Matthew Sweetlove is head of lending at London Mutual Credit Union. He’s worked for the union for 15 years. “It’s great to feel like you are helping people. Many of our members are financially excluded, they have no other alternative but to go to high cost lenders or loan sharks, so we give them an alternative.”

LMCU offers loans to people who live in Southwark, Lambeth, Westminster and Camden. The union also offers pay reduction services to the MoD and many other employers. “We process loans and overdrafts and offer an alternative to mainstream banks.”

Once you are a member of a credit union, you are basically part of a club. Everyone has an interest in the credit union – almost as if every member has a share in the company. “We have no shareholders, so members benefit. So when we make profits, it’s returned back to the customers in the form of dividends, which is a bonus.”

LMCU loans are affordable. London Mutual offers payday loans at 42.6% APR, so if you borrowed £400 for a month, it would cost you £12 in interest. “Everyday we’re offering loans to people who are either in hardship or needing extra support,” says Matthew. “We offer loans for debt consolidation for example. Some people have high interest loans at 1200%, we’ll offer a rate of 12% on our premiere loans, so they can consolidate their debts and save money.”

Repayments on loans can be taken direct from your salary, says Matthew, so members don’t worry about managing their finances or missing a direct debit payment.

“Loans can be for anything, such as home improvements, a new car or going on holiday. Some members also use loans to consolidate debts, so instead of paying high interest, they pay one affordable payment. We offer loans up to £25,000 at 4.5% APR which many of are members are taking up.”

LMCU loans have been awarded the 5 Star Fair Banking Award because of its many features that allow members to budget their finances. “We don’t want people getting themselves into debt which they can’t afford and there are no early repayment fees.”

The LMCU service is very personal – Matthew loves that he’s helping people every day. “We had one lady whose husband had passed away in Africa and she had no way of getting back there for the funeral. She needed to get back quickly and therefore needed to get a loan within a few days.

We were able to put this through as an emergency loan, she was a payroll member so knew she was comfortable to cover the repayments. It was great to know we had helped someone by offering funds at a time of crisis.”