Our 29th Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held at the Northern Design Centre on the banks of the River Tyne in Gateshead.
Following a welcome from Chair, Mary Coyle, and Managing Director, Patricia Alexander, gave an overview of the year.
She explained that despite the progress made in increasing access to financial services, the many people living in developing countries struggle to access finance, particularly where the main source of income is from agriculture.
Our focus remains on supporting producers who are otherwise unable to access fiance, with 66% of the total funds lent last year going directly to producers. Patricia went on to say that 68 lending proposals were approved in 2018, with 29 being from new customers. She told us: “We made payments of £62.9 million last year, supporting 175 producer groups and impacting 470,421 farmers and artisans across 63 countries. In fact, every £1 of investment made by members was used 1.56 times in the year.
“In terms of our membership, we are delighted to say that as we open our AGM, we have reached £41.8m in share capital. This is thanks to the support of our current member base, and investors new to Shared Interest.
“Our volunteers also play a vital role in raising the profile of our work, helping with translations and also data entry. O ur ambassadors and community supporters raised £346,000 of new investment in the year.”
Finance Director and Company Secretary, Tim Morgan, reflected on the financial year to 30 September 2018. Referring to the period as ‘a strong year’, he emphasised that lending levels were high – especially in the second half of the year. He also highlighted that we had managed our lending and capital, to deal with very low exchange rates.
Other financial points included:
- EUR rates charged to customers were retained at the same levels as last year, but we implemented three separate USD rate rises of 0.25%.
- GBP rate also increased by 0.25%.
- Interest earned on deposits had fallen to £55k and will remain low.
- The cost of money borrowed was up by £21k to £448k.
- Bad debt cost £793k.
- Result was a reasonable surplus, which builds reserves and puts us just below the target range for reserves (see page 7 of the Directors Report and Accounts, available on our website, or by request).
- Members Interest on Share Accounts increased from zero to the current rate of 0.25%.
Joint Moderator for Council, Martin Canning, said, “Has this been a challenging year? In terms of the environment in which Shared Interest works, I don’t think there’s any doubt. As Council, representing a cross-section of the membership of the Society, we have been greatly impressed by the way the staff, management and the Board have not only produced a positive financial outcome for the year, but also put in the significant amount of work necessary to support a strategic review.”
Voting on Statutory Resolutions 1-5
Results of the postal ballot were also confirmed on the day. These included the re-election of Paul Chandler and Pauline
Radcliffe to the Board, together with the election of John Rose and Stephen Thomas to Council.
The following resolutions were carried unanimously on the day, with strong support too from those who had sent their proxy to the Chair:
- Financial accounts.
- Social Accounts.
- Pay arrangements of the Executive Directors.
- Re-appointment of Auditor.
Voting on Resolution 6 – Proposed changes to the Rules of the Society
As explained in the supporting AGM documentation, the Directors of the Society proposed 22 changes to the Rules, in order to modernise the language, and to give the Society the ability raise share capital in currencies other that Pound Sterling.
Prior to the AGM, we had received a number of enquiries on the reworded Preamble, which was shown in the documentation.
The Preamble is not technically part of the Rules and can be changed without a vote of the members. We did feel this merited an update, and that it was more transparent to include this alongside the proposed ‘legal’ changes. In discussing an approach, the Board was very clear it wanted to retain a clear link to the founding Christian ethos of the Society. Whilst we believe that many investors in Shared Interest get their motivation from a Christian faith basis, the reality is that a high number now do not, and find it confusing when we describe ourselves as a ‘Christian initiative’. We therefore felt that the combination of the unchanged Rule (3) and the rewording of the Preamble would both be faithful to the history of how Shared Interest Society came about, but would not discourage those of other faiths, or no faith.
The first 20 Rule changes were approved unanimously by members at the meeting, and had been strongly backed by those
unable to attend, but who had given their proxy to the Chair (average support for each change from proxy votes was over 90%).
The last two proposed Rule changes relate to the Board composition, and impose an upper limit of 12 to the size of the Board, as well as introducing normal lengths of service for directors of two three-year terms, extendable by exception for a further three-year term. In the days before the AGM, we became aware that the drafting of these two Rule changes was not accurate, because the Executive Directors had inadvertently been brought into the retirement by rotation, and fixed-term length of service, which was not the intention. The Board therefore asked members to vote against these two final changes, which they did unanimously.
As it would require a further General meeting of members, to amend the Rules as intended in regards to the Board, we
will therefore proceed to register only the first 20 Rule changes, but will operate the Board as intended in terms of size
and length of service. Registering a Rule change with the Financial Conduct Authority is a complicated matter. We will therefore hold making formal Rule changes in relation to the Board, until such time as we feel it is appropriate or necessary to make other, further changes to our registered Rules.