The Central Finance Facility (CFF) continues to be a bedrock of financial stability in the credit union movement, assisting ordinary members and also cooperatives and credit unions to pursue their dreams and financial projects.
The CFF currently offers home mortgages and small business loans to individuals and institutional loans to credit union members.
Loans for home mortgages are between 6% to 9% with a payment period of between 10 to 30 years while institutional loans are offered at competitive prices between one month to three years.
One organization which has benefitted from the CFF’s guidance and loan portfolio is the Tobago United Cooperative Society Ltd (TUC). President of the TUC Ms. Margaret Wright recounted how the CFF was able to assist her Cooperative with a multimillion-dollar loan to construct a mall.
Then president of the TUC, the late Mr. Charles James who passed in 2008 had envisioned building a mall in Tobago. The TUC was able to pursue this initiative and secured a $6 million loan from the CFF. Because of this crucial support by the CFF, the mall was built in Scarborough, Tobago in 2009.
Ms. Wright said that today the “Charles James Mall” which houses 38 tenants proudly carries the name of the man who was behind its construction.
She described the process to get the loan from the CFF as being very easy and a hassle-free experience.
Before the Pandemic swept across T&T and the wider world, Ms. Wright said the tenants at the mall were all doing well and even during these tough economic times, the mall has survived.
General Manager of the TUC Mr. Edridge Gibbs echoed the sentiments of Ms. Wright and added that the loan from the CFF was pivotal in transforming the lives of small businesspeople who were squatting before and with the construction of the mall were able to have a proper place to carry out their business.
Like Ms. Wright, he said there were no problems in accessing the loans and even added that their Cooperative would continue partnering with the CFF on future projects.
“The interest on the loan that we received from the CFF was less than what the commercial banking rate was. Also, the CFF offers customers any type of assistance with financial advice that they need in terms of advice. We are also thinking of putting up a new building on the property and they can assist us with getting professionals with different skills such as project management,” he explained.
He also said that the landmark construction project of the mall which the CFF funded can serve as an example for other cooperatives of what they can accomplish if they partner with this umbrella organization.
Mr. Gibbs concluded by saying that credit unions and its members did not need to go to the banking sector and they could keep their projects and other financial undertakings within the cooperative family by working hand-in-hand with the CFF.
Home Mortgage Lending
Apart from organizations, ordinary credit union members have also benefitted from the CFF’s loans and professional guidance.
A retiree who was able to access a mortgage loan from the CFF three years ago said she chose them because she was able to get best value for her money when compared to other financial institutions.
This was a very important investment she needed to make at this point of her life and the CFF was there to guide her through the process and facilitate the loan.
“This was a process that took time and I’m happy to say that the CFF guided me all the way. To get the loan with them, a person has to go through his or her personal credit union. I needed more money than my credit union could have disbursed and so the next step was going to the CFF which took care of me,” she said.
She described the CFF as being very straightforward and professional and encourages all members of the credit union movement to do business with them.
Ms. Rosaline Wilson is another customer who has benefitted from the CFF.
Her sister accessed a loan from the CFF for the construction of a house in 2019 but Ms. Wilson was the one who did the transaction with the CFF.
She said her sister chose the CFF because of its reputation of being a financial institution which goes out of its way to assist its customers.
She described doing business with the CFF as being easy with no problems.
“They were accommodating and helped me through everything. There were no hiccups or runarounds. They advised me every step of the way,” she said.
She recommends anyone to go into the CFF to access its services feeling assured that they would benefit from the high quality of service she experienced.
The CFF has been very supportive of small and medium size enterprise (SME) community over the years having disbursed over $12 million in SME loans to members of credit unions. I sat down with Mr. Thomas the Manager of Operations at the CFF to find out more about their SME Loans with a Q&A.
Q. How important is the financing of loans to the CU movement?
A. The CU movement has always been seen as a grassroots organization and this was the genesis of the formation of the CU movement in Europe in the 1850s. We at the CFF believe in supporting our members in the pursuit of their entrepreneurial goals. Many businesses have the potential but lack the ability to raise capital from the traditional financial institutions. For many years Credit Unions have been supporting their members through loans for business purposes.
Q. What makes the CFF different from the other CUs?
A. The CFF’s clients are Credit Unions, however what differentiates us is our core philosophy of Cooperation amongst Co-operatives, in that we pool funds from our member Credit Unions which we can then lend to the SME sector, thereby reducing the risk of concentration to any one Credit Union unit.
Q. How can someone apply for a Loan at the CFF?
A. All our SME loan applicants are referred to us by one of our member credit unions. Therefore, one must first contact one’s credit union for a referral.
Q. How simple is the process?
A. The process is very simple: once you are referred you are assigned to a loans officer who will guide you through the process and advise you of the documents needed, e.g. your business plan, your historical financial information etc.
Q. Can you give examples of projects the CFF have financed?
A. We have financed a range of projects over the years including contract financing, retail, energy and industry projects. One that we did recently, of which we are very proud, is an agro-processing project. The client services thirteen supermarkets and uses all local products and is soon to become a local household brand. We are very passionate about working with these types of entrepreneurs who have the potential to feed our nation and earn foreign exchange.
Q. How competitive are your interest rates?
A. We aspire to keep competitive with other players in the market and rates reflect the risk of the project.
Q. How can we get more information on your SME loans?
A. You can call our office and speak with our Member Service Representatives (MSR) at 665-9734 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.