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At Community Finance Ireland we take a hands-on approach when it comes to working with our clients. We put people first. When our clients call with a query, they hear a familiar voice at the end of the phone. They know the face who is at the other end of an email. Our Change-Makers are on the ground, supporting communities, meeting clients and making an impact in their regions.

We speak finance but we hear people – So, we thought you might like to get to know them a bit better.

This week’s Change-Maker is Phelim Sharvin, Client Executive from Strangford, County Down. Working with clients like Forkhill Childcare and Aghavea Parish Church in Northern Ireland, Phelim is passionate about local area regeneration and all matters relating to community development.

Just two of Phelim’s clients: Forkhill Pre-School (Left) and Aghavea Parish Church (Right)

What did your journey to Community Finance Ireland look like?

I joined the team at Community Finance Ireland in 2002, before that I worked in the private sector. I studied European Regional Development, Economics and Business Management at degree and master’s level. In the last few years, I’ve supplemented this with Charter Banker accreditation and a Professional Diploma in Banking. My time working in Community Finance Ireland has given me an extensive knowledge of the Social Finance sector, in particular, Credit, Risk and Portfolio Management. I’ve been responsible for the CFI Northern Ireland portfolio since 2007 and have worked on developing loan products and funds in the areas of local sports, childcare, green energy and start-up social enterprise.

What does your current client base look like? Are there sectors you expect to see or want to see growth in?

Our clients in Northern Ireland represent a broad mix of sectors ranging from sports clubs and faith-based organisations to training providers, green energy schemes and health & social care providers, and are spread across virtually all rural & urban communities in Northern Ireland.  

Sports, Social Enterprise, Faith and Workspace are the largest sectors represented, with some clients being long-established and others are more recently formed. Due to the pandemic and other changes in society I can see health & social care growing in the future.

Do you have a client that, in your opinion, best demonstrates the impact Community Finance Ireland can have?

For me, it would have to be Artspace CIC. It’s a specialist facility that currently caters for up to 40 people with complex support needs. A placement fee is paid to Artspace by WHSCT for providing bespoke support to individuals with challenging physical and mental disabilities. CFI have provided finance on three separate occasions to Artspace and helped it grow and deliver its essential service to its user group.

How do you switch off from work? What are your hobbies and interests?

I am interested in Sport, local history and Community Development. I have long history of being involved in a range of voluntary management committees including prominent positions in my local GAA Club, local Community Association and Festival Committee. And in my spare time I have coached GAA and Soccer across a range of age groups from U8 to Senior level.

Now you know a little more about us, we’d like to hear about you.

If you and your team have a dream that could make a difference in your community, we’re here to listen. Whether you want to change something by solving a problem or creating an opportunity, we want to hear what you have to say.

Share this article:

At Community Finance Ireland we take a hands-on approach when it comes to working with our clients. We put people first. When our clients call with a query, they hear a familiar voice at the end of the phone. They know the face who is at the other end of an email. Our Change-Makers are on the ground, supporting communities, meeting clients and making an impact in their regions.

We speak finance but we hear people – So, we thought you might like to get to know them a bit better.

Covering mid-south Leinster, our next Change-Maker is Barry Symes, Client Executive from Waterford. Working with clients like Red Cross Glen of Imaal Mountain Rescue and Sensational Kids. Barry is passionate about growing Community Finance Ireland’s brand and impact in Leinster.  

Just two of Barry’s clients Sensational Kids (left), Irish Red Cross Glen of Imaal Mountain Rescue (Right)

What did your journey to Community Finance Ireland look like?

I joined Community Finance Ireland in 2017. Prior to that, I spent 17 years working for a private financial institution where I rose to Senior Managerial level. I am the founder and proprietor of SME Debt Solutions. In terms of my education, I completed a diploma in Financial Services from Waterford Institute of Technology and hold a certificate in Agriculture from Teagasc. I am also an Associate Member of the Institute of Banks.

What does your current client base look like? Are there sectors you expect to see or want to see growth in?

I have a diverse range of clients with investments in most sectors. With mid-south Leinster being a largely rural area, Sport & Community make up a large portion of my clients. Community Finance Ireland has only been active in this area for the last four years so these two are where I see the most growth happening. However, as awareness grows of what we have to offer local communities I’d hope to see that growth in lots of other areas.

Do you have a client that, in your opinion, best demonstrates the impact Community Finance Ireland can have?

Thankfully, there are multiple of examples of where CFI’s investment has been a key element for positive impact. A recent one is Kiltegan GAA Club, who collaborated with their community, camogie club and stakeholders like the Local Authority, Local Development Company and CFI to bring about a transformational sporting & community project for their village. This has resulted in the village being nominated for a prestigious Pride of Place Award. A most deserving nomination.

How do you switch off from work? What are your hobbies and interests?

A young family keeps one busy, as does my wide interest in sports, politics, motors, reading and other such interests.

Now you know a little more about us, we’d like to hear about you.

