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UEL honours champion of the financially excluded

UEL students graduation

Faisel Rahman has been rewarded with an honorary doctorate by the University of East London (UEL) for his work in helping thousands of families escape the poverty trap.

He received the award at a packed graduation ceremony at London’s O2 Arena on Wednesday, 18 November.

Through his company, Fair Finance, Mr Rahman has developed one of the most successful micro-credit programmes in the country, giving people the chance to take control of their finances and avoid the clutches of the loan sharks.

Mr Rahman said, “When I was trying to raise finance to start my company, I approached all the major banks with the idea and they said ‘this is something we do in India, or in Africa, but this is not something we do in England because if people aren’t able to borrow from us here, it’s because they can’t repay’.

“But I knew that wasn’t true. If you could find out who those people were, you would figure out that they were the kind of people that you could make loans to.  So I lent them my own money.”

Mr Rahman launched Fair Finance in 2005 with £20,000 borrowed on a credit card. In the course of five years, he created the biggest micro-finance company in the UK.

The seed of his business idea was planted while studying at Cambridge University. After attending a lecture by the Nobel Prize-winning architect of microfinance, Muhammad Yunus, he was inspired to visit him in Bangladesh to learn more about his Grameen Bank for the poor.

At the age of 21, Mr Rahman persuaded the World Bank that he was the right person to supervise the implementation of a £120m microfinance programme in Bangladesh and he began developing his idea of starting a similar project in east London.

Mr Rahman said, “I was inspired by what I saw - people being given power and control over their lives through access to finance. The more I saw that in Bangladesh, the more I realised that it was no different to what I had seen growing up in London.”

His company offers the financially vulnerable affordable loans. In total, Fair Finance has helped more than 25,000 people to escape from loan sharks, avoid eviction or start their own business.