From humble beginnings to national lender for British small business, read about how FOLK2FOLK has evolved.
Every idea starts with a problem. Ours was in 2013 when the nation was still reeling from the global financial crisis, banks were withdrawing from many rural areas, funding for businesses was drying up, and savers were receiving rock-bottom levels of interest.
An idea for an alternative finance option was concieved as a way to help local people. The thinking was that ‘good folks’ could help other ‘good folks’ by lending their money in fair exchange for a good rate of interest, and for it all to be secured against land or property. This local money exchange was aptly named FOLK2FOLK, and three years later it became a regulated Peer to Peer (P2P) lender, fully authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Motivated by a desire to help other financially disenfranchised local and rural communities, FOLK2FOLK branched out to spearhead a Local Lending Movement nationally. We saw that typically, businesses in large conurbations had much easier access to finance, but what of the business owner in the more sparsely populated parts of the region? We want to help level the playing field when it comes to availability of finance.
The pandemic created a national pause, and like many businesses, we took the opportunity to reflect. 2020 was a surprising year of success for us. We achieved profitability for the first time; became accredited by the British Business Bank to deliver CBILS; reached a milestone lending total of £400m; and experienced headline grabbing levels of liquidity in our secondary market. But most importantly, our customers remained loyal, and we continued to serve business owners and investors throughout.
We realised just how far our business has come. Most people know us as a south-west P2P lender for farmers. But this year, as we celebrate our eighth birthday, FOLK2FOLK has emerged as a national Marketplace lender for British businesses.
Our evolution away from P2P to becoming a Marketplace Lender (MPL) is a significant step in our journey. (A P2P lender only accepts investment from individuals (retail investors), while a Marketplace Lender (MPL) is a platform which accepts both retail and institutional investment.)
While we have evolved to include institutional funds our approach is very much still human. Over the years we’ve seen changing customer expectations of financial services, and these were brought into sharp focus by our collective lockdown experience. How easy or hard was it for you to speak to a person?
Business owners and investors alike are seeking out financial services they can trust, with whom they have rapport, and where interests are aligned. For us, it was vitally important that during the pandemic we did not lose sight of the essential value of the ‘human factor’ in all our interactions. What people will remember, is those financial services who stayed fair; those who provided good service; those who didn’t fail to support their customers; and those who were honest and human in their communications.
We know that while accessing finance is important, business-owners are looking for more than just money. They are looking for funding relationships that are the right fit for their needs; finance providers who can believe in their business vision and who see the humans behind the business. Similarly, when it comes to investing their money, investors will only consider investment opportunities from platforms, and people, they trust.
Our customers, borrowers and investors alike, can see and feel that we genuinely have their interests at heart; they know we want to see them succeed, grow and prosper. But going beyond that, we’re always delighted to see the happy by-product of borrowing and lending. This is usually in the form of job creation or bolstering local supply chains as it facilitiates the movement of money through local economies. We even coined a special term, FOLKOMONICS™, to describe this human impact of finance.
We want to help British businesses grow, diversify or adapt following COVID-19. And to fund all this, we offer attractive investment opportunities for people and institutions who have money to invest and want to make the most of it. If you think we can help you on either front, then talk to us, we’re always ready for a chat: 01566 773296.
Our coming of age story was also reproduced in Business Cornwall Magazine and Business & Innovation Magazine.
You can read more about our purpose here.