The Credit Union difference

Suzie Chetri, director of legal and compliance for Alcumus Group is one of a growing band of professionals who was offered a financial lifeline by a credit union.

Suzie, who is originally from Neath and a graduate of Cardiff University, found herself in mounting debt as a young solicitor.

“As a student from a working-class background, I financed myself through university,” Suzie explained. “I worked and used my student loan, but looking back I also chased a lifestyle I couldn’t afford.”

She explained that the pressure to achieve the trappings of a desirable lifestyle only increased when she started working for a legal firm in Bristol.

“I wanted the nice clothes, the apartment and the Mulberry handbags that other people in the office had,” Suzie said. “Before I knew where I was, I had £35,000 worth of debt – £20,000 student loans and £15,000 of personal debt. As I was only earning £18,000 at the time, I struggled to see a way out.”

After being offered high interest rates or being rejected by banks, Suzie turned to Cardiff & Vale Credit Union.

“They loaned me £13,500 to help manage the debts and I repaid them £300 a month,” she said. “The clever part was that around £20 of that £300 went into a savings account. As I watched the savings grow, it became addictive and I was soon topping them up.

“By the time I paid off the loan I was engaged to be married and my savings actually paid for my wedding dress!”

Now a volunteer director of Cardiff & Vale Credit Union, Suzie has become an active advocate of credit unions.

“Growing up, I remember my family using voucher schemes for Christmas, paying through the nose for what was essentially a savings scheme,” she said. “I wish that we had been aware of credit unions back then.

“Whatever our circumstances, we can all make better financial decisions. Credit unions are the good guys, they’re ethical, they work in our communities and they help people make those better choices.”