I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t know anything about banking, and I was happy that way. I thought that I’d take care of my business the bankers could take care of there’s and we’d all be fine.
Then in 2008 it turned out that I was mistaken. The bankers weren’t taking care of anybody’s business, and definitely not their own.
My business is selling minibuses, and I’ve built up that business to become the largest supplier of minibuses in the UK. I had a lot of customers who bought minibuses on finance and who were decent, reliable, hardworking people that always paid back anything they owed. Suddenly, the credit crunch hit and these people I’d known for years couldn’t get a penny from the Banks and finance houses.
This was a big problem for them, but it was an even bigger problem for me. If nobody could get credit to buy a new minibus, that would mean no more David Fishwick Minibuses!
So I decided to start lending people the money myself. I knew my customers would pay me back and that’s exactly what they did, no matter what the computer at the banks said. This made me wonder; if I could do things without the big banks just in my company, what would happen if I tried the same thing for more people by opening a ‘bank ‘ that didn’t only aim to make money, but help people too.
A Tiny, Tiny Bank
Burnley’s a very different place to the City of London. In Burnley we’ve not got an awful lot of money, but we have a lot of common sense. In the City the Bankers seem to have a lot of money but not a lot of… well, you know where I’m going with this.
It’s my hometown and I love it, but it has a lot of problems. Everywhere I looked, businesses were going bust and shops were sitting empty with big to let signs over the door. Every time a business goes bust, other businesses lose their customers, which pushes them even closer to the edge. The problem was that there was no money to get things moving and the banks certainly weren’t doing anything to help.
I thought my solution, of opening up a tiny little bank that I backed with my own money and aimed to help the local area, was a good one that people would get behind. I thought that with a mix of hard work, and a bucket full of common sense and some support from the community, we could make it successful. Unlike any other banker, I wasn’t expecting any bonuses from my customers. In fact, I planned to donate every penny of profit to charity.
However, to start a bank I would need a licence from the Financial Services Authority. In fact, without that licence I couldn’t even legally use the word bank or take deposits.
The problem was that the FSA wouldn’t even meet with me to discuss giving me a banking licence unless I put millions of pounds in to a protected account that I could never use. The trouble with that is that by demanding so much they made opening a small community bank almost impossible! The regulations were geared around the huge high street banks and we know how badly they failed! How could I do any worse than that lot?
Luckily, I’ve never been the type of person who takes no for an answer. I quickly learned that if you want to open a ‘bank’, that’s a very important quality.
Finding a Way
Fortunately for me, I met a lot who shared my dream of finding a better way to run a bank. I began to gather support from politicians like Steve Baker, Michael Meacher, Guy Opperman, and the Business Secretary Vince Cable. I was even mentioned in a debate in the House of Commons.
I also had the help of some really dedicated people who wanted to make a difference in Burnley. My lawyers, Keith Arrowsmith & Chris Moss of JMW Solicitors in Manchester < http://www.jmw.co.uk/> were amazing in making sure I stayed on the right side of the law. I also had so much wonderful help from the people of Burnley, who donated their time and expertise to building and redecorating and promoting my little “bank”.
With a lot of hard work and buckets full of common sense, we managed to open up last autumn.
The whole journey, from my first attempts to get a licence to the first six months of opening was filmed by a crew from Channel 4, but this was no TV stunt. Burnley Savings and Loans is still there in Burnley, taking investments and making loans to the community. I want to show that banking shouldn’t be about computers and ruthlessness, but about people and compassion.
My great hope is that I can keep on using my ‘bank’ to help people, and that by watching the series people will realise that there is a better way – not just for Burnley, but for Britain.
Bank of Dave starts at 9pm, Thursday 12 July, on Channel 4