Seizing Opportunities: Reaching CMS Credit Union’s Potential


Through exploring the Borough of Merton with the aid of Commonside Community Development Trust, a need has been identified for CMS Credit Union to better serve the borough’s low-income residents by encouraging savings and providing non-predatory loans. For the credit union to best serve these individuals, we identified four key areas of improvement: accessibility, products, marketing, and organizational structure. To this end, a consultancy report, website, pamphlet, and marketing network were delivered to CMS as part of a recommendations package.


This project evaluated and stressed the use of Croydon, Merton, and Sutton Credit Union (CMS) within the Borough of Merton, specifically focusing on serving the low-income Pollards Hill area. Over the course of the project, interviews were conducted with expert contacts, local residents, and CMS board members. Additionally, both the local community and CMS were closely explored through guided tours and observations. The credit union industry as a whole was explored through attendance of national events. All of these methods combined into findings focused on the strengths and shortcomings of CMS. This knowledge led to recommendations outlining innovations in the operations, services, marketing, and management of CMS so as to better seize the opportunity for growth in Merton and initiate a positive evolution in the organization.

The findings on CMS were focused on five main areas: physical access, products, presence and marketing, organizational structure, and internal political challenges. A list of the key findings that were used to drive the creation of the recommendations delivered to CMS can be found below:

  • CMS has limited physical accessibility options.
  • The current loan product line is complex and exclusionary.
  • Current marketing materials are out of date and inefficient.
  • The organizational structure struggles to accomplish the work necessary for CMS’s operations.
  • Internal political issues hinder CMS’s internal Board of Directors.

Based on the findings on CMS and the data gathered from the community in Pollards Hill, a set of recommendations was put together to address the present shortcomings of CMS and provide it with a detailed and achievable plan for a pilot program aimed at expanding presence, increasing customer base, and revamping operations. These recommendations focused on improving the efficacy of CMS Credit Union at serving the Borough of Merton, specifically focusing on Pollards Hill, but will also improve CMS services for members in all three boroughs that CMS serves: Croydon, Merton, and Sutton.


Figure I. CMS Champions Pamphlet


  • Provide a presence in locations close to the community.
    • Set up location in the New Horizon Centre on Fridays from 09:00-14:00 with at least one staff member.
    • Provide weekend hours through collaboration with New Horizon Centre
  • Change opening hours in select current locations:
    • Croydon Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10:45 – 16:45.
    • Merton Civic Centre Wednesday 10:00 -17:00.
    • Move Sutton Civic Centre presence to Thursdays
  • Provide easy access in place of requiring appointments to speak with CMS at the Croydon Bernard Weatherill House.
  • Provide checking, debit card, and ATM features to savings customers.
  • Allow customers to check balances, submit forms, and join online.


Figure II. New and Current Locations Opening Time Suggestions


  • Consolidate the current loan products line into a single universal loan.

web 2

Figure III. Universal Loan Sliders


  • Utilize a network of CMS Champions who are local community leaders enlisted to spread awareness and promote use of CMS Credit Union.
  • Develop strong branding by following the principles of simplicity, emphasizing images over text, and consistency showcased in the developed website.

CMS web

Figure IV. Home Page of Created Website

Organizational Structure

  • Implement an organizational structure that emphasizes division of responsibilities, accountability, and a clear chain of command.

Additionally, CMS received tangible finished products including a computer interface for a new streamlined product, a fully redesigned website, an innovative budgeting tool embedded on the website, a network of committed CMS Champions, an informational handout for the training of CMS Champions, and a new organizational structure.

These recommendations received the support of Merton stakeholders who were keen to collaborate with CMS in the borough and the support of several CMS board members committed to “make it happen in Merton”.

Commonside Team


Chris Botaish, Computer Science, 2015

Brendan Cavanagh, ECE, 2015

Jose Cueva, Civil Engineering, 2015

IQP Commonside Final Report


Commonside Community Development Trust

Naomi Martin

Andrew Wakefield



Laureen Elgert

Scott Jiusto