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Ex-banker turned Rev helps people fight loan sharks

Mon 08 May 2017
By Eno Adeogun

An ex-banker who quit his six-figure paid job has used his expertise to develop a community bank whose £1 million assets are helping tackle loan sharks in Leith, Scotland.

Rev Iain May, 57, was the group head of planning and strategy at Allied Irish Banks in Dublin when he began questioning the lavish lifestyle he was living.

He told The Times that he was on a corporate yachting trip drinking champagne and eating oysters when he told his wife: "Something is telling me this is all wrong, the banking industry, the lifestyle."

Just 18 months after deciding to leave his position, his rapidly growing Castle Community Bank has helped some of the most vulnerable people in one of the city's poorest neighbourhoods.

The Church of Scotland minister is convinced that his new job and lifestyle would get Jesus' approval.

Rev May said: "Jesus upturned the table of the moneylenders in the temple because they were exploiting the people.

"Now I think Jesus would be out in the Kirkgate shopping centre, beside the Brighthouse store, saying 'How dare you charge people all that money for a washing machine'
"Or he'd be outside the head office of the loan companies shouting 'Shame on you in your den of thieves'".

Following the financial crisis in 2008, Rev May felt he could do something to challenge payday lenders that were thriving in his community. He merged two failing credit unions with his new community bank in order to obtain their Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) licence.

Early last year the company had 500 customers and assets of £250,000. Since the beginning of this year it has been on course to quadruple its resources and enlarge its customer base by 50 per cent.

Speaking on Premier's News Hour, Rev May gave advice to anyone sensing a drastic calling from God.

He said: "Go for it. You know, follow whatever is within you and it will work out. It's a big change they'll be lots of challenges and at times you'll think 'what am I doing' but if it's a true calling as it was in my case, it works out."

Anyone with an Edinburgh postcode can join the bank whose directors are all volunteers and all profits go back to the community as there are no external shareholders.

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