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
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
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.
adversaries sure do. And now, we will have our
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:
-- Concept discussed and a plan was requested.
-- Plan presented to a group of title and payday lenders.
The plan was approved.
-- CFSA launched a similar, but national and more extensive version.
Their program was incredibly well orchestrated and phenomenally
successful. It validated our plan.
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.
-- 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
May 2007 to
September 2007 -- Produce
materials and make plans to launch our public communication effort.
-- Public announcement and launch of our first public initiative.