appendix 2: Recommended minimum contents of a credit control policy 18 1

3 Introduction The board of each credit union has a statutory responsibility under the provisions of the Credit Union Act, 1997 (as amended), The Act, for the general control, direction and management of the affairs, funds and records of their credit union. The issuance of loans by credit unions to their members is the single most important function that they perform. Good governance of the lending function is dependent on high quality underwriting supported by appropriate policies, procedures, systems, controls and expertise. The board of each credit union must ensure that their accounting records show a true and fair view of the financial position of the credit union. Consequently, in order to comply with this requirement, boards must ensure that records relating to their loan books are maintained to the highest standards. In view of the more competitive environment in which credit unions now operate and because of the changing nature of the credit function this Guidance Note is issued to assist credit unions in the enhancement of the quality of the governance of their lending activities. 2

4 1. The Board of Directors 1.1 Section 55 of the Act sets out the functions of the board of directors. These include: The making of decisions on applications for loans, The fixing from time to time of the rate of interest to be charged on loans to members and The fixing, from time to time, of the maximum amount which may be on loan at a particular time to a member in respect of loans, such limits to apply equally to all members. 1.2 Section 67 of the Act requires the board of directors to appoint a Credit Committee which shall decide on applications for credit and a Credit Control Committee which shall seek to ensure the repayment of loans by members of the credit union in accordance with their loan agreements. 1.3 Both committees are required to meet as often as necessary to carry out their functions, to comply with any instruction of the board of directors and to submit written reports on their activities to the board of directors at each meeting of the board. The board of directors must ensure that both committees comply with their statutory obligations. 1.4 The written reports submitted by each committee to the board of directors should contain sufficient financial and other information to enable the board assess compliance with the Act, the board s written policies and this Guidance Note so as to ensure proper oversight of the credit and credit control functions. 1.5 Section 65 of the Act permits the board of directors to appoint a credit officer and a credit control officer to assist the respective committees and work under their supervision. These officers should have the appropriate skills and receive the ongoing training necessary to discharge their functions effectively. 3

5 1.6 Those credit unions that do not currently have a credit officer and a credit control officer should actively consider making such appointments or put in place other arrangements to assist the respective committees in the proper discharge of their statutory functions. 1.7 It is important to note that while the board of directors can delegate authority for certain credit and credit control functions, as set out above, it cannot delegate responsibility or accountability in relation to these functions. 4

6 2. Credit Policy 2.1 All credit unions should have a written credit policy which has been approved by the board. 2.2 The purpose of the written credit policy is to ensure the implementation of proper and prudent underwriting standards in respect of the lending function. (The recommended minimum contents of a credit policy are set out in Appendix 1.) 2.3 The credit policy should be appropriate to the scale and complexity of the lending undertaken by individual credit unions. 2.4 A loan applicant s ability to repay a loan should be the primary consideration in the formulation and implementation of a credit policy. All applications should be fully assessed to ensure that the loan applicant s financial position, including commitments to other financial institutions, is fully disclosed. This may involve using the services of a credit bureau or credit reference agency where appropriate. 2.5 The credit policy should be reviewed by the board of directors on an ongoing basis but at least annually and should take account of changes or likely changes in economic conditions. The results of any such review should be minuted by the board. 2.6 Changes in economic conditions would include changes or likely changes in the interest rate environment. A review of the credit policy should include an examination of the appropriateness of the prevailing interest rates on the various categories of loans depending on current or likely future economic conditions. Account should also be taken of the effect of any interest rate increase on borrowers ability to meet their repayment obligations. 5

7 3. Credit Control Policy 3.1 All credit unions should have a written credit control policy which has been approved by the board. 3.2 The purpose of the written credit control policy is to ensure that borrowers repay their loans in accordance with the conditions of their loan agreements. (The recommended minimum contents of a credit control policy are set out in Appendix 2.) 3.3 The credit control policy should be appropriate to the scale and complexity of the lending undertaken by individual credit unions. 3.4 The credit control policy should be reviewed by the board of directors on an ongoing basis but at least annually. The results of any such review should be minuted by the board. 6

8 4. Commercial Loans 4.1 Commercial loans are those loans whose primary objective is to fund an activity whose purpose is to make a profit. 4.2 Commercial loans should only be made on the basis of a credible business plan, appropriate to the scale and complexity of the activity and should include financial projections. The taking of effective security by the credit union in respect of commercial loans should be considered as an important aspect of this activity and should be effected in accordance with the credit union s credit policy. 4.3 The performance of commercial loans should be subject to regular monitoring, appropriate to the scale and complexity of the activity. Examples of the monitoring process could include a review of bank statements, management accounts, annual audited accounts and/or personal interviews with the borrower. 4.4 If a credit union does not possess or have access to the skills to evaluate and monitor particular types of commercial lending then it should not engage in such lending. 4.5 The board of each credit union should decide on a prudent maximum percentage of the value of the total loans of the credit union to be deployed in commercial lending and should monitor compliance with this maximum amount by means of a monthly report of the credit committee to the board. 7

