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DUBLIN, Ireland – The Financial Services Regulatory Authority (IFSRA) has published a three-year strategic plan that will affect Ireland’s more than 500 credit unions. In May, as the IFSRA celebrates its first anniversary, all Irish financial services will come under one agency. In the past, different parts were subject to a mish-mash of regulations issued by a number of agencies. The detailed plan outlines goals per segment, methods, measurements and a step-by-step schedule. The major goal is to make it easy for Irish citizens to work through the wide variety of financial products and to reduce their risks in making selections. The IFSRA considers their major stake holders both the consumer and the financial institutions themselves. They do not want to reduce competition, on the contrary they consider it healthy. Credit unions had been worried that IFSRA would not take into consideration the special place they hold. Credit unions pervade every class of Irish society. Irish President Mary McAleese claims to be a proud member. Nobel Peace Laureate John Hume is often out speaking to and for credit unions. The IFSRA plan said that credit unions “provide a vital financial service to many communities around the country. There are about 2.6 million credit union members with savings of approximately _9 billion” (US7.46 billion). “The credit union philosophy of encouraging saving and providing access to loans, together with their community based ethos, is an important facet of our society.” However IFSRA recognizes a number of challenges facing credit unions including: updating technology, maintaining training, handling a surplus of deposits and the aging of a majority of volunteers. It’s planning a three-prong approach by “having a properly differentiated supervisory approach; providing information to members; and working in partnership with the credit union movement.” IFSRA plans to consult regularly with Credit Union Advisory Committee, the Irish League of Credit Unions, the Credit Union Development Association, the Association of Credit Union Supervisors and Credit Union Managers Association in providing educational and promotional services to their members. The IFSRA not only has to comply with Irish laws, they need to follow European Regulations which are split between principle-based and philosophy-based regulations. The strategic plan takes this into account by describing the two. They say a principles’ based approach is where the regulator focuses “on corporate governance, evaluating competency, risk measurement and monitoring issues” compared to “a rules’ based approach, which advocates supervision by means of detailed standards and protocols.” IFSRA’s plans to follow a philosophy based approach. -

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