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IDEA BEGAN: September 2006



September 20, 2007

The concept and idea for a "Council For Fair Lending" began with discussions by several concerned payday and title operators who were also members of the Title Pawn Council of Alabama and Modern Financial Services in September of 2006 about the fate of our industry.  The industry was reeling from six months of relentless brow beating in the press by politicians who were using our industry as pawns in their political games.  Several major events made the future of our industry very ominous.  One, a promise by state politicians to introduce bills in the legislature to effectively eliminate title and payday lending (which they did); two, the passing of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act that ended payday and title lending to military personal; and the actions taken by many states to eliminate our industry.

It seemed quite obvious the press played a major roll in contributing to our demise by reporting only one side of the story.  We knew that stories in the press ultimately lead to action by legislative and regulatory bodies and that the action would not be good for us.  So, our objective was to set up an organization that would have the primary goal of keeping our industry viable from these relentless and one-sided constant press attacks by presenting the other side.

We also knew our customers were not bad people.  That they did not come to us under duress and that we should tell that story.  We also wanted to be sure that our customers were treated in a fair and consumer friendly way while keeping our businesses viable.  Thus, the Council For Fair Lending was formed.

Here of our beliefs:

  • Negative media leads to bad consequences for us and that is all we see reported about our industry in the press.

  • Our adversaries are well funded and media savvy and have the ear of a like minded press.

  • Our customers are our most valuable asset and we must have procedures in place to be sure they continue to be treated fairly.  We also know that our customers are not bad people who always make bad decisions as they are so often portrayed in the press.

  • Our customers value our service and are quite thankful we exist.  Again, this is a story that is not told in the press and we will work to change this perception.

  • If we are to change public attitudes we must have an ongoing communication effort with the public.  One shot (or no shot) efforts will not work here.

  • The press, regulators and much of the public make no distinction between title and payday lending.  In their mind they are the same.  And, many members of both trade associations do both types of loans.  Not to mention that if either is liquidated, it is a sure bet the other will soon follow.  Therefore, our effort is directed to support both.

  • The existing state payday (Modern Financial) and title lending associations (TPCA) have as their primary focus government affairs along with communication with their members.  These are first priority, critical services in our industry.  But, we also believe there must be a communication effort direct to the public for both payday and title lending.  Our trade associations do not do this.  But, our adversaries sure do.  And now, we will have our voice.

  • Our effort is designed to supplement and support our trade associations and governmental affairs effort and in no way is it designed to replace or conflict with it.  And, it is designed for both payday and title lending.

  • Borrow Smart stores will have professionally prepared, in-store material to promote this new concept.  We believe that given a choice customers will prefer Borrow Smart stores over other alternatives that do not offer a well communicated plan for consumer protection.  Our media message will point customers to those stores who are identified as Borrow Smart stores.  Communication and promotion are the "active" words.  Unless the message is communicated to the public, there is actually no message and thus, no plan.

  • The CFSA has proven the concept works with their incredibly successful national plan.  Our focus, though, is a local, grass-roots effort which we believe is critical for success in Alabama.  We expect the two programs to compliment one another and to address all short-term lending services.

  • Although the threats are not as imminent or as obvious today as they were when CFL was first envisioned, there is no doubt they will be.  Just look around at other states (Georgia, Washington DC, Washington state, etc.).  We cannot change public perceptions in one campaign or one press conference.  This must be an ongoing effort if we are to succeed.  Starting our campaign now puts us in a proactive mode -- not reactive.

Here is a brief history of what we have accomplished to date:

September 2006 -- Concept discussed and a plan was requested.

January 2007 --   Plan presented to a group of title and payday lenders.  The plan was approved.

February 2007 -- CFSA launched a similar, but national and more extensive version.  Their program was incredibly well orchestrated and phenomenally successful.  It validated our plan.

February 2007 to May 2007 - Incorporated the Council For Fair Lending, selected our board of directors, funded CFL and searched for a communication firm to communicate our story to the press, legislators and regulators.

May 2007 -- Selected Big Communications, one of the largest full-service communications agencies in the state to represent us and assist in getting our message out in an aggressive public relations and advertising effort.

May 2007 to September 2007 -- Produce materials and make plans to launch our public communication effort.

October 2007 -- Public announcement and launch of our first public initiative.




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