27.07.2016

Hussien Manji demonstrates his passion for funding the SME

Hussien Manji joined TAEFL early in 2016 and has now progressed to an account manager role with UK EXIM, a sister company of TAEFL. Along with his vivid story he is also a post graduate in economics, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Business & Economics, and a Master’s in Economics, from the University of the West of England.

Was his extended period of academic study and experiences relevant to a business like TAEFL with its disciplined approach to helping UK companies raise funds and finance orders? We met Hussien to discover how well his own economic ‘model’ matched that of TAEFL in practice.

Starting point in family businesses

With a strong family background in the running of small businesses, and having operated his own ‘micro-business’ from an early age, it would be reasonable to assume that Hussien’s overriding interest would have been in micro-economics; exploring the most profitable fit between businesses and the broader environment in which they operate.

There had certainly been good reason for Hussien to enrol for his joint-honours BA course in business and economics. He talks about his father’s retail business in Birmingham, and his mother’s successful venture in coaching school pupils for their ‘11+’ examination. And not to forget his own foray into private enterprise. “I became involved as a teenager in coaching children for the same exam, and soon acquired clients of my own.”

Despite – or perhaps because of – this culture of enterprise, Hussien’s focus moved away from the economics of business. “I was having difficulty in relating the practice of micro-economics to the real world in which it is supposed to operate: I could see a much stronger case for studying how economics should apply to smaller businesses and the developing world rather than just the corporate world.”

What Hussien Manji had espoused with passion was the culture of very small business finance which was established in the Asian sub-continent. Small sums of money are lent out to people – a high proportion of them women – at a village or community level to help them emerge from their horizon-limited hand-to-mouth existence. They are lent the funds to establish their own micro businesses and are given the opportunity to change the way they support themselves and their families.

The enterprise can be something as simple as setting up a cheese-making business which adds value to the milk from the goats. The economic benefit rolls out beyond the person who borrows the money and into the wider community through the multiplier effect. It is an entirely different approach to funding by government hand-out or international aid where the benefit is short term. Hussien recalled the maxim that “If you give a man a fish, he can eat for a day. If you show him how to fish, he will feed himself for life.”

The principles of SME finance extend outside the developing economies of Asia, where economic advancement is also necessary. The provision of small amounts of seed funding is now an accepted tool in many European economies, where the multiplier effect of credit is influencing economic prosperity and business growth more fundamentally.

Hussien shows how the principles of small business finance have been applied by a network of institutions in the UK. BCRS Business Loans is part of this network and provides  term loans to small and medium sized companies based in the West Midlands and which have been unable to secure funding from more traditional sources of capital. Trade & Export Finance has close links with BCRS and a feature on that organisation can be found on the TAEFL website by clicking here.

Experience with BCRS Business Loans

Hussien can speak about the work of BCRS from first-hand experience: before joining TAEFL, he served an internship with the organisation. We need to pick up his career path, however, to discover how he migrated from his degree programmes at UWE in Bristol to BCRS in Birmingham.

The benefit of his two degrees in economics appeared to have been put on hold for a while when he was offered a post, managing accounts, with a subsidiary of the international financial services group BNP Paribas. The company was involved in retail finance which can be perceived as in specialised form of trade finance. It funded a wide range of furniture manufacturers and vehicle sales outlets which offered ‘zero interest’ extended credit terms to customers as a method of boosting sales on extended credit. The same company provided the financial backing to a number of high street retailers’ expensive store cards.

It fell to Hussien Manji and his colleagues in the Collections Department to pursue hapless families who had failed to keep up with their repayments. The experience did not rest easily with him, and added growing weight to his heart-felt belief in ethical funding. Processing the fall-out from large scale commercial lending was an entirely alien concept.

The experience did not put Hussien off the world of applied finance. After being offered a senior advisor role in the collections sector he decided that collecting money from financially burdened individuals was un-rewarding at the very least. “I felt that my passion for helping small businesses become sustainable, would be a greater benefit to society. I chose to pursue an internship at BCRS Business Loans rather than take the collections post.”

No less important to his career development has been his involvement in UpRising, a UK-wide youth leadership development organisation. Its mission is to identify talented young people from diverse and under-represented backgrounds. Founded in 2008 as a charity, UpRising tries to equip those selected with the knowledge, networks, skills, and confidence to fulfil their leadership potential. Hussien Manji is a ‘graduate’ of that programme and is now a member of the Emerging Leaders Advisory Board.

Keen to apply his knowledge and growing experience in pursuit of his commitment to SME finance, he applied to BCRS for an internship. The BCRS ethos is to provide loan funding in situations which will ‘tip the balance’ to allow a small firm to move ahead, employ staff, become profitable and contribute to the local economy.

At the end of his four-month internship with BCRS Business Loans, he took on a two month internship in Florence, Italy working in sales and revenue analysis. This was part of the Erasmus programme where, in addition to his internships, he has completed training courses under the EU scheme. He completed his last course in June 2016; a programme designed to equip young leaders on entrepreneurial skills and the contrasting culture of business start-ups around Europe.

Hussien returned from Italy and was accepted by Trade & Export Finance; an appointment he regards as a perfect match. Though a wholly commercial entity, TAEFL exists to fund smaller businesses which need working capital to help them clear a hurdle to growth. “I saw Trade & Export Finance as delivering much needed resources to businesses in a way which reflected my own understanding of micro finance in a UK context.

“Joining the company has given me direct access to a portfolio of TAEFL clients which have all passed a stringent credit test yet for whom the horizons were also limited without our help. In the months since I joined the company, I have come to appreciate first hand that finance really is as much about the ethos of the people we are working with as their formal business plans. If that is what being an economist is all about, then I’m proud to stand up and be counted as one.”

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