By Joe Mellor Deputy Editor
In April 2005, Fair Finance opened its doors as a solution to tackle loan sharks and money lenders on a council estate in the heart of East London’s Stepney. Fast forward 10 years and they are now a thriving social business offering a range of financial products and services designed to meet the needs of individuals and businesses.
On 2 July the Dalston based not-for-profit celebrated its 10 year anniversary with the whole Fair Finance family. During the evening, Founder and Managing Director, Faisel Rahman OBE, spoke at length about his passion and inspiration for Fair Finance:
“Our mission has been to revolutionise financial services to be fully inclusive and fair; we are proud to have created a viable alternative in lending and advice. The team has grown to 35 people, in 6 branches spread across London speaking 12 languages. “
As an organisation they have continually campaigned to redress the injustice of people being left behind by traditional mainstream finance; and being taken advantage of by a growing market of exploitative and extortionate lenders. Fair Finance have supported over 22,000 Londoners with loans and advice, creating or growing 200 businesses across the UK, saving 6,000 residents from eviction and taking 14,000 people out of the hands of high cost lenders and saving them over £10 million in interest payments.
They were heavily involved in profiling the issues of payday lending and financial exclusion through the media – long before it became a political topic; giving evidence to the government to improve the high cost lending sector and participating in the creation of significant payday lending legislation.
Fair Finance was the first financial services organisation in the UK to publicly disclose lending data in 2005; and it was their campaign which paved the way for legislation to be passed last year to enshrine this in law for all banks. They have led a growing movement around social investment, microfinance in the UK and have seen their work replicated in Italy and Australia.
Rahman took the opportunity to reflect on his personal highlights over the last 10 years. Standout moments included signing the first ever social and commercial microfinance deal in the UK and winning the UK Alternative Lender of the Year Award, beating every payday and high cost lender at their own awards ceremony. The organisation also received a Big Society Award in 2013.
As a founder of a not-for-profit he spoke honestly about the difficulties he has faced along the way:
“Running any business is hard but running a business with a social mission that works in opposition to every other competitor is truly challenging. It’s hard financially, emotionally, mentally and occasionally physically. I guess if it was easy somebody else would have done it. I wish someone had told me that you can’t do this alone. You need people who are better than you.
I’m proud to have found so many people who are better than me at many of the things that have to be done to make Fair Finance great.”
Whilst celebrating all that they have achieved so far, Rahman believes the organisation still has some way to go in terms of both the scale and scope of what they want to achieve. Changes in regulation, government policy and working patterns will see the market for the organisation’s services continue to increase, with huge opportunities for growth and impact:
“Fair Finance is closer than ever to demonstrating that our way of doing business can not only be sustainable but profitable too. We’ve often been told that what happens in the real world should cause us to limit our ambition and impact. But for Fair Finance, the only real world that matters is our clients. The day we forget that is the day this job is no longer worth doing.”
For more information visit www.fairfinance.org.uk or call 0208 988 0627.