FAQ

What is Shared Interest?

Shared Interest are a community benefit society which acts co-operatively and the world's only 100% fair trade lender. Our members share our vision of a world where justice is at the heart of trade finance. We form the vital link between UK social investors and fair trade organisations overseas needing finance to improve their livelihoods.

How does Shared Interest do this?

Our UK based account holders invest anything between £100 and £100,000. These funds are pooled and used to provide credit services and low interest loans to fair trade farmers and artisans in the developing world.

How do Shared Interest's services help people in the developing world?

We provide a variety of financial options, from funds to assist the organisation's cash flow which enable them to pre-finance orders to longer term loans that allow businesses to grow and develop, providing sustainable livelihoods for the producer groups involved.

Shared Interest services at a glance:

Fair trade export credit

Finance in advance via fair trade buyers to fulfil orders

Commercial order export credit

Finance in advance to enable producers to meet orders from commercial organisations such as supermarkets

Long term loans

Fixed term loans for equipment or the development of infrastructure

Buyer pre-finance

Finance for buyers to enable them to make advance payments to producers

Payment processing

A Shared Interest account enables buyers in the developed world to make payments for goods to a wide range of producers, even if they themselves are not Shared Interest customers

How is this different from other financial institutions?

We are the only lender in the world to focus exclusively on fair trade. We also only work with businesses that are registered members of FLO or WFTO and have audited financial accounts over at least three years, making us different from microfinance institutions. We aim to create a fairer world through our work rather than earn big profits. We offer credit without taking security because it is an insurmountable obstacle to many fair trade businesses. We seek to share business risk with our customers because by doing so we, together, make trade possible.

Is Shared Interest a microfinance organisation?

We are not a microfinance organisation as we do not work with start-up enterprises. All of the businesses we work with need to be fair trade registered and show evidence of three years of audited accounts.

Does Shared Interest charge interest on its loans?

We lend on an unsecured basis knowing that many of our customers either do not have any security to pledge, or have already used their assets to secure conventional borrowing. We do charge interest to our customers.  This interest rate is based on the risk attached to the individuals and is competitive in comparison to loans available in country.

How many investors does Shared Interest have?

Almost 9,000 at present

How can I pay money into my Share Account?

Topping up your Share Account is easy, use the form in your Investor Pack to set up a standing order or use the Bank Giro Credit slips also provided.

Don't forget to let us know if you need more slips, contact membership on: 0191 233 9102 or email membership@shared-interest.com

Standing Order

To set up a standing order with your bank all you need is our bank account number 70062793 and sort code 089006. Don't forget to use your ten digit account number as a reference.

Cheque

You can make further investments into your account using a cheque in two ways. You can take the Bank Giro Credit Slip at the bottom of your statement along with your cheque to your bank. Alternatively you can send cheques directly to our Newcastle office. Cheques sent directly to us must have your ten digit account number written on the back. All cheques should be made payable to Shared Interest Society Ltd

Bank Transfer

If you have access to online banking you can transfer funds directly to your Share Account. All you need is our bank account number 70062793 and sort code 089006. Don't forget to use your ten digit account number as a reference.

Making a withdrawal

You can withdraw any amount at any time, provided your account contains sufficient funds. Notification in writing, signed by all account holders must be received.

How much does Shared Interest lend?

Last year we lent more than £40 million to fair trade businesses.

Would my investment be at risk?

The money you put into a Share Account is an investment and you can withdraw your funds. As with all investment products there is a risk attached, however in our entire history, investor funds have never been compromised.

Shared Interest is a Community Benefit Society which means that we cannot be regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and we are not a member of any investment protection schemes, although we do follow best practice guidelines.

Do you offer a return on investment?

We do offer a return on investment; however, this isn't always financial. Many of our investors are motivated by the social return of having a Share Account and the positive impact their money has across the globe. Our Board of Directors decide the amount of interest paid.  Our interest rate is usually 4% below the base rate, and is currently 0.5%.  However, this could be subject to change following assessment at the end of our financial year.

What happens if customer loans aren't repaid?

The main risk associated with our lending is that loans may not be repaid and our capital diminished. This could result in investors not being able to get back the amount invested. 

It is important to say that in our long history, this has never happened. We typically only lend out up to 70% of our capital at any one time. Our Board also applies very careful lending criteria to seek to prevent major lending losses. 

We have sustained lending losses over the years but these have always been absorbed by surpluses that have been made.

Information on bad debts can be found in our annual Directors Report and Accounts.

When was Shared Interest formed?

1990

Where is Shared Interest based?

Shared Interest is an international organisation, our head office is in Newcastle upon Tyne and we have offices in Kenya, Peru, Costa Rica and Ghana.

What is the Shared Interest Secure Area?

The Shared Interest Secure Area is a major development for Shared Interest following a growing demand for online services from our members.

It is a dedicated online space for members and volunteers. It provides a portal for members to view their Share Account details and access messages and resources.

If an investor opts in, they will be able to do things like see their Share Account balance as well as view and print statements online. Volunteers will be able to share events as well as interact with others using the map facility.

More information on the Secure Area is available via our Help Sheet, and some guidance can be found here in our Terms of Use.

How can I change my Shared Interest Secure Area password to something more memorable?

Once inside the Secure Area, click on the Change Password button; you will then be asked to type in your existing password. 

All you need to do next is type in the new password you have chosen.  As you type your password into the box, you will see a bar appear that tells you if your password is classed as strong or weak.

For security reasons, your new password should be at least eight characters long and include at least one upper case letter, one lower case letter, and one number.

An example of an acceptable password is: mitFord21. If your password is classed as weak, then try adding some symbols and/or numbers in there to make it stronger. 

Bear in mind that you want this password to be memorable too, so try and use a combination that you will be able to recall easily. 

You will be asked to confirm your password again the box below before clicking 'Change Password' to complete the process.

What is Shared Interest Foundation?

Founded in 2004, Shared Interest Foundation is a registered charity that provides practical support to businesses in the developing world. This involves training that allows individuals to create sustainable employment in the community.