From office manager to chief executive - all credit to Ruth

Ruth Clarke

In the High Flyers spotlight this week is Ruth Clarke, chief executive at Clonard Credit Union (CCU)

What was your first job?

I was an office junior in the paint trade. I worked for MRCB in Mallusk for 11 years from the age of 16. I started as a sales purchase ledger clerk, then moved onto credit control.

What qualifications do you have?

I have eight CSEs, which are GCSEs today.I also have two certificates, one in advanced credit union practice from the Ulster University and one from the University of Cork for compliance and risk management.

What do you attribute your success to?

Hard work, honesty and a bit of luck to go along with it. I joined the credit union as office manager to cover maternity leave, and I was in the right place at the right time. I applied for the position when it because permanent and was successful, and since then we have grown CCU credit union from 4,500 members to over 20,000 members today. We have plans to develop further with the support of our members and this will allow us to offer even more services.

How would you describe yourself to someone who'd never met you?

Straight, honest and fair. I would like to think people view me as decent.

Who do you look up to in business?

My first boss was an accountant in MRCB when I was 16 and he led by example. He would never have asked me to do something that he wouldn't have done himself. My line manager in McNaughton Blair, when I worked there, had a firm but fair attitude that I always respected and always believed led to success. With regard to the credit union movement, I admire the work that Joan Gallagher, manager of Derry Credit Union, has done to develop and grow the credit union there, which is the flagship for the north of Ireland.

How do you get the best out of people who work for you?

I listen to the staff. We all have a role to play. We are all part of a movement and every member of staff is valuable. I expect a fair day's work for a fair day's pay.

If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?

Bringing down the barriers that exist between people and communities. We are here to serve every person that we can help. The ethos of the Credit Union is non-discrimination, and our slogan is not for profit, not for charity, but for service and that is what we go by every day. We treat every one of our members as equal members. Community is central to everything we are, and we undertake initiatives throughout the year to support local clubs and organisations, and to support those in need. CCU Credit Union exists because of our members and the entire community.

What website or app could you not do without?

The River Island app. My grandchildren have expensive tastes.

What was the last book you read?

The Tattooist of Auschwitz. It brings home what humans can do to other humans, and how we must all do everything to prevent horrors such as these occurring in the future.

What car do you drive?

A Toyata Aygo 1.0 litre. One lady owner. Never raced or rallied. It gets me from A to B.

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I've been in positions of hardship. A single mother with two children, struggling to make ends meet. The Credit Union was there to help me when I couldn't get credit anywhere else. Over years I worked hard to provide for my kids, and to reach the position I am in now as chief executive of an organisation with assets in excess of £54 million. I'm very grateful to be in the position I am now in, because I know how hard life can be, and I will never forget the struggles I and so many other people in the community have been through and are still going through today.

What's your greatest passion outside work and family?

A holiday. My husband and I rent a rural home in a beautiful part of Portugal called Cova de Muda twice a year. It is a place that we both look forward to going to, and where we can get the peace and quiet we need to relax and to recharge our batteries.

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