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The international financial crisis has dominated the world’s news in recent months with increasingly worrying statistics and stories creating a sense of panic for many families and business owners. At the heart of the discussion is the topic of the ‘Credit Crunch’ – a new buzzphrase of our times. To address the true meaning, significance and impact of the economic downturn on the community at large, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, UK (BAPS), organised a special seminar on the evening of Saturday 3 January 2009 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London. The aim was to provide a professional insight into the matter and to address the concerns of the people.

Raj Soneji and Aroon Rana, lead volunteers of BAPS’s professional services unit, organised the event inviting two experts from the financial industry to offer their analysis. Vinay Pattni, a Corporate Relationship Manager with Barclays Bank, and Nimish Patel, a Chartered Accountant and licensed insolvency practitioner, provided insightful, informative and practical guidance through a series of presentations and interactive discussions.

Vinay Pattni placed into perspective the number of people that are directly affected by the Credit Crunch, and explained the historical factors behind the bubble that was created and the reasons why it burst. He provided a valuable commentary on the effects of the current financial situation for individuals, households and businesses.

Nimish Patel provided guidance for personal borrowers and those who may be facing financial troubles. One underlying message that he reiterated was the importance of communication between borrowers and lenders to discuss problems and find solutions. Mr Patel also shared several survival tips and stressed the importance of remaining optimistic in difficult times and seeking opportunity amid adversity.

Over 450 individuals benefitted from the seminar with many appreciating the refreshing simplicity with which the two speakers explained technical financial concepts. One soon-to-be father later said, “You read about it all the time in the papers and [hear it] on the news, but to have someone there actually explain how it affects you makes all the difference.” Another attendee, who helps run a small family business, also shared why she found the seminar useful: “It’s far clearer now what we don’t need to worry about and what we should be focussing on more carefully.”

The presenters in turn appreciated the response of the audience and the opportunity to share their expertise. Mr Pattni later commented, “I believe the audience really appreciated the opportunity to gain this perspective and received the presentations with their renowned grace and good humour. [BAPS] should be commended for recognising the needs of the community and arranging this seminar. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and meeting so many people.” Mr Patel added that he, too, found the experience “rewarding and a pleasure” and was touched by the feedback which “emphasises just how important this topic is for a lot of people at the present time.”

The seminar was a part of the ongoing services provided by BAPS to its members and the local community in the UK. As Raj, himself a long-serving Chartered Certified Accountant, explained, “We’re always on the lookout to see how we can help. The important thing is to make sure the services we provide are timely and relevant to people’s needs here, now and for the future. … The current financial crisis has affected everybody in some way and we hope that the seminar has highlighted what this ominous phrase – the ‘Credit Crunch’ – really means and how all of us can address our personal and business finances to cope with it.”

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