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One of our customers has spoken at the country’s leading housing finance conference on the importance of creating an open dialogue between customers and financial partners.

Debs Nott rubbed shoulders with 450 executives from housing associations and some of the country’s biggest banks and investors as she took to the stage at this year’s Social Housing Finance Conference. She joined a panel alongside our Director of Treasury Imran Mubeen, SNG’s Chief Communities & Sustainability Officer Jamie Ratcliff, Lloyds Bank’s Director of Sustainability and ESG Finance Chinyelu Oranefo, and Social Invest Director Luke Cross.

“The conference was looking at everything finance-related within social housing and how the sector is going to go out and ask for funding in the future,” she said. “What we're really hoping for is for investors and funders to truly understand just what their investment can mean to communities and to customers, and how that can help build community resilience, and therefore help to get more of us back into work, feeding into the growth of GDP and better return on investment.

“I felt very honoured to be invited to such a high level finance conference and to be going along with our Director of Treasury. It was a great experience for me.”

Debs, who has lived in her Bromford home in South Gloucestershire for 17 years, was among a small group of customers who met with our credit rating agencies last year to talk about their experiences as a customer. It’s part of a philosophy we have that our financial partners should connect with our customers and come together to learn from one another. It was this philosophy that led the conference organisers to ask Imran to join a panel focused on how funders and rating agencies can better engage with customers.

Imran explained: “Rather than sharing our customers’ experience on their behalf, we invited Debs to join the panel so she could tell her story as a Bromford customer first hand with an audience of funders, investors, rating agencies, advisers and senior finance colleagues from other housing associations. Debs spoke about how meeting with the ratings agencies had helped her understand how we balance the competing pressures in our business plan to make customer-centred investment decisions. She brought a unique voice and perspective to the conference and was really well received.

“Over the past few years investors have been increasingly interested in hearing about our sustainability journey. For us, this means how we are driving positive outcomes for our customers and we believe it’s important for investors to hear about the difference their investment is making in our homes and communities from the people who live in them, rather than just relying on statistics and spreadsheets. As the people who use our services, it is only our customers who can tell us what we get right and where we need to improve. Hearing our customers’ experiences will enable investors to more sincerely evaluate the sustainability value their investments help to drive. With greater engagement, it will also drive funders, advisors, and rating agencies to ask more focussed questions around our business plan and delivery model so we can continue to effectively challenge ourselves on how we are managing the evolving risks in our operating environment. Debs was superb - the audience were really engaged with her, and fed back that it added a new dimension to how they understood the Bromford story.”

Outside of the session Debs, who is a founding member of our Customer and Communities Influence Network, met with some of our key funders, investors and rating agencies and shared why she thinks it’s important for them to hear from customers about the experience of living in an affordable home.

“I had a really frank and honest discussion with them, about what it is that they look at when they're issuing new funding or a rating and what it is that we as customers actually need as an end result,” she said. “I actually feel there were quite a few light bulbs clicking from the credit rating agency side. I think they were quite intrigued to see just how involved and knowledgeable customers are.

“If I had a magic wand, I would like for customers to be meeting with investors at every stage of investment, and for those investors to truly understand what it is that they're investing in.

“Speaking at the conference was very exciting, and very nerve wracking, but it was nice to push myself out of my comfort zone.”

Writing about all things housing related for more than 10 years.

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