I’d like to introduce you to just one of the organisations fighting financial exclusion in the West Midlands – the Fair Finance Consortium.
The Fair Finance Consortium is a collaboration of 10 independent Not for Profit financial services providers who operate throughout the West Midlands, members include:
- Black Business In Birmingham (3b)
- Black Country Enterprise Loan Fund
- Black Country Reinvestment Society
- Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust
- North Staffordshire Risk Capital Fund plc
- Sandwell Advice and Money Link
- Street UK
- The Arrow Fund
- The Halal Fund
All of the members are either Independent Not for Profit businesses, Charitable Foundations (Ltd by guarantee), or Industrial and Provident Societies (IPS). Unlike ‘For Profit’ organisations loan capital (money earned from loan repayments) is recycled, and loaned out again and again.
In my mind the most important work that the FFC does is in fighting financial exclusion – helping small businesses, entrepreneurs, and sole traders as well as individuals who would otherwise be excluded from credit – this in turn helps to reduce the number of ‘door step lenders’. They also help to build financial literacy – especially Street UK which is soon implementing the UK’s first “Not for Profit” Bill Payments service and will be offering it’s customers banking facilities – this is a big step forward in providing a holistic and ‘one stop shop’ approach to the financially excluded in the West Midlands (more about this in a later post soon).
I asked George Keenan of the Fair Finance Consortium if he could give me a short introduction to the Fair Finance Consortium. Over to George:
“During the summer of 2004 eleven independent Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) establish the Fair Finance Consortium (FFC) part funded by the RDA, and the CDFI sectors National Association, the CDFA. Their collaborative objective is to improve the access to and the ability for people to locate and select CDFIs as the realistic alternative provider of business finance (Offering loans from £1,000 up to £50,000). Their products are designed to help startups and SMEs including social enterprises, situated within the conurbations of the West Midlands, who are unable to secure investment via traditional sources such as banks.
By 2005 (FFC) had shaped the interim brand strategy, Implementing a diverse mix of awareness techniques, that commenced with the launch of www.fair-finance.net in March 2006. This regionally customer focused online web portal set out to simplify the online search experience.
April 2007 marked the first anniversary of their web portal, which received over £2.5 million in loan applications, the membership continue to build a growing reputation for tackling market failure by investing in innovation and funding growth, building a stronger economic region via an accessible client focused sector.”
George has a blog, where he talks mainly about all things CDFI related – he’s recently relaunched it with better functionality around comments and inclusivity of opinion – George Keenan’s Fair Finance Blog – it would be great if you could have a look.