Allyn Lamb: 2016 Volunteer of the Year Award Nominee
Allyn Lamb is a retired executive of Senior Farm Credit System. He has had a long career building expertise in finance, farm business management, business development, and credit. Allyn was the President and CEO at AgChoice Farm Credit in Pennsylvania, and he currently serves as a dairy and foundation development officer for the Center for Dairy Excellence of Pennsylvania. A committed volunteer, Allyn has previously donated his time and expertise to the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program in Nigeria, Ghana, and twice in Egypt.
In February of 2016, Allyn volunteered for IESC on the Investing in Business Expansion Project to enhance the lending capacity and improve the business processes for three of the project’s partner banks. Allyn also supported several agricultural small and medium enterprises, helping them prepare for the loan process.
Allyn facilitated a daylong workshop for 45 local entrepreneurs on topics including business plans, agricultural risk management, understanding market opportunities, value chain financing, basic farm record keeping, risk rating, evaluating loan requests, and problem solving.
The business owners truly appreciated how Allyn explained in simple and concrete terms what needs to go into a good business plan, financial records, and loan application. On several occasions, the discussion became so animated that program staff had to call a “time out” and move on to the next topic. After his assignment, Allyn followed up with business owners to send them additional resources and templates for record keeping and business plans.
For bankers, Allyn conducted a training for 27 people representing all nine commercial banks operating in the banking industry in Liberia. The objectives of the training were to strengthen banks’ knowledge about the agricultural sector, sensitize mid-level and senior managers on the characteristics of agricultural credit using the DCA, emphasize the importance of policies and decisions on the agricultural credit portfolio, and strengthen internal capacity to extend effective agricultural financial services to the rural communities.
Allyn helped to take the bankers to the next level in understanding risk assessment and risk management, particularly for the agriculture sector. The bankers truly appreciated the way he highlighted similarities and differences between commercial SME lending and agriculture lending. He introduced how a risk rating system works and laid out in concrete terms how to implement one, all of which was new and very useful information to the bankers.
Through a very animated discussion, the banks decided to adopt a new risk rating system that combined a numerical score with a more subjective decision process, the norm in Liberia. Allyn followed up with each bank afterwards and shared additional resources and websites on how to set-up a risk rating system. Mai Cole, a risk analyst with United Bank for Africa who attended the training, praised Allyn for his insight. “The new knowledge and skills acquired from this training now enables me to properly appraise agricultural SMEs,” Mai said.
With his lifetime of experience, Allyn made a series of recommendations to the host banks that will help them implement agricultural lending in a more structured way, that benefits both lender and borrower. Allyn went above and beyond in preparing custom training sessions that met the specific needs of the host organizations. His deep knowledge on the topics and ability to conduct such lively and dynamic training session is a testament to what an excellent volunteer Allyn is, in his ability to create such long-lasting impact in a short amount of time.
On Allyn’s most recent assignment in 2017, he traveled to Tanzania to volunteer on VEGA’s ENGINE program implemented by IESC. Allyn worked with Akiba Bank and PRIDE Microfinance, both of which are having problems in agricultural lending. He met with management and did a strength, weakness, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis for each organization. He also traveled to Mbeya and Iringa to conduct focus groups and learn what small- and medium-enterprises and business development service providers need from financial institutions to increase agricultural borrowing. Allyn identified that while the financial products being offered are good, the financial institutions need staff trainings in agricultural credit.
This was Allyn’s first trip to Tanzania, and he noted that the country feels very progressive. His hope was that the organizations he worked with will continue to do agricultural lending and even expand their agriculture lending programs.
This article was originally written by IESC.