If you and your team have a dream that could make a difference in your community, we’re here to listen. Whether you want to change something by solving a problem or creating an opportunity, we want to hear what you have to say.

Share this article:

At Community Finance Ireland we take a hands-on approach when it comes to working with our clients. We put people first. When our clients call with a query, they hear a familiar voice at the end of the phone. They know the face who is at the other end of an email. Our Change-Makers are on the ground, supporting communities, meeting clients and making an impact in their regions.

We speak finance but we hear people – So, we thought you might like to get to know them a bit better.

Our third Change-Maker takes us to Northern Ireland and to Peter Smyth. Based in Moira, County Down. Peter covers clients across Northern Ireland, working closely with the likes of Forkhill Childcare and Aghavea Parish Church.

Just two of Peter’s clients: Forkhill Pre-School (Left) and Aghavea Parish Church (Right)

What did your journey to Community Finance Ireland look like?

I studied Economics and Accounting at Queens University Belfast and went on to train as an accountant. From there, I worked as a Company Accountant for a large haulage firm before moving into the private banking sector. I spent 28 years working for an international financial institution in various roles such as Head of Invoice Finance, Business Banking Manager, District Manager and Head of Risk & Operations, before joining the Community Finance Ireland team in 2017.

What does your current client base look like? Are there sectors you expect to see or want to see growth in?

I have a very mixed and varied client base ranging from unincorporated organisations to charities and more sophisticated social enterprises. My clients include Local Enterprise Agencies, sports clubs, childcare organisations, community hubs, faith-based groups and mental health and wellbeing groups.

Coming out of the pandemic I would expect to see a growth in the number of organisations involved in addressing mental health and wellbeing issues.

How do you switch off from work? What are your hobbies and interests?

I am heavily involved in my local church as Church Treasurer and office bearer and also serve on the Board of 2 other faith-based charities.

I am a keen soccer fan and an avid follower of Leeds United and Glenavon. I serve on the Committee of Lurgan BBOB where my son is team captain and I spend every Saturday watching him play.

I walk a lot with my miniature dachshund and enjoy my annual fortnight’s holiday in Majorca each year. I also enjoy a number of weekend breaks with my wife. I also became a Granda in February 2020 and love spending time with my new granddaughter Annie Joy!

Now you know a little more about us, we’d like to hear about you.

If you and your team have a dream that could make a difference in your community, we’re here to listen. Whether you want to change something by solving a problem or creating an opportunity, we want to hear what you have to say.

Share this article:

At Community Finance Ireland we take a hands-on approach when it comes to working with our clients. We put people first. When our clients call with a query, they hear a familiar voice at the end of the phone. They know the face who is at the other end of an email. Our Change-Makers are on the ground, supporting communities, meeting clients and making an impact in their regions.

We speak finance but we hear people – So, we thought you might like to get to know them a bit better.

Our next Change-Maker is Anne Graham, Client Executive from Drumfries, Co.Donegal. A new face in the Community Finance Ireland team, Anne is taking advantage of the easing of restrictions to get out and about in Connaught to meet with clients like Sensational Kids, Ballinasloe Town Hall Theatre and Alone.

Some of Anne’s clients from L to R: Sensational Kids, Ballinasloe Town Hall Theatre and Alone.

What did your journey to Community Finance Ireland look like?

I have worked in Financial Services throughout my whole career and wore many hats such as a Loan & Mortgage Advisor and Business Executive, these roles provided me with me valuable credit assessment skills which I bring to my new role at Community Finance Ireland.

Throughout my career, I gained invaluable and highly educational, practical experience but I felt I still needed a formal qualification to complement the skills I garnered over the years.  In 2017, I decided to undertake an MBA in Business Administration, through University of Ulster, which I completed in May 2020.  I thoroughly enjoyed this educational experience and believe the timing of this course was ideal as it allowed me to reflect, value and share my professional, practical and voluntary experience. 

Away from work, I have been a volunteer at our local community centreSliabh Sneacht CentreI began working with our committee as a treasurer and fundraiser and I now hold the position of chairperson.  This voluntary experience was instrumental in steering my latest career move to CFI as I fully understand the challenges, difficulties and rewarding experience that comes with working in a community setting and that sense of shared achievement when your dream becomes a reality.  I can’t wait to help and support ‘the dreamers’ and I believe I am ideally positioned to support ‘the change makers’ as I have walked their path before.

What does your current client base look like? Are there sectors you expect to see or want to see growth in?

My current client base is broad and diverse and includes everything from tourism and sport, to housing associations and forestry groups. Out here in the west we have rich cultural heritage and strong community organisations so I work with a range of community centres, museums, arts centres, drama groups, church and faith-based groups. One day I’m talking to an angling group, the next is a counselling service, the next it’s a community playgroup.

