Llandrindod Wells fights back against bank closures

The new Smart Money Cymru branch in Llandrindod Wells is opened by the town’s Deputy Mayor Paul Smith. Picture by Nick Treharne.

The opening of Smart Money Cymru’s new branch has been hailed as a banking milestone for Llandrindod Wells.

Smart Money Cymru merged with Llandrindod Wells credit union Red Kite last year, and has now officially opened the refurbished and accessible office in the town centre with enhanced banking facilities.

The move has been warmly welcomed. Llandrindod Wells Deputy Mayor, Paul Smith, said he was delighted at the new premises and services. “Smart Money Cymru has a loan book of £5.2 million and £6.8 million in assets. While it may be small compared to national banks, it is big enough to be important to the local area.

“There are huge benefits to it being here and we will be supporting it in every way.”

Smart Money Cymru has over 14,000 members across South Wales who benefit from saving and borrowing with the mutual organisation across a network of branches from Newport to Llandrindod Wells and Brecon. It offers modern banking services, both online and face-to-face and has recently won a financial technology award.

While the town has lost most of its banks in recent years as the national institutions close branches, the new Community Bank is a very significant and welcome development, said local resident Jake Berriman at the official launch of the new branch.

“It is genuinely a banking milestone for the town and is bucking the trend of banking services in local communities,” he said.

Andrew Davies is Smart Money Cymru Development Manager for Powys, and he agreed there had been an excellent response to the new branch. “The merger with Red Kite is proving a great success and has been welcomed by the town,” he said.

The ground-floor branch is in a prominent position in Middleton Street in the heart of the town with staff on hand to explain the services on offer. The refurbishment was part-funded by Welsh Government through its Communities Facilities programme.

The opening of the new branch is seen as helping to address the lack of banking facilities as the mainstream banks continue their closure programmes.

Andrew pointed out that the profile of Community Banking and credit unions had evolved. “The credit union movement has developed over the years and is now much more sophisticated, mainly thanks to improved technology available. It is now for everyone not just the ‘poorer’ sectors of society,” he added.

The structure of Community Banks such as Smart Money was important too. “As a mutual society we are owned entirely by the members and do not have any shareholders, so all profits are reinvested to improve local services.”

He added that volunteers were the life-blood of the bank, and he was very grateful for their hard work and enthusiasm.

Community Accounts for clubs and organisations were becoming more popular he said and Smart Money was aiming to double the number of these in Powys as traditional services through High Street banks become harder to access. “I would urge these local clubs to come forward and see what we can offer. Very often we have the accounts they need and can cater for their requirements.”

Smart Money Cymru also works with employers setting up Payroll savings schemes for their staff. “These are free and mean that people are saving securely and safely and building financial resilience for themselves and their families.”

“Please call in and have a chat with us and I am sure you will be pleased and surprised by the quality and range of banking we can offer, whether you are an individual or an organisation,” he added.