As a momentous year draws to a close, we reflect on facing an uncertain future, share some news and updates, and highlight the brilliant contributors to our ‘in conversation with’ series.
Calling all sole traders, small and micro businesses - we would like to hear from you in our survey! Details below....
After such a rollercoaster year, it is difficult to know where to start in reviewing the events of 2020.
So I am not going to try.
Instead, I have been looking back at a collection of essays I contributed to in 2013 called “Banking 2020: A Vision for the Future”. The contributors were politicians from all parties, finance professionals and commentators.
Two important insights struck me:
1. Try to avoid predicting the future, especially in print.
2. There has certainly been progress towards better banking since the dark days of the financial crisis, but not nearly enough.
Among essays on promoting greater competition and diversity, ethics and culture, access to finance for small businesses, and putting the customer first, one section from Baroness (Susan) Kramer, caught my eye.
Susan sat on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, is a former banker herself, and is deeply knowledgeable about the sector.
She criticised the dominance of the traditional big four UK banks and suggested the regulators should “let a thousand flowers bloom”. Her vision of 2020 included a “new and growing network of local and community banks”.
Well, we didn’t arrive in time for 2020 but we are on our way!
Predicting the future is perhaps to miss the point. I was once asked what difference Brexit would make to our plans for a mission-led regional mutual bank. My reply, only half joking, was that we had analysed 24 different Brexit scenarios in painstaking detail and concluded that in every one of them we’d be better off with such a bank than without one.
Perhaps the point is not to try to predict the future but to try to participate in building a better one. If we at South West Mutual can play just a small part in that, I predict we will consider it time well spent.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
An important part of our preparation to become a bank is to fully understand what features and services are important to organisations in the South West.
Whether you are a sole trader, or a decision maker in a small or medium sized business, club, association, charity or community or social enterprise, we want to hear from you about how the pandemic has affected your organisation, its customers, members or beneficiaries, and your relationship with your bank.
It won't take more than 10 minutes to complete and it's anonymous!
Thanks in advance for helping us understand what's important to you. We want to ensure that our plans for the future are focused on providing services that our future customers need.
We are also pleased to announce that we have moved our registered head office to Devonport Guildhall in anticipation of locating our headquarters in Plymouth once we start to build our operations. For those not familiar with the building, it was brought back to life for community benefit by social entrepreneurs and innovators Real Ideas Organisation.
Plymouth is a great fit for South West Mutual for many reasons, including being officially recognised as a Social Enterprise City. The council has a strategy to build an inclusive and sustainable economy - a strategy it should be noted that is rightly moving to the top of the agenda of many other councils across the region.
The city's response to Covid-19 has been to tackle the short term shocks whilst developing a plan - codenamed Resurgam after the spirit of post-war recovery - that "looks to the future so we end up further ahead, not back where we started, with a greener and fairer city."
Our ambition too.
Our founder share offer extension has been successful, raising £125,000 in a very challenging investment environment.
Our thanks go to all our investors, old and new, for their continuing commitment to bringing the south west its own mission-led mutual bank. Our anchor investor, Plymouth City Council, have invested another £60,000 from their cooperative development fund and we had a good response from private investors too.
Tony was invited to contribute this article to the LGiU (Local Government Information Unit) about regional mutual banks.
'The UK once had many regional banks, of course, and was a pioneer of mutual financial services, with a large building society sector still today, and a growing credit union movement. But building societies do not perform the economic role of regional mission-led banks, and the UK credit union sector is tiny compared with other countries. Fortunately, two changes by UK Government over recent years have opened the door for the reinvention of regional mutual banking...
...Local government could play a crucial role in capitalising regional mutuals, and in return receive a double dividend – sensible long-term financial returns in addition to measurable positive social, economic and environmental impacts for their region. '
Rebecca Broad has been developing a series of conversations both with some of the SWM team and people who are supportive of our aims and goals.
We have really enjoyed our conversations with Dr Gemma Bone-Dodds, Julie Hawker from Cosmic and Jabo Butera from Diversity Business Incubator. They have shared their thoughts on how a regional bank would be good for the South West economy along with topics in their specialist areas of expertise.
In these bite-size 20 minute interviews we pose questions and encourage discussion.
Head over to our YouTube channel now to watch.
If you would be interested in talking to us in one of these sessions then please get in contact with us via the 'Contact Us' page on this website. We would love to hear from you!
'Year to date running total: 560 miles & 41,257 feet (or very nearly 8 miles) of climb… To put that in context, that is around the maximum height a commercial jet plane will achieve, and I’ve done that without having left Devon & Cornwall! '
Avid readers will know that I was originally due to run the London Marathon in April this year – but due to you know what, it was first postponed until October and then again to October 2021. Having put in many hours of training and wanting to raise awareness and much needed funds to support the work of Christians Against Poverty (where I work two days a week running a debt centre), I decided to go ahead and run a virtual marathon.
However, events conspired to make things a little trickier ahead of the big day. First, storm Alex meant the path around my chosen route was closed for health & safety reasons on the eve of the race. A new route was quickly agreed, following the blissfully flat camel trail from Bodmin Jail to Wadebridge and back, twice. On the day itself torrential rain, flooded and muddy paths and quite a bit of wind made things even harder than expected – but it didn’t dampen spirits as I was joined by friends and family at the start, finish and for various segments of the route. Some ran, cycled and even sang to help coax me to the finish line.
Dreams of smashing the 4 and a half or even 5 hour barrier came and went as I first needed a costume change at half distance (due to being soaked through!) and then developed a severe knee pain on the last 6 and a half mile leg, reducing my speed and any sense of ‘running’ style to a literal damp squib. To add insult to injury, the battery of my apple watch cried enough at 26.1 miles, so I had no official record of my achievement when I did eventually cross the finish line and as a result, no official finishers medal!
No matter, it was still one of the best experiences of my life – truly pushing my physical endurance limits and marvelling at the sheer determination of people to support me despite the hideous weather conditions. The venue change meant I came across at least a dozen people running / walking / hiking the trail to complete their own virtual London Marathon, each with their own support crews and appreciation societies. It made the occasion even more special, with everyone contributing to the positive community feeling.
One of the goals we have for South West Mutual is for it to help build stronger more cohesive communities. We have been busy making plans, getting in to shape and adapting to what our customers, the market and the economy need as we seek to build back better. For sure, it’s a gruelling challenge. We’re certainly on a roller coaster journey, but I think I speak for the whole team, when I say that we’re enjoying the ride!
So that brings us close to the end of 2020 - one that none of us will forget in a hurry.
We are even more committed to supporting customers and communities with a bank that is focused on them. We've learnt much from the COVID-19 pandemic and it's helped shape our plans for the better.
We'd like to wish you, your friends and families a peaceful holiday however you spend it.
We look forward to updating you in 2021.
Adrian - Head of Membership and Engagement
South West Mutual Limited is Co-operative Society 4451 registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014
Devonport Guildhall, Ker Street, Plymouth, PL1 4EL Tel: 01752 936906
* Disclaimer: We intend to apply for a banking licence to the Prudential Regulation Authority and Financial Conduct Authority. We are not yet authorised as a bank so please do not take any information on this website as an invitation or inducement to apply to South West Mutual for any banking services or products.
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