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Naomi Kerbel

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Payday Lenders Have Their Place

Posted: 07/11/2013 17:11

I was 18 when I got my first credit card and bucking the trend, I was surprisingly sedate in my spending. I tended to splurge on university text books rather than the latest trends from the high street and I'd even pay it off in full at the end of every month.

Since then our relationship has had its ups and downs. In my hedonistic twenties, it provided cocktail comfort throughout breakups, post-date analysis, promotions and even job loss. Now in my thirties, the spark has gone out of our relationship. I pay it off in full by direct debit and use it sporadically when I want the surety of purchase protection.

One of the many things that attracted me to my husband when we met was the fact that he'd never had a credit card and rarely went into his overdraft. The opportunity and need had never arisen. It was later that we discovered the dark reality of being such a goody-two-shoes - his credit rating.

I'd spent years in flagrante with my plastic fantastic and was rewarded with a spotless record but my husband, who'd shunned the temptation of easy credit, was viewed as risky.

It seems topsy turvy but it's a story familiar to many and is part of the reason why payday lending is so attractive and so lucrative (lender Wonga made £84.5m in 2012).

Even though the industry has been heavily criticised - Labour Leader Ed Miliband has said Wonga is "running riot through our communities" - there is clearly a huge need for access to small values for short periods.

I was chatting with one of Sky News' contributors, Professor Moorad Choudhry who regularly appears on the business programme I produce, Jeff Randall Live. I'd recently been shortlisted for the Women of the Future Awards 2013 in association with Shell and he'd been presenting to a group of students at the charity, The School of Hard Knocks. He suggested that in the developing world, micro-financing has been an effective tool in combating poverty. But in the developed world such a form of small loan doesn't exist. It could provide a life line to the low income, not to mention a huge opportunity for the banking sector.

It's a great shame we can no longer pop into our local bank, have a chat with our old mucker the manager and get a bit of cash upfront - in fact, I'm not sure there was a time we could ever really do that -so pay day lenders offer something that mainstream banks don't.

And in a world where the financial sector is still smarting from the recklessness of the crisis, it would be naive to think that banks would leap at the opportunity to raid this market.

But as we approach the festive season, the stark reality is that 1.2million of us will boost our Christmas kitty with the help of payday lenders. So rather than criticise and vilify them, shouldn't we leverage their popularity and find a better solution?

Naomi Kerbel has been shortlisted for the 2013 Women of the Future Awards. For further information click here. The awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday 13 November and is hosted by Real Business in association with Shell.
 

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