UCIT Chairman’s Report 2015
Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) has enjoyed another busy and productive year in financial, operational and capacity terms. During 2015 UCIT approved loans of £6.27m across 56 different Charities, Community Organisations and Social Enterprises in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This brings our total loan commitments, since the drawdown of our first facility back in 2001, to over £60 million. We are very proud of our achievements, yet there is still much to do.
Our aim is to build our business further while supporting the work of an increasing number of third sector organisations, helping them increase their impact or sustain their activities. In order to do this into the medium term, it will be necessary for us to seek out further sources of capital. Every pound invested in UCIT is lent responsibly to enterprising community organisations, charities and social enterprises enabling them to pursue their objectives, provide improved services and sustain employment in areas where it is most needed. Operating as both a financial organisation and a registered charity, our mix of financial expertise and local sectoral knowledge allows us to be uniquely placed to assist these organisations.
A number of our borrowers have been in a position to accelerate repayment of their loans this year and in some cases loans have been fully repaid ahead of term – all without penalty. This enables us re-cycle our capital more quickly to other worth projects maximising the impact of our work.
Demand for the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund has surpassed our expectations. The Fund is managed by us on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland (INI) and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland. To date, we have supported over 220 Small / Medium Enterprises aggregating debt support fast approaching £5m – and demand continues to grow. Funding has been provided to a wide range of sectors / borrowers, financing a range of investments including capital expenditure, working capital growth, asset refurbishment / improvement, business start-up, franchise development, and many others. The Fund is playing an important role in supporting the growth of small business in Northern Ireland and its performance to date is the clearest possible evidence of the need for such interventions.
We have a wealth of talented small businesses in NI which contribute significantly to our economy. It is however frequently difficult for these businesses to raise funds from the mainstream banks for worthy projects. It is in these circumstances that the Small Business Loan Fund can make a huge difference.
With our committed executive team and our motivated staff, supported by an enthusiastic board, I look to the future development of the organisation and its contribution to the third sector with great confidence.