FAQs

Investing and how it works

How do you help people in the developing world?

A: Shared Interest Society pools the investments of its members and provides loans or credit services to over 400 fair trade businesses in 58 countries. We work with businesses ranging from sole trader handcraft organisations to large scale coffee co-operatives and fair trade buyers.  By offering a variety of lending options we enable our customers to pre-finance orders, purchase essential machinery and infrastructure, and make advance payments to farmers and artisans.

Would my investment be at risk?

A: The money you put into a Share Account is an investment.   As with all investment products there is a risk attached.

If we experienced substantial bad debts in one year, wiping out our reserves, we would have to suspend withdrawals or make a charge against Share Accounts. You cannot lose more than you have invested and we have never had to make a charge against the value of Share Accounts since our commencement in 1990.

Is my money protected by the Financial Compensation Scheme?

Although we follow all the Financial Conduct Authority procedures we are not covered by their Financial Compensation Scheme.  We are also the only accredited open share offer having received the Community Shares Standard in 2015.

Do you offer interest on an investment?

A: Our interest rate is currently 0.25%.

What is the difference between donating and waiving my interest?

A: If you waive your interest then you are allowing us to retain the monies in the Society and we then use this within the lending pot.  If you receive interest then, if interest is applied, it will be credited to your Share Account on the 31st March for the year ending 30th September.  You can either leave this in your Share Account and we will use it to lend or you can withdraw it.  You can also chose to donate your interest to the Shared Interest Foundation.  In this instance, the interest is added to your Share Account and immediately donated to the Foundation where they use the monies to provide financial and governance training to small businesses in Africa and Latin America. If you choose this option then the Foundation may also benefit from gift aid.
In the two latter options your interest is classed as a taxable income and you would be expected to declare it on your tax return.

Is my interest applied gross or net?

A: We pay interest gross.

Can I access my Share Account online?

A: Yes.We have an online portal for members, where you can log in securely to view statements, make investments and withdrawals, and access messages.  Contact the membership team here if you want to be set up.

What is the minimum and maximum I can invest?

A: You can invest anywhere between £100 and £100,000.


Foundation

What is Shared Interest Foundation?

A: Founded in 2004, Shared Interest Foundation is a registered charity that relies on charitable donations to provide practical support to businesses in the developing world. This involves training that allows individuals to create sustainable employment in the community.

Can I leave a legacy to Shared Interest Foundation?

A: You can. To find out more please read this information booklet.

Could you explain the difference between the Society and Foundation?

A:  They are two separate legal entities. The Society relies on the capital invested by its members in the form of withdrawable share capital. The Foundation, a registered charity, relies on donations which, can be gift aided. They also receive money from Comic Relief and other grants. In terms of what they do, the Society lends money and the Foundation undertakes training and building of support organisations.


Governance

What is Shared Interest?

A: Shared Interest Society is registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 and is a member of Co-operatives UK.

How does it work?

A: Our UK based Share 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 many investors do you have?

A: We have over 11,500 investors.

What are the Terms and Conditions of a Share Account?

A: You can read our terms and conditions here.


Lending

Can I select a producer I wish to support with my investment?

A: Unfortunately, the way we operate means that all the funds are pooled together.  This allows us to help far more individuals.  As loans are repaid, we are able to lend the money out again. Last year each £1 invested was lent 1.8 times and we helped 362,000 individuals.

Do you charge the producers interest on loans?

A: We normally lend on an unsecured basis as 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 and this is based on the risk attached to the specific organisation and the risk of lending in a particular part of the world.  You can see more detail about these rates in our Social Accounts here.

How much is lent each year?

A: As loans are repaid, we are able to lend the money out again. Last year each £1 invested was lent 1.8 times.

In which countries does Shared Interest operate?

A: We have regional offices in Kenya, Ghana, Peru, and Costa Rica. We are not currently able to lend money directly to producers in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan or Nepal due to exchange control legislation, but we do make payments to fair trade producers across the region on behalf of our fair trade buyers.

What is the definition of being FLO-Certified?

A: In order for a company to put a Fairtrade label on their packaging they must have bought the ingredients/product from a Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO) certified producer.  This is issued by Fairtrade International.  They have their own independent auditing arm called FLO-Cert who check that the producer is following the Fairtrade principles.

What is a buyer customer?

A:Producer customers are organisations that we lend to directly.  Buyer customers are organisations who buy from the producer.  This could be an importer or manufacturer like, CaféDirect, Liberation, Traidcraft or TWIN.  So the funds reach the producer directly but the debt remains with the buyer.


General

Is Shared Interest a microfinance organisation?

A: We are not a microfinance organisation and we do not lend to start-up enterprises or individuals. All of the businesses we work with need to be fair trade registered and show evidence of three years of trading, normally producing audited accounts.

Is Shared Interest a credit union?

A: No.  However our investors do become members of Shared Interest.   The main difference is that the people we lend to are not from the local community.

Could you explain what a bad debt charge is?

A: At the end of the year we look at the list of debts and decide how much we feel is not fully recoverable. This sum is set aside as cost in our annual accounts so that the overall result for the year reflects any anticipated losses.  It could be that this money is eventually written off but we try to work with the customer to allow them to pay down the debt over a longer period. Sometimes, with special reasons, this might even involve us lending more to the customer so that they can continue to trade.  When we make a loan/facility we always assess the risk and add a premium to the cost of money to reflect this.

Who are your partners?

You can read about our partners in our Impact Report here