9 5. Single or Lump Sum Repayment Loans 5.1 Single or lump sum repayment loans should be regarded as those loans whose repayment takes the form of a single payment or where the repayment schedule is less frequent than on a monthly basis. The financial impact of default associated with these loans can be significant. 5.2 Lump sum repayment loans should only be granted in line with prudent approval criteria laid down in the credit policy. 5.3 If the loan is a commercial loan the guidelines set out in section 4 should also be followed. 8

10 6. Interest Rates on Higher Risk Loans 6.1 When considering the interest rate to be applied to different classes of loans, the board of directors should take proper account of the level of risk involved in such loans, subject to the statutory limit on interest rates set out in Section 38 of the Act. 9

11 7. Provisions for Bad and Doubtful Debts 7.1 Section 108 of the Act requires that every credit union must cause proper accounting records to be kept on a continuous and consistent basis and to disclose with reasonable accuracy and promptness the financial position of the credit union at any time. 7.2 Section 108 of the Act also sets out the specific requirements for the accounting records of a credit union in order to show a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the credit union and to explain its transactions. The board of the credit union should be familiar with the requirements set out in Section 108 of the Act. 7.3 Section 109 of the Act requires that proper systems of control are maintained for the purposes of producing accurate and timely information so that the officers and auditor of the credit union are enabled to discharge their functions. These systems must also be adequate for the provision to the Financial Regulator of accurate, relevant information required in the lending context. 7.4 The provisioning policy of a credit union in relation to bad and doubtful debts should be clearly documented. The policy must be such that it ensures consistency with the requirements of Section 108 of the Act for the accounting records to give a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the credit union. The document should set out the provisioning policy in relation to individual loan types, including single or lump sum repayment loans in arrears, rescheduled loans and loans in arrears where a transfer of shares is applied against the loan balance. 7.5 Where Resolution 49 of the Irish League of Credit Unions is the basis for the calculation of the provision for bad and doubtful debts, the calculation should be done strictly in accordance with its terms. 10

12 7.6 The Resolution 49 provision for bad and doubtful debts should be regarded as the minimum level of provision required. Where the board of directors considers that the Resolution 49 provision in respect of individual loans is inadequate or that loans not falling into the Resolution 49 calculation are impaired, they should ensure that specific provisions in addition to the Resolution 49 provision are made in respect of those loans. 7.7 The board of directors should ensure that a review of the loan book, to verify the adequacy of the provision for bad and doubtful debts, is carried out at least quarterly and that any resulting adjustments to the provision are incorporated into the monthly management accounts submitted to the board. 7.8 Single or lump sum repayment loans which are in arrears should be assessed individually to determine the need for any provision for bad and doubtful debts. 7.9 Any deviation from the requirements stated above for the calculation of the provision for bad and doubtful debts which has the effect of distorting the appropriate level of the provision, is unacceptable. The board of directors is responsible to ensure that such practices do not occur Examples of deviations which can distort the appropriate level of the provision for bad and doubtful debts may include the following: Inappropriate, excessive, unauthorised or multi rescheduling of loans; Inappropriate or excessive share to loan transfers; Clearing or reducing members loan arrears by granting those members additional or top up loans; Removing loans in arrears from the provision calculation where there is some form of security attaching to the loans Loans deemed irrecoverable by the board of directors on the advice of the credit control committee, should be written off in accordance with the procedure laid down in the credit control policy. Such loan write-offs should be made as they arise during the year and not left to the financial year-end. 11

13 8. Loan Rescheduling 8.1 Rescheduled loans are those loans where the repayment terms and conditions have been altered from the original or previous terms and conditions. All rescheduled loans should be subject to a new credit agreement. 8.2 Loans should only be rescheduled with the agreement of the member and for appropriate reasons in accordance with the criteria laid down in the credit control policy of the credit union. 8.3 The board of the credit union, or its authorised delegate, is responsible for the authorisation of loans to be rescheduled. The credit control policy should set out the authorisation process and clearly define responsibilities for this function. 8.4 Full details of all loans rescheduled should be entered in a register of loan amendments. 8.5 Rescheduled loans should be clearly designated and identifiable in the electronic loan records of the credit union. It should be possible to generate a report on rescheduled loans from these records. 8.6 Where the loan to be rescheduled is in arrears the bad debt provision attached to that loan should be maintained at the existing level until there is sufficient evidence that the loan is performing satisfactorily in accordance with its new terms. 8.7 In the case of share to loan transfers applied to reduce arrears the provisioning procedure outlined in 8.6 above should also apply. 8.8 A monthly credit control committee report to the board of directors should include summary details of all rescheduled loans and all share to loan transfers for the financial year to date. 12

