The Flax Trust

UCIT Annual Report 2019

UCIT Chairman’s Report

During the past year, Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) and Community Finance (Ireland) have continued to expand their activities and influence in the Third Sector across the island of Ireland.

Despite the presence of challenges within the sector, our Group enjoyed exceptional levels of lending to the Community, Voluntary and Social Enterprise sectors with £11.3 million committed to 101 third sector organisations during the year. What this means is that we have now surpassed the milestone of having provided loan commitments aggregating £95 million to over 600 organisations in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland since our inception.

As has been the case for some time now, the voluntary sector faces a range of challenges at both a micro and macro level and yet the growth in our activities demonstrates the resilience evident within communities to support those most in need regardless of the circumstances. Despite the challenging and uncertain economic and political outlook, our results reflect the continuing confidence of charities and community organisations to undertake new initiatives geared to the provision of social betterment – communities supporting each other.

During the year we launched dedicated funds for the Sports Sector and Childcare Sector. A fund for the Faith sector is currently in development. Our “Building Better Futures Loan Fund”, developed in partnership with Building Change Trust and Belfast Charitable Society has also proven to be a huge success. This Fund in particular is providing invaluable support in the form of unsecured loans for a wide range of community-based organisations and enterprises which would not otherwise have found it possible to borrow for investment.

So, what are our loans enabling community organisations to do? – they range from the creation of energy cost savings through the implementation of green energy projects, the pursuit of business investment and development plans, the creation of new revenue streams, filling the “gap” of short term bridging needs, delivering the ambitions of affordable childcare providers, fulfilling the ambitions of forward looking sporting organisations, support of innovative Arts programs – in other words if a convincing social impact is evident and a management team exists capable of sustaining a solid financial footing, our Group will be there to help. Our ambition remains to “enable communities to enable themselves”.

We have also seen the roll out of the second Northern Ireland Small business Loan Fund which was awarded to our Fund Management company, Ulster Community Finance Ltd, by Invest Northern Ireland. Again, it is worth noting that the successful management of this Fund has a hugely important social aspect attendant in it – the creation of employment opportunities, the maintenance of economic activity in areas often marked by economic deprivation and the support of the bedrock of Northern Ireland’s economy, namely the SME sector.

This second Small Business Loan Fund will build upon the success of its predecessor. With the individual loan level now increased to £100,000 per client, the new Fund has the potential to lend over £9 million to local SMEs, helping them to optimise their business through investment whether in the form of fixed or working capital.

To crown a great year we are pleased to announce the purchase of new premises. The city centre located offices will provide additional capacity to cater for our ongoing growth and heralds an exciting new progressive development for the business.

In light of these achievements, I would like to acknowledge the dedication and support of my fellow Directors on the Boards of UCIT and Community Finance (Ireland) and to thank the staff team for their commitment and hard work throughout the year. I would also like to pay tribute to our past Chairman, Dermot McGale. The Board and Staff were deeply saddened by the death of our esteemed friend and colleague in March. He was a very dear friend to me personally.

Alan Moneypenny, Chairman
Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT)


UCIT Chief Executive’s Report

I am very pleased to report that 2018 has been another very successful year for our Group measured by the expansion of our business and perhaps more importantly by the social impact of our efforts.

At the outset, let me make it clear this would not have been possible absent the collaboration of like-minded organisations such as The Social Finance Foundation, Building Change Trust, the Belfast Charitable Society and of course Invest Northern Ireland as regards the Small Business Loan Fund.  And herein lies the reality that the Third Sector can only optimise its potential when organisations such as our own “pool” our skills and competencies with others for the overall advantage of the communities we serve.

Our Chairman’s report summarises the aggregates of our lending and the milestones of our activities which allows me to comment on some of the specifics that make up the whole.

We launched (or some might say “kicked off”) our new £4 million Sports Fund with loans to Naomh Pól CLG and Shorts Sports and Recreation Club in Belfast which together received £350K to help finance their respective capital investment programs. We seek to provide tailored support that reflects the expected life cycle of the planned investment, taking account of the incremental revenue streams, or cost savings that are realistically anticipated to flow from the investment program. In other words, the repayment schedule is closely matched to the expected revenues from, member’s subscriptions, patron schemes, fundraising events and social club income should one exist. Our vision remains to work with sporting clubs to help them remain as a hub at the heart of their local communities.

We also launched a £1 million fund to promote the growth of affordable childcare services. The UCIT Family Support Fund was launched in partnership with the Early Years organisation. Our aim is to help as many family support programmes as possible as they continue to play a vital role in the local community.  To date, we have invested over £1.5m in childcare and family support projects across Northern Ireland including a multisensory centre in Derry and children’s day care facilities in a number of locations including Ballymoney, Greyabbey, Enniskillen and Eskra.

Demand for loans from our Building Better Futures Fund has exceeded all expectations. As of December 2018 the fund has committed £865K to 45 organisations in Northern Ireland. Created by a partnership between Belfast Charitable Society, Building Change Trust and UCIT, the £1 million fund provides unsecured loans of up to £25,000 to voluntary groups, charities and social enterprises. At a celebratory event in Clifton House to mark the progress of the Fund we were delighted to welcome guest speaker, Cliff Prior, CEO of Big Society Capital, the body responsible for investing over £300M from dormant bank accounts in England in support of good causes.  Our Building Better Futures Fund is a “role model” for others to follow particularly those seeking to develop philanthropic initiatives for the benefit of society at large or specific to their own communities.

During 2018 we were delighted to be appointed as managers of the second Small Business Loan Fund.  The first Fund supported a wide range of businesses across Northern Ireland, providing scope for capital investment, job creation, new product development and geographic expansion.  Our second Fund will build upon the success of its predecessor and reinforce the huge merits of Invest Northern Ireland’s intervention.

In conclusion, much has been achieved and there remains much yet to do, so onwards and upwards.

Harry McDaid, Chief Executive
Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT)