A Credit Union-Like Story: The Bank of Dave

Just released and streaming on Netflix is a movie The Bank of Dave.  Set in Burnley in the north of England, it is the story of a local van seller who sought the first new banking license to be issued in 150 years in the UK.  It is a contemporary version of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

Dave’s intent is “not about me making money” but creating jobs and the quality of life for the whole community.  Profits will go to charity.

For the Financial Regulatory Board, the question is not can it succeed, but rather should it exist?

All the incumbents want to preserve the status quo where a few, large “financial supermarkets” dominate the economy.  Dave’s local proposal is not the “right sized bank.”

Dave must overcome established bureaucratic opposition, a very high capital requirement (twelve million pounds) and entrenched scepticism that a new financial model is necessary.

You can read the status of his efforts today in this article about the movie, Dave Fishwick’s life and his ongoing campaign.

Although he faced resistance at every step, Dave eventually made good on his dream, opening Burnley Savings and Loans in 2011, and using “Bank on Dave!” as the company’s slogan.

The Message and Credit Unions

Dave in life and in the film is a pillar of the community.  His dream is political, not just financial. Banking should not be reserved for the rich and powerful.  Rather in a community, it is the ordinary people who define what that institution should be.

His goal is to have a bank that “looks after the community.”  He wants  a better way, than the current system,  of helping each other where and how we can.  That is Dave’s vision of what community is about.

The parallels with the credit union story are many.  This includes the entrenched resistance to new charters and the  ever present temptation to leave behind those that created the institutions which dominate markets today.

The Bank of Dave is a timeless story about money and who gets to control its use and distribution.   It is a reminder that financial institutions are built first on trust in the people who lead them.

When that trust and connection is lacking, then others will move to fill the needs that are no longer served.

If you still need convincing about the Dave’s of this world, here is an interview with this real Dave.


2 Replies to “A Credit Union-Like Story: The Bank of Dave”

  1. from Cliff Rosenthal:
    If you like It’s A Wonderful Life…

    I’ve got a recommendation to brighten your holiday season.

    It’s an underdog story set in England (no, it’s not Ted Lasso), in a town struggling in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The Bank of Dave is a tale of a community-minded car salesman who makes loans to help townspeople in time of need (for example, with funeral expenses) or to start local businesses (to create jobs, which they do quite successfully). He wants to do more by chartering a new bank, which the Financial Regulatory Authority in the U.K. has not done for 150 years—certainly not his kind, a bank that returns its profits to the community. He realizes full well that his plan seems delusional–but the financial crisis provided “hundreds of billions of pounds” to bail out greedy banks, so how much worse could an ordinary guy like him do? ( Dave has loaned out one million pounds, charged no interest, and never lost any money.) Dave’s got a point to make. And he makes it, though not in the way he foresaw.

    The film is largely based on a true story. I spent a 30-year career helping to start credit unions in the United States, and I howled with the laughter of recognition as I saw the hurdles that Dave had to jump to start a bank. Convince a skeptical financial regulator? Right. Develop a business plan? Of course. Raise pledges of community support? Absolutely! Raise millions of dollars of start-up capital? Sure.

    Trigger warning: no violence, no sex, but a hint of heartwarming romance. And by the way: if you want to learn about a similar story, check out Arlo Washington. A barber in Little Rock, he established a CDFI loan fund and went on to charter the People Trust Community Federal Credit Union.

  2. Every CEO, Senior Manager, and Board Member should watch this film. It is a reminder of how CUs are different and how, as we get bigger, we seem to lose our way. While it paints a somewhat unrealistic picture of banks, it does reaffirm the commitment to members as owners as a credit union difference.

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