An inspiring AGM

Our 26th Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held at the Northern Stage Theatre in the centre of Newcastle. Over 75 members joined us for what proved to be an informative and lively event.

Following a welcome from Chair, Mary Coyle, Managing Director, Patricia Alexander gave an overview of the year's successes, saying that once again, demand for our lending outstrips the funds we have available.

Patricia reported that: "Support for Fairtrade remains the main incentive for people to invest, (according to our latest membership survey).

"Two thirds of our lending goes directly to producer groups. Although this meets with our aims and objectives, it also brings its challenges largely due to the seasonality of crops.  Nevertheless, we feel that we are reaching people who are in most need of our finance.

Patricia went on to reveal that the year ended with the Society making £51.4m in payments to 401 organisations in 58 countries. Each investment is lent out 1.6 times in effect, during the year.

"Coffee remains our biggest commodity, taking up almost 50% of our lending. However, we have continued to diversify the product range supported by our finance, extending it to alpaca wool, furniture, coconuts, walnuts, and gold.

"In terms of our membership, more and more investors are choosing to manage their Share Account online. Potential members can now apply online, and will soon be able to make their first payment online using a debit card."

Finance Director and Company Secretary, Tim Morgan said: "It has been a strong financial year for the Society with encouraging growth in lending and investment and a payment of 0.5% interest to members. He also reported that 'Bad debt is comparable with similar lenders and we have substantial provisions in place.'

Tim drew members' attention to Note 24 of the accounts, which gives a breakdown of bad debt costs. A future QR article will explain in more detail how we manage arrears and bad debts and give a sense of the successes and failiures we experience in managing this key risk.

AGM Pie

Other financial key points included:

  • Rates charged to customers during the 2014/15 year were at very similar levels in the previous year.
  • Interest earned on our deposits at the bank has fallen by £156k to £683k, and is set to fall substantially further, due to much lower market rates.
  • Cost of money borrowed is up by £173k to £252k and will continue to rise, as USD interest rates are moving up and the margin charged by the Co-op bank has also increased.
  • Bad debt cost was lower. Total £457k compared with £516k last year.

AGM Table

Results of the postal ballot were also confirmed on the day. These included the re-election of Pauline Cameron and Paul Chandler to the Board, together with Rod Gilpin and Liz Murphy to Council. Ben Quashie and Kate Roberts also elected as new members of Council.

The following resolutions were carried on the day with a significant majority:

  • Financial accounts
  • Social Accounts
  • Pay arrangements of the Executive Directors
  • Re-appointment of Auditor

A Q&A session followed the formal AGM, with members posing a number of interesting questions to the Boardand management team.