The credit union difference

As Valentine’s Day gets closer, members of Cambrian have been sharing what they love about their credit union, and it’s quite frankly humbling, says Chris Kay.

People often ask what’s the difference between a bank, a building society and a credit union. On the face of it we’re pretty similar and all offer savings and loans. Like banks and building societies, any savings in a credit union are guaranteed up to £85,000 by the government.

So here’s the technical answer about how a credit union is different: Unlike a bank, which is run for profit, a credit union is owned by its members as a cooperative, and is very much focussed on the community it serves.

We have a common bond, often geographical, for instance Cambrian Credit Union can only offer savings and loans to those who live or work in North Wales and Powys.

Our revenue is ploughed back into the credit union, with excess profits given to members as dividends.

Well, that is the technical answer, but credit unions are really about helping people.

In the run up to Valentine’s Day our members have been sharing their thoughts on what they love about Cambrian.

The members’ words have been both humbling and heartening, with comments such as ‘straight-forward’, ‘helpful’ and ‘warm and friendly’ to name a few.

One member from Wrexham said: “When you go into the office it makes you feel like you’re visiting family.”

Meanwhile, a Cambrian member from Rhyl, summed up the impact a credit union can make, without the technical jargon.

In a video, he said: “When I’ve asked for help, the credit union have been there to save the day.

“They lead the way in common sense… and they’re at a level where they’re in touch with people.”

After a tough year of funding cuts and restructuring, I think I speak for all of our staff when I say we have been genuinely touched and heartened by our members’ words.

Incidentally, if you would like to see the comments for yourself, they are being published on the Cambrian Credit Union Facebook page throughout the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day.

* Chris Kay is CEO at Cambrian Credit Union, which is a community based, financial services cooperative. He has worked in the consumer lending sector for more than 35 years.

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