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Fair Finance’s Outstanding Award- CDFI Conference

By Shamima and Marvin

Early this year Fair Finance had the honour of attending the annual Community Development Financial Association conference and awards ceremony. Held at the Marriot Hotel, Shamima, Marvin, Faisel and Rob enjoyed fantastic seminars, a conference and a lovely stay in Bristol.

For those of you who may or may not be aware, the CDFA awards are held to “recognise the excellent work of community development finance institutions (CDFIs) in changing lives and communities, and the inspiring individuals who work in the community finance industry”.

Senior Loans Officer Shamima was nominated for an award in the category “Outstanding Loans Officer of the Year” (Congratulations Shamima!). This award has been designed to recognise an outstanding individual contribution to the Community Finance Sector. Shamima and Marvin (Our collections champ) blogged their way through the event, just so you wouldn’t miss out. What were the highlights of the event? What did we learn? Did Shamima win?

Day one: Award Ceremony

Rob had heard there was flooding on the train line from London to Bristol so came fully prepared with a pair of swimming goggles!

The awards ceremony was hosted by the renowned Business Presenter for BBC Breakfast- Stephanie McGovern. Fair Finance was nominated for two awards, Impact Award and also the Outstanding Loan Officer award. Unfortunately our respectable rival Five Lamps beat us to the Impact Award. However, we were shortlisted amongst the top three…
Don’t worry next year will be ours!

Despite missing out on the Impact Award the night was soon to take a turn for the better. Shamima had been nominated for the Outstanding Loan officer awards against six other nominees. To her surprise (but not ours) Shamima was named the winner!

“It was a complete shock to actually win the awards. Being nominated was good enough for me. I remember when I heard my name, I was clapping away not realising it was my name that they called out. The award may have been an individual recognition award but I can proudly say it echoes for each and every member of FF”.-Shamima

Day Two: Seminars
To start the day, Rob made use of his goggles and swimming trunks and took a dip in the pool. The team also sat down to a delicious breakfast- a Full English!

The conference commenced at 9:15am with a brief summary about the day’s agenda by Jonathan Diggines (chief executive of Enterprise Ventures). Elaine Moore, journalist of FT Money hosted the first plenary of the day where the topic up for discussion was new horizons for a new industry. We discussed sustainable growth and diverse finance solutions as well as deciding whether we need a radical change. Although change is on the way with the growth of community finance, crowd funding and an increase in challenger banks, we discussed if a reform was needed to achieve a better finance services industry.

The team were each given the opportunity to choose a seminar group that they would like to attend. Shamima and Marvin attended the Ethical Alternatives to High Cost Credit seminar whilst Faisel attended CDFIs as a community bank, and Rob attended Local Enterprise Partnerships, Funding and Access to Finance.
In Shamima and Marvin’s seminar they learned about the payday loan scheme which is being piloted by London Mutual Credit Union. Gareth Evans, associate research manager, discussed how CDFI’s can achieve the profile and scale like Wonga as well as discussing what policy, funding and products are needed.

“Their sole aim is to provide an alternative to pay day loans as a large proportion of their own customers are resorting to PDL on a monthly basis to cover basic living costs such as bills, etc. Quick breakdown example: APR 26.8% costing customer £8 in interest for borrowing a loan of £400. Loan could be extended over 3 months without incurring any rollover fees, as you would a PDL. Total of 1200 loans could be disbursed over 12 months keeping bad debt at 6.3%; however it was running a loss of £2.30 for each loan. Credit Union’s loan would only be sustainable if every client stayed a customer for 9 months taking out multiple payday loans or other CU products. Although Credit Union’s product is unique in its alternatives, the stumbling block would be challenging the easiness when taking out a PDL for example with Wonga.”

Perhaps Fair Finance can adopt this method?

Faisel’s Speech

Faisel was a keynote speaker at the conference and he talked about the vision for the sector over the next 3 years. He made some very essential points when comparing the CDFI to Wonga. For example he compared the income that is generated between them- across all CDFI’s multiplied by ten didn’t come close to the income Wonga makes alone in one year. However he did give an important message- to have some impact in the sector CDFI’s needed to build strong partnerships alongside mainstream financial institutions and they have to reduce reliance of funding from the government.

“CDFIs are the corner stone to this new financial services model. With flexibility to raise capital from a broad range of investors, they have great potential to scale and be part of the ethical, ‘high street’ finance outlet society wants”

Tweets from the night
CDFA14, Bob Annibale @Citi running through USA figures of capitalising CDFIs. “and to build in UK…you need the capital”
Nigel Kershaw of @BigIssueInvest -“we need more capitalisation in the sector” #CDFA14.
@faiselr making comparisons between CDFI sector size & #Wonga…massive gap #cdfa14

Innovations in the Industry
Nigel Kershew OBE, The Big Issue, explained one other innovation that was of interest of Shamima and Marvin. The new advance comprises of Experian uploading data on individual rental payment history from the Housing Associations. This is in order to enable their credit score and to acknowledge whether they manage their rent payments. It also gives clients the chance to build their credit profile.
Click here to read the article


It was a pleasure to be part of the annual conference, hearing everyone’s view on the sector and what more could be done by individual CDFI’s. Subsequently there has a common theme where everyone is aiming high but without the capitol in place, it would not be possible. There were some intuitive discussions providing solutions, strategies and alternatives providing knowledge for current and future products.

Here are some comments from our award winning loan officer, Shamima, and our Collections Champ, Marvin.
“I have always felt privileged to be a part of Fair Finance and the role we all play within the local community and working alongside team of dedicated and highly capable individuals. But to be singled out from a team of hard working staff where everyone has the right to the award left me feeling very honoured”.-Shamima
“I have to say I was honoured to be part of the team representing FF for the CDFA’s Annual Conference Event. The event was a good experience getting to know and fully understand what CDFA is about. It was also informative listening to strategies and financial solutions from both members of CDFA and CDFIs. The Awards ceremony was warm and very welcoming. Listening to Stephanie McGovern entertaining us with life at the BBC was insightful. It was interesting witnessing award winners like Five Lamps taking The Impact Award and of course our very own Shamima winning the OPLO Award (You go girl). The overall event was really worthwhile”.-Marvin

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