Vocation, Vocation, Vocation…

Angela Clements, Founder and CEO of Fair For You, guest blogs about her journey within the financial system.

“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation” Aristotle

I have a good friend whose choice to be ordained came as shock to her (and her husband!) having previously been a successful accountant. My transition from corporate banker to a social entrepreneur was not quite so sudden, though equally surprising. Many of us lose faith in the career we chose, quite a number then join the Third Sector hoping to put their skills and expertise to better use. But why would a woman of, shall we say, mature years, give up a safe and well paid job to try to build the first national, not-for-profit lender challenging high cost credit providers?

I realised we need better credit solutions, and my talent lies in doing just that.

There has been a credit gap filled by a very large number of effective high cost lenders. It is not a homogeneous sector, but some lenders are profiting well with traits that seem to have little place in lending:

  • Selling up to increase the loan – often beyond the customer’s ability to repay,
  • Adding on insurances and warranties without choice,
  • Imposing penal charges at all stages of the credit,
  • Aggressive collection tactics.

When the washing machine breaks, low income families have no option but to use a high cost lender to replace it. And it isn’t only mum that struggles when the washing machine breaks, the whole family gets affected. The shadow stays with you even when you leave the house. How can a kid focus at school if they’re bullied because their clothes don’t smell nice?

I have simply never walked the lives that I see now, and I am not referring to a few people hidden away, but the estimated 12 million who can’t access mainstream credit and are thrown to the circling sharks when the fridge packs up.

We can change how we lend to lower income families. Modern borrowing for vulnerable customers must be:

  • Flexible – few low income households have a stable monthly income from a single source,
  • Transparent – finances are pulled in many directions with little buffer for unexpected costs,
  • Straightforward – financial literacy is low, requiring products to be simple,
  • Supportive – a missed payment is a sign of stress, not of default, and usually is overcome with a little support.

We created Fair for You based on our vision of a fairer world.

While it is hard work for a small team, underfunded and battling to take on the Goliaths of the high cost credit sector, we are all passionate about our work. It is clear now that we don’t provide small loans, although our average loan is £300, and we don’t sell washing machines, though we do sell lots of them!

What we really do is treat our customers with respect and transform their financial household. We allow them to walk away from weekly payment stores and other high cost credit they have been obliged to use.

The finance system must be inclusive to all areas of society. Get involved. Use your talents. Find your vocation.