Non-profit responsible credit provider Fair for You (FfY) is ready to scale up and take the fight to predatory lenders, thanks to a new £7.5 million investment from some of the country’s biggest social investors and foundations.
The investment, which includes £5 million in dormant assets funding from the Government-backed Fair4All Finance, gives further firepower to the social enterprise, whose loans allow customers unable to access mainstream credit to buy essential household items from retail partners including Whirlpool, Dunelm, Argos and Carpetright. Independent impact data shows that the majority of FfY customers are able to stop using high-cost providers as a result.
Seven social investors have pulled together into a perpetual bond providing quasi capital of £7.5m which secures FfY’s balance sheet and allows it to leverage commercial funding to take on the high cost credit sector. Alongside Fair4All, the investment comes from six of FfY’s existing social investors: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Esmee Fairbairn, Tudor Trust, Barrow Cadbury Trust, Robertson Trust and Ignite. This is the first time a perpetual bond has been used to fund affordable credit – with £4.35m upfront rising to £7.5m when fully drawn down from Fair4All.
This investment round alone will allow the social enterprise to lend to many more families in need, rising from 25,000 loans last year to 250,000 loans per year in five years’ time. This will deliver at least £58m in cost savings to these customers each year through avoidance of high-cost short term credit.
Following the successful completion of the first phase of the perpetual bond, FfY has appointed Sarah Gardiner, formerly head of investor relations at Nationwide to lead on commercial fundraising.
Sarah Gardiner, head of growth strategy at FfY, said: “I’m very excited to have joined Fair for You at a pivotal time. By lending responsibly and sustainably to tens of thousands of lower income households, Fair for You has demonstrated the huge opportunity to fill this much needed gap in the market. We are growing and diversifying our investor base to further boost our rapid growth and broaden the proposition.”
Howard Bell, Chair of Fair for You, said: “There are around 15 million people in the UK struggling to access affordable credit who are just one unexpected bill or bit of bad luck away from a crisis. Lockdown has made it harder for families to live without basic items such as cookers and washing machines. The need for Fair for You to scale rapidly has never been clearer. We are delighted to be the first genuine not for profit to use the dormant assets funding and ongoing support from social investors to leverage commercial funding and push out firms that take advantage of financially vulnerable customers.”
Sacha Romanovitch, Fair4All Finance CEO, said: “Anyone who meets the team at Fair for You will experience their commitment and passion to make a difference to the lives of the people they serve.
“The investment they have already made in tracking their social impact has made this a natural area for them to build on as we develop tools and resources that can be shared with the wider sector. Their key challenge was restructuring their balance sheet to allow them to secure further lending capital alongside support to continue innovation in product design and impact reporting. We are confident that the learning from them will create significant value for the sector as a whole.
During lockdown, the ethical lender has made around twice as many loans as it did in the same period last year reflecting increased social need and the collapse of high-cost rent-to-own retailer BrightHouse. This current exceptional period of growth exceeds the steady, background growth of around 60% year-on-year. Under lockdown, loans for washing machines have doubled, with applications reflecting the closure of launderettes. The feedback of two recent customers highlight the life-changing impact of a washing machine for those who have been living without:
“My mental health has been improved as I am no longer stressed about not having a working washer. I don’t have to wash clothes in the sink by hand.”
“We had to wash clothes in the bath which was causing back pain. It’s just a washer dryer to most but to me it’s a miracle.”