14 9. Security for Loans 9.1 The level of security required in respect of individual loan applications should reflect the size and risk profile of the proposed loan. Approved types of security and the circumstances in which security should be taken, should be clearly set out in the credit policy. Vague legal or other undertakings to repay a loan on the occurrence of an uncertain future event should not be relied upon as loan security. 9.2 Professional legal advice should be obtained when taking security for large or complex loans e.g. bridging loans, commercial loans, property loans etc to ensure that legal title is properly perfected and enforceable in the event of default. 9.3 Prior to approving a loan application the credit committee or credit officer should take appropriate steps to satisfy themselves that potential guarantors are of sufficient standing and have the financial capacity to repay a loan in the event that the guarantee is called upon. 9.4 Security documentation should be securely and efficiently maintained. 9.5 Procedures should be in place to ensure that funds are not released until all conditions, including required security, are fully met. 13

15 10. Role of Supervisory Committees 10.1 Section 60 of the Act imposes a statutory responsibility on credit union supervisory committees to make, or cause to be made, an examination of the books and documents of the credit union, including an inspection of all records relating to loans, not less than twice in the period before the next annual general meeting As part of that inspection supervisory committees should satisfy themselves that the requirements of the Act, the credit union credit and credit control policies and this Guidance Note are being observed. 14

16 11. Loan Records and IT Support 11.1 To comply with sections 108 and 109 of the Act governing accounting records and systems of control and safe custody respectively, credit agreements and supporting loan documentation, including security documentation, must be fully completed in all cases and securely and efficiently filed The board of directors should be satisfied that the credit union possesses the appropriate level of IT systems to ensure the maintenance of proper accounting records and systems of control as required by the Act. The board of directors should consult with their auditor and IT supplier (or seek independent accounting and IT advice) in this regard if necessary. 15

17 Appendix 1: Recommended minimum contents of a credit policy The following should be clearly stated or defined: Credit Management The responsibilities of the credit committee. The lending authorisation limits of the credit committee and credit officers. The reporting requirements of credit officers to the credit committee, and the credit committee to the board of directors. The required contents of a monthly credit committee report to the board of directors. Credit Assessment Formal requirements in relation to the assessment of the borrower s ability to repay, e.g. application forms must be fully completed; establish if applicant has a good repayment history; what forms of proof of income should be obtained; how to obtain details of other financial commitments; the form and type of security acceptable to the credit union; etc Circumstances in which security (including guarantors) for loans must be obtained and the differing type and level of security required depending on the size and/or risk profile of the loan. Circumstances/types of loans where professional legal advice on security should be obtained. Circumstances in which non-standard loans, e.g. single or lump sum repayment loans, will be considered and particular approval conditions, including security conditions, attaching to such loans. 16

18 The maximum amount which may be lent to a member, and the maximum amount of commercial lending as a percentage of the total loan book, as determined by the board of directors. The assessment procedure and lending criteria applicable to first time borrowers. Policy regarding curtailment of loans to members in arrears. Specific procedures for evaluating and monitoring commercial loans. The maximum repayment period appropriate to different classes of loans. For example, holiday loans, car loans and home improvement loans should each have a maximum period in which the loan should be repaid. Credit Administration The interest rate applicable to each class of loan, if applicable. Procedures to prevent conflict of interest and assure segregation of duties between the approval and payment of loans. Systems of control to ensure (a) breach of the maximum loan limit does not occur through connected borrowers and (b) concentration of risk does not occur through over exposure to a small number of large and/or connected borrowers. Procedures for retention of loan documentation, including loan application forms/ credit agreements, security and ability to repay documentation. The next date on which the credit policy is to be reviewed by the board of directors. 17

19 Appendix 2: Recommended minimum contents of a credit control policy The following should be clearly stated or defined: Credit Control Management The responsibilities of the credit control committee. The reporting requirements of the credit control officer to the credit control committee and the credit control committee to the board of directors. The required contents of a monthly credit control committee report to the board of directors. Credit Control Operations The standard time (i.e. the level of arrears) when the credit control procedure is to be first activated in respect of loans in arrears. Description of the various stages of the credit control procedure from first contact with members in arrears to the legal recovery process and/ or enforcement of security. The criteria and procedure, including approval procedure and authorisation required, for rescheduling of loans and for transferring members share balances against loan arrears. The criteria and procedure, including approval procedure and authorisation required, for writing off bad debts. Procedure for review and follow up of bad debts written off. Credit Control Administration The next date on which the credit control policy is to be reviewed by the board of directors. 18

20 PO Box No 9138 College Green, Dublin 2, Ireland Registrar of Credit Unions Phone: (01) Fax: (01) Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority.

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