As a result of Covid-19, I think we’ll see more organisations within those sectors growing and trying to meet the changing demands in their local communities. Covid-19 has also shown us the benefits of physical activity and outdoor spaces. Staycations will provide growth opportunities in tourism and outdoor pursuits. The pandemic has shown that we don’t necessarily need to be tied to a fixed office space and as a result, growth of remote working hubs has been fast tracked. Never has the concept of wellbeing and mental health ever been amplified more and its importance to every facet of our society, the need for connectedness and community has been magnified and immeasurable.

Do you have a client that, in your opinion, best demonstrates the impact Community Finance Ireland can have?

To me, there are a number of clients that really demonstrate the impact Community Finance Ireland can have.

Tourmakeady GAA Club in Mayo are exemplars in what can be achieved in a rural sports Club. It is much more than a sports club it is the community centre of this locality.

IRD Kiltimagh in Mayo who support directly and indirectly Enterprise, Tourism, Housing, Arts, any other community group that needs support.

How do you switch off from work? What are your hobbies and interests?

I switch off by spending time with family and friends. I’m kept busy during the week with my son and daughter’s sporting activities (football and GAA). Most nights there is training or match to attend. At the weekends I try to squeeze in a bit of jogging and sea swimming with friends and walking with family. I also enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes when time allows, and have recently joined a ladies’ book club so I’m looking forward to reading more.

Now you know a little more about us, we’d like to hear about you.

If you and your team have a dream that could make a difference in your community, we’re here to listen. Whether you want to change something by solving a problem or creating an opportunity, we want to hear what you have to say.

Share this article:

At Community Finance Ireland we take a hands-on approach when it comes to working with our clients. We put people first. When our clients call with a query, they hear a familiar voice at the end of the phone. They know the face who is at the other end of an email. Our Change-Makers are on the ground, supporting communities, meeting clients and making an impact in their regions.

We speak finance but we hear people – So, we thought you might like to get to know them a bit better.

Our first Change-Maker is Emmett O’Hara, Client Executive from Meath. Working with clients like Alone, Irish Association of the Deaf and Dublin Food Co-Op in North Leinster, Emmett is passionate about getting out on the ground and helping our clients make change happen.

Some of Emmett’s clients from L to R: Alone, National Society of the Deaf and Dublin Food Co-Operative

What did your journey to Community Finance Ireland look like?

I came to Community Finance Ireland after 24 years at one of the top finance lending businesses in Ireland where I went direct from school and worked through numerous roles initially in back office support before progressing though to credit risk, and front line commercial banking management roles. In that time I’ve also studied for a BSc in Credit Risk from Dublin Institute of Technology/Technical University Ireland. I hold a QFA and a Professional Diploma in SME Credit from UCD/Institute of Bankers. So, I bring a lot of financial experience to the team and I’m still learning! I’m currently studying for a Diploma in Big Data from Dublin Business School.

What does your current client base look like? Are there sectors you expect to see or want to see growth in?

Our current client base includes a good number of sports clubs, particularly GAA Clubs, but there’s also a mixture of social enterprises, faith-based organisations, organisations in the health sector, environmental organisations and community working hubs.

In terms of how our client base might change or grow in the future – it will all depend on what communities need. We’ll continue to maintain and develop strong relationships with our existing clients across those sectors and keep talking to people in local communities to understand where else we can provide the support they need. We’ll always look to expand our offering in sectors such as the environment and community working hubs which are definitely a key focus from a government and, more generally, a societal perspective given the great changes we’ve seen in the last year or so.

Do you have a client that, in your opinion, best demonstrates the impact Community Finance Ireland can have?

In my opinion, I would have to say Let’s Get Talking a non-profit Counselling & Psychotherapy Service providing accessible, professional, non-set fee therapy across Ireland. Each client of the service is treated according to their needs and not what they can afford to pay. They focus on early intervention, supporting adults and children in relation to a wide range of issues ranging from depression, anxiety, stress, relationship issues, addiction, trauma, bullying, eating disorders, parenting issues, and family breakdown support. 

Let’s Get Talking have seen a 53% increase in demand for access to their services due to the pandemic. Community Finance Ireland has been working with Let’s Get Talking for the last year providing support which has allowed them to increase their weekly appointments to clients nationally and helped them to be proactive in their response to the mental health implications of the pandemic. Our support has meant that Let’s Get Talking remained accessible to clients by providing online counselling & psychotherapy since March 2020.

Let’s Get Talking is now in a stable financial position and ready to move to the next stage of their strategy to further provide mental health services to the community. Community Finance Ireland will be there to support them along that journey whenever they need us.

How do you switch off from work? What are your hobbies and interests? (Do you play with any local clubs? Do you coach any local underage teams? Are you involved with a community group?)

I live with my family within walking distance of Bettystown Beach in County Meath, so a large part of my unwinding time is spent there!

Both of my children are involved with local sports clubs Naomh Colmcille GAA and Donacarney Celtic Football club so a large part of my time when I am not working or studying is spent ferrying them to training or matches.

Now you know a little more about us, we’d like to hear about you.

If you and your team have a dream that could make a difference in your community, we’re here to listen. Whether you want to change something by solving a problem or creating an opportunity, we want to hear what you have to say.

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