31/05/2002

Local woman named on board of UK Trade Association

A Northern Ireland businesswoman has been named on the board of a UK-wide trade association set up to boost investment in small businesses in deprived areas.

The Community Development Finance Association (CDFA) will represent the interests of firms which specialise in providing loans to disadvantaged communities and under-served markets.

Niamh Goggin, general manager of Belfast-based Aspire Micro Loans Ltd, is one of 12 UK directors appointed to the CDFA and will represent Northern Ireland on the board.

The organisation was launched in London by Paul Boateng, financial secretary to the Treasury and Sir Ronald Cohen, the founder and chairman of Apax Partners Holdings Ltd., one of the country's leading venture capital companies.

Members of the CDFA will be organisations known as 'community development finance institutions' (CDFIs), which provide a 'double bottom line' by generating both social and financial returns. They include social banks, micro-credit agencies, community venture capital funds, community loan funds and community development credit unions.

The new association will work towards promoting the size and diversity of the sector, improving the performance of community development finance institutions and influencing policy regulating the industry.

The CDFA has been set up with £334,000 funding from the Government's Phoenix Fund, which is administered by the Small Business Service. A further £45,000 has been invested as seed funding by NatWest/Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays.

The government's Social Investment Task Force identified CDFIs as crucial to community development because they widen access to finance in deprived areas.

Aspire Micro Loans for Business Ltd is one such CDFI, operating in Northern Ireland. Aspire's clients are neighbourhood businesses, with the majority in areas of particular deprivation. Aspire's interest rates ensure the organisation's survival acts as a 'natural barrier' to customers who can access bank credit - but compete favourably with high-street loan companies.

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