Our 30th Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, on the banks of the River Tyne in Gateshead.
Due to developments with coronavirus (COVID-19), members did not have the opportunity to meet our overseas team, producers and special guests from the fair trade world in our planned 30th anniversary celebration. However, our AGM went ahead in the afternoon with 39 members present.
Members were welcomed by our Chair, Mary Coyle, before hearing an update on Shared Interest’s activities over the past year from Managing Director, Patricia Alexander.
“The range of products supported by Shared Interest has also diversified in the year but coffee remains the largest exposure, mainly due to the scale of Fairtrade coffee production with more than half of all Fairtrade certified producers growing this commodity. Handcraft and textile products continue to have an important place in our lending as we maintain our focus on the small and disadvantaged. Fifteen percent of our lending went to these producers compared to 10% in 2018.” She explained that our lending is particularly important to these groups as they cannot access finance from other social lenders, and local finance, if available is very expensive. We now lend to support 48 different product categories. To achieve this, we are very grateful to our members who collectively invested £43.1m by the end of our financial year. This year, 384 Share Accounts were opened, and the average age of members remains at 63 and we opened our 10,000th account bringing our current membership to 10,083. Of the initial 166 investors on 25th April 1990, 57 remain members.”
Patricia explained that, the team at the end of September 2019, consisted of 37 colleagues across five offices and collectively 12 languages were spoken. “Our volunteers also play a vital role in supporting the organisation and raising the profile of our work. Over the past 30 years, volunteers have actually been responsible for attracting £3.5m of investment.”
Finance Director and Company Secretary, Tim Morgan said: “Although it has been a very challenging year it has also been very positive. Rates charged to customers were retained at the same levels as last year other than one 0.25% US Dollar rate rise. Bad debt costs were at “normal levels” and still reasonable compared with similar lenders. It was therefore a good financial year for the Society with encouraging performance on lending especially in first half.” He also confirmed that the Society still held substantial provisions and reserves.
Overall, payments increased by 9% in 2019 compared to the previous year. However, 97% of the payments were made in currencies other than Sterling - predominantly US Dollars and Euros.
Share Capital increased by £1.7m, lower than last year, largely, we believe, due to uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Member account numbers grew by 118, closing the year with 10,009 Share Accounts. Other financial points included: We managed our lending and capital to deal with very low exchange rates Interest earned on deposits was steady at £58k The cost of money borrowed was up slightly by £24k to £472k The interest offered to members increased from 0% to 0.25%
30 years of Shared Interest
Please enjoy our anniversary film, which is dedicated to our founder, Mark Hayes, who sadly passed away in December 2019.Back to news
Ashley Wyatt, joint moderator of the Council, went on to say, “My six years on Council finishes today. We are a group of eight investors that meet three times a year to discuss the work of the organisation. During that time, it has been so gratifying to see a dramatic growth in Shared Interest’s level of investment, the milestone of reaching of 10,000 Investors and, through the Investor survey, seeing a heightened awareness of the importance of climate change amongst Investors. The last year of meetings of Council has enabled us to learn about some of the new areas of investment that Shared Interest are developing, as well as some of the challenges that Shared Interest faces in the light of broader changes in the fair trade environment.” You can read the full Council Moderator’s Report here.
Results of the postal ballot were also confirmed on the day. These included the re-election of Martin Kyndt and the election of Yvonne Gale and Cristina Talens to the Board, together with the re-election of Geoff Shearn and the election of Katherine Wyatt and Anjum Misbahuddin to Council.
The following resolutions were carried on the day with a significant majority (and this reflected proxy votes of members not attending in person):
- Financial Accounts
- Social Accounts
- Pay arrangements of the Executive Directors
- Non-Executive remuneration
- Re-appointment of Auditor
A Q&A session preceded the voting, with members posing a number of questions to the Board. Minutes of the meeting are available here.
The meeting was closed by Mary Coyle, Chair who thanked all attendees for joining the meeting in such exceptional circumstances. She also thanked retiring Non Executive Directors, Keith Sadler and Pauline Radcliffe together with Ashley Wyatt who retired as Joint Moderator of Council.
The Annual Review summary, details what our investors have made possible in the past year alone - helping almost 400,000 farmers and handcraft makers to run their businesses and earn a living income.