It is getting to that time of year when we start to think about the things that we have done or achieved that have given us the most satisfaction during the previous 12 months.
Something that immediately springs to mind for me in my professional world is the expansion of the Community Finance initiative that is such an important part of what BNZ does as a bank to help the community.
Community Finance is a programme that allows people who don’t usually meet bank lending terms, to get low or no interest loans.
We work with Good Shepherd on this, along with community providers like The Salvation Army and the government, to deliver these loans.
The aim is to give people a safe and fair option that means they are not turning to loan sharks and pay-day lenders who charge crippling interest, fees and penalty charges.
Community Finance has been a small operation through the Salvation Army in Henderson and Manukau.
But in the May 2016 budget announcement, the Ministry of Social Development allocated an extra $4.2 million in funding to the scheme.
In October, the partners got to announce how we would roll out the expansion.
We now have new loan workers on the ground in Invercargill, Wellington, Whangarei, Palmerston North and Christchurch. Before Christmas, we will be adding Napier and Rotorua in January with additional locations currently being evaluated.
I am really thrilled that we are able to offer Community Finance to more people who need it. These are people who are usually very good at managing their money. They just don’t have enough of it. Or they face a really rough time with ill health or unexpected car repairs.
From the customers, I have met, it is the outcome, not the output that makes this scheme so important.
A reliable car means getting to interviews or holding down a job. Or taking an ill family member to see the doctor. That a fridge means healthier food.
Our loans can even enable an entrepreneurial spirit. That’s why we have committed $60 million in lending over the long term as well as our expertise and advice.
Working on the initiative has got me thinking about what else might be achieved if other corporates harness their good intent and work together, and with Government and not for profits, to tackle some of the issues we face as a nation.
I applaud the work of large companies like Fonterra for its ‘Milk in Schools Programme,’ or the Warehouse Foundation for their contribution to the community.
For every company making meaningful efforts there are others who are not – or could do more. The corporate sector needs to find the sweet spot where organisational skills, capabilities and goals meet with a societal problem that they can help to solve.
That’s what Community Finance is for BNZ.
As a final note, I would like to congratulate Indian Newslink as it celebrates 17 years of publication.
BNZ is proud to be the Title Sponsor of the Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards and Indian Newslink Sir Anand Satyanand Lecture.
Anthony Healy is Managing Director & Chief Executive of Bank of New Zealand (BNZ). He lives in Auckland.
About Community Finance:
The Ministry of Social Development contributes operational funding to Good Shepherd New Zealand and the community providers.
In the 2016 Budget, Community Finance was awarded an additional $4.2 million of operational funding over four years.
Good Shepherd New Zealand has been supported through the development of the initiative by Good Shepherd Microfinance in Australia which has been operating in Australia for more than 35 years.
BNZ has committed $60 million in lending to the initiative.
Community Finance loan products have no fees or charges and are available to people on low incomes who are eligible for a Community Services Card.
No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) is available for amounts up to $1500 for essential goods and services. StepUP, the low interest loan, provides loans of up to $5000 with up to three years to pay loans back.
The most popular purpose for a StepUP loan is for second hand cars or car repairs.
For more information visit: www.nils.org.nz; www.stepuploan.org.nz