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The Responsible Finance Podcast

Aug 3, 2023

A community banking agreement brokered by a disadvantaged community with a mainstream bank two decades ago offers valuable insights to address financial exclusion today.

Niall Alexander, a "community worker by trade" says the "groundswell" in addressing unfairness and financial exclusion is now reaching a peak. People "aren't asking for gold plated taps" – they need very small sums of money, but could turn to illegal lenders if fair and affordable credit isn't available legally.

Niall, now Markets and Consumer Insights Manager with Fair4All Finance, covers a lot of ground in this episode and doesn't mince his words.

A couple of decades ago he worked in Wester Hailes, a peripheral housing estate in Edinburgh. With some "amazing community activists" they set up a community banking agreement with the Bank of Scotland.

  • What did it achieve for disadvantaged, under-served and financially-excluded people?
  • How has Niall's journey from community worker to bank employee to working with community development finance institutions, then Carnegie UK informed his work with Fair4All Finance?
  • What are his key priorities with Fair4All? Niall describes the recent powerful report into illegal money lending and other forthcoming research due in September 2023.
  • Why is Niall a fan of good, fit-for-purpose legislation.
  • What can we do to help people avoid illegal lenders and scale up affordable credit?
  • How has Michael Sheen's engagement in addressing high-cost lending been helpful?
  • Why should we, and how can we, quantify the value and benefit of the wraparound services that not for profit lenders offer?
  • And what potential does a Community Reinvestment Act – or Fair Banking Act – offer in the UK?

Many people work really hard to run really good businesses with wafer thin margins in community finance. And there are good people in mainstream finance who want to find common ground – despite different cultures – and Niall is confident in the potential for a "slow then sudden" change.

What next?

  • Visit the Fair4All Finance website for reports mentioned in this episode
  • Read about the report from Fair4All Finance and We Fight Fraud ‘As one door closes – Experiences of illegal moneylending during an emerging cost of living crisis’ 
  • Listen to our podcast episode with Michael Sheen
  • Learn more about Fair Finance, Fair for You, Moneyline, Salad Money and Responsible Finance, which represents social purpose, community lenders in the UK: