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An introduction to the P2PFA’s new Chair, Paul Smee

Peer to peer lenders may well be forgiven for asking themselves Paul Who? as they learned of my appointment. This blog is intended to help answer that question, give some indication of where I see the Association going as I start the ascent of my learning curve; and generally introduce myself to the P2P community.

I may not have had much contact with the P2P world until my appointment (but I hope that I am making up for lost time in getting round to see as many lenders as possible and as quickly as possible). But I can at least claim plenty of trade body experience. I have run the Association of IFAs, APACS and the Payments Council; and, latterly, the Council of Mortgage Lenders. I have lobbied every regulator from SIB onwards (that was in the early 1990s for the benefit of younger readers); I have appeared at 15 Select Committee hearings (but won’t show you my scars until I know you very well); and also been regularly on/in/talking to  the media, from Wake up to Money, through to Newsnight.

All the trade bodies were different from each other but had the common themes of needing to secure a favourable regulatory and political environment if they were to reach their potential; they all had a demanding membership which rightly expected much for their (invariably modest) subscriptions and all needed to be explained to external audiences, either to correct misapprehensions and caricatures or because their activity was a little on the complex side. I can see similar challenges in the peer to peer space.

The outcome of the FCA review is going to be an early and important issue on which to respond but I am no stranger to the North Colonnade (I did once ask reception there for a season ticket to save me queuing up but I lost that one).

All the trade bodies with whom I have worked also had diverse memberships, with firms of differing sizes, focuses and business models. My job was to pick out the factors which were common to all, build common positions from them and advocate them vigorously, in a way which ensured that all members felt listened to and part of the organisation. My objective was to build a better market in which the good firm could thrive and grow and in which consumers benefitted from the range of services offered to them. This is not a million miles away from my perception of the P2P market and what the Association has been striving to achieve with its Principles.

It is an especial honour to follow on from Christine Farnish, with whom I have worked over many years in several different roles. I hope that I can bring something approaching her intellectual rigour to the job and her high principles. I also promise to follow her example by keeping a sense of humour and a trade body which looks outwards to external audiences and does not get all introverted round its own issues.

And, if you want a conversation topic other than trade bodies and P2P, you can always try cricket (for preference) or other sport. I can bore for Britain on Lancashire (or indeed Surrey) and the County Championship. You have been warned.

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