SurreySave is one of a number of new credit unions that sprang up in communities across the country in the wake of the banking crisis. Formally launched on the 9th of January 2012, SurreySave has been going from strength to strength, reaching 1000 members in March 2014, and three months later announced that members had deposited their first £1 million of shares.
Credit unions are financial co-operatives; not-for-profit and owned and controlled by their members. Decisions are made democratically amongst members, and there are no external shareholders. Most credit unions, particularly in the UK, focus their efforts on supporting the local community from which they stem and investing ethically. The intent is to be able to offer local members more competitive rates for loans and related services than banks and building societies.
Estimates from the World Council of Credit Unions put global credit union members at 118 million in 94 countries. They are especially popular in Ireland, America and the Caribbean. In the UK, there are over 550 credit unions and more than 550,000 members – and these numbers are growing rapidly.
SurreySave Credit Union has so far awarded loans worth over £750,000 to Surrey citizens and received many messages of thanks from those whose lives have been transformed by being able to access affordable credit. They pride themselves on offering finance to the financially excluded that cannot access standard high street banking. In this way they hope to improve the community as a whole, with an ‘all in it together’ philosophy.
There are numerous examples of Surrey citizens being able to access finance from SurreySave, rather than having to resort to loan sharks or pay day lenders. The rates are better, the trust is higher; and in the end the community as a whole benefits.