A creative genius preying on the poor

3 May 2018
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Have you ever wondered who came up with those marvellous loan products with fantastically high interest rates?

The ones with jolly, chirpy adverts and bright, chummy names? The ones that will give anyone money and prove they’re your mate while they do it by giving you interest rates with truly interesting numbers?

Well it’s me.

Yes (blushes quietly). I’ve hidden it for some time… too much modesty on my part, I know… but I can now tell you that they’re all my ideas. The short-term 4,000% loans, the hire-purchase washing machines that cost you four years’ rent money, the fivers here and there that turn into £5,000 and the threat of broken legs.

Thanks. No, really, you’re too kind.

Where did I get the idea? Well I’ve always been a creative sort. For example, in my first job I didn’t just go for bog-standard accountancy. Oh no, I insisted that I would only go in for the fi nest creative accountancy. That’s the kind of artist I am.

For years I have kept quiet about my genius, my art, my sub-prime lending creations, but many, many people have cried out for me to show my face: “Who on earth would do such a thing?” And “What kind of monster preys on the poor and vulnerable?”, others ask.

Thank you, thank you, my public. It is indeed me. I now reply graciously from the balcony of my multi-million-pound villa in the Maldives. I cannot hold it in any more… those intricate contracts, those invisible clauses, they’re mine, all mine… you can worship me now.

I know, you’re probably gasping at my genius as you survey my artistry.

After all, who else has realised that the people most likely to pay up with no means of fighting back are the poor and the vulnerable? Well, all right, pretty much every despotic ruler in history… yes, fair enough. But did they extort money using rubber puppets and jolly jingles? I think not.

Oh ho, no! It takes a special kind of genius to come up with that angle, as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has told me on a number of occasions.

The dear Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) gladdens my heart when it tells me debt problems are most persistent among the poorest people. Those spending more than a third of their income servicing debts tend to be doing it still two years later, it says.

Exactly, you see. That’s how you can tell quality – it lasts. No fly-by-night quick lending and quick paying back for my creations. They last… burning their image into the memory of every borrower and leaving an indelible mark on their credit rating.

But now the barbarians are at the gate. The dull credit unions, the worthy flexible lender Fair For You, the greying Stella Creasy MP and actor Michael Sheen are all trying to stand in the way of my pathway to glory.

They have no flair, no artistry, no soul.

Thank goodness the government isn’t listening much to these strident voices. And the lovely FCA lets me carry on with my art with very little interference. Just the odd word here and there and off I go again. That’s true creative freedom for you.

I’d stay and chat longer, but I have money to make from unsuspecting families. Toodle pip and keep borrowing.

Jasmine Birtles is a financial journalist and founder of MoneyMagpie.com. Email her at columnists@moneywise.co.uk.

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