Better Business / Better Business

’It’s wrong to think individuals can’t make a difference – they really can’

By ellie pipe, Monday Nov 16, 2020

As the business development manager at Bristol Credit Union (BCU), Sim Ilyas is responsible for the company’s financial welfare at work initiative MONEY@WORK, which aims to help employers improve the financial wellbeing of their staff through access to savings and ethical lending.

BCU is a not-for-profit cooperative that was established in 1999 and aims to help people in the city and surrounding area save and borrow at fair rates while giving the regional economy a boost.

What inspires you to get up in the morning and go to work?
As a former debt adviser, I’m all too familiar with the pitfalls of lending and personal finance. I’m motivated by the prospect of helping people avoid these so they don’t end up losing money or coping with unnecessary stress.

When it comes to personal finances, people can be very brand loyal and reluctant to make changes, sometimes to their detriment. Helping people consider local ethical alternatives is also a big motivation.

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Sim Ilyas says greater collaboration will be the key in the next five years – photo courtesy of Bristol Credit Union

What does a Better Bristol mean to you?  
A compassionate community made up of people who look out for one another, a community where people are given the help and opportunities they need to thrive and live fulfilling lives. Better Bristol is made up of people asking how they can be better.

If you could pick one thing to change in Bristol, what would it be?
Generally, the traffic. But more specifically, the slightest thing in some far corner of the city throwing everything into disarray. That’s one curious butterfly effect we can all live without.

How do you feel you, as an individual, can make a difference?
First and foremost by consistently asking the question of myself: ‘What’s the compassionate response here?’. It’s wrong to think individuals can’t make a difference – they really can.

In what ways can your company make a difference?
As a credit union, BCU has been consistently innovative, always trying to occupy the kind of space where services can be provided to unbanked people or those rejected by mainstream lenders.

MONEY@WORK is a further example of this innovation, giving people the chance to improve their financial welfare in a really easy, hassle-free way.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of Bristol’s business community (including private, public and third sector)?
The single biggest strength is undoubtedly the sense of inter-connected-ness and community. Whether this is to do with traders’ associations on Gloucester Road or the myriad of business networks that operate within the city, Bristol seems to be home to a large number of people who are interested in making their businesses thrive and helping others do the same.

What do you want to see from the Bristol business community over the next five years?
No doubt the fallout from Covid-19 will be wide-ranging and long term for some. Greater collaboration will be the key in the next five years, focusing on values, recognising and capitalising on specialisms and a willingness to see obstacles as opportunities.

We want to be part of a healthier new normal and BCU has already taken steps to ensure that we play a critical role in rising to the challenge of providing alternative finance. MONEY@WORK also tunes into this new normal agenda by helping employers take care of their people, reducing financial stress and anxiety outside work so people can deliver to their full potential in their role.

What is your biggest ambition personally and for the city as a whole?
I’ve always had the ambition of buying land and building my own house. I hope I can do this before I’m too old and tired!

As for Bristol as a whole, it would be great to see it maintain the reputation as the place that manages to strike the happiest balance on so many important things: quality of life, friendliness, vibrancy, opportunities…  Viva Bristol!

Sim Ilyas says BCU is rising to the challenge of providing alternative finance – photo courtesy of Bristol Credit Union

Main photo courtesy of Bristol Credit Union

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