We hope that you have enjoyed all that the South West has brought us this summer. It's time to update you again - and it's been another busy period for South West Mutual.
We are busy writing our Regulated Business Plan to submit in January and our new HQ in Dartington has been the perfect setting for creative writing. Seeing the autumn scenes from our windows has really spurred us on to write passionately about why a regional bank is needed (and realise how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place!)
We've also been to our first South West Business Expo, entered marathons, welcomed new founder members and asked you to help think about future names.
More of all of that during this newsletter.
Whether you have a faith or not, we'd like to wish you and your families a very happy and enjoyable December. Thank you for your support and interest - we look forward to 2020 being a very positive step forward for South West Mutual.
Head of Membership & Engagement
As Christmas approaches, I am sure your thoughts are turning to the world of banking regulation and the relative merits of different banking models. Well, OK perhaps not. But there is a famous link between Christmas and community banking in the form of the classic 1946 movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.
Voted by the American Film Institute as the most inspiring movie of all time, the story follows George Bailey, the manager of a community saving bank - Bailey Brothers' Building and Loan.
Among the many strands of the storyline is a rather good illustration of the dynamics of a bank run, when panic spreads through the crowd of savers who all try to withdraw their money at the same time.
Explaining how the community’s savings and loans are all intertwined, George reminds them how their mutual self-help has allowed them escape the clutches of the dastardly slum landlord and high-cost moneylender, Henry Potter (number 6 on the list of all-time American villains!).
“We can get through this thing alright. We’ve got to stick together though. We’ve got to have faith in each other.”, implores George.
Heeding his words, the customers only withdraw what they need to live on for the next week, halting the bank run in its tracks. Demonstrating the trusting relationships and close knowledge of his customers, George says to one as he hands over a handful of dollar bills:
“You don’t have to sign anything. I know you. You just pay it when you can, that’s OK.”
Now, I have to emphasise that we are never going to be quite so lax about doing the paperwork. The detailed customer journey frameworks we are currently constructing do not have a step that says ‘don’t worry, sign it later’. But we do love the sentiment of a bank that strengthens the bonds of community and promotes trust, the common good and mutual goodwill.
As our country seems to find ever more ways to divide itself into bitterly opposing tribes, I am sure you will all say amen to that.
A new Association is born (but hopefully not in a stable)
I am pleased to report that by mutual agreement with the Community Savings Bank Association, we will be forming a second complementary association to specifically support mutual banks through the licence application process. The CSBA will concentrate on encouraging new regions to join the network and support founders throughthe initial stages of the bank. There are currently three banks in the licencing process – us, Avon Mutual and Greater London Mutual – and we are keen to work more closely through the current stage of detailed business planning and due diligence on suppliers.
This evolution of the movement allows us to focus our efforts more efficiently and also provides a clearer framework for the PRA and FCA by distinguishing between early stage groups and more advanced mutuals who are engaging with the regulators.
Looking forward to 2020
Next year will be a big year for South West Mutual. We need to complete our licence application and secure the full £20 million of equity funding to capitalise the bank. We cannot progress without funding commitments, but if we can achieve these necessary milestones we will be well on the way to opening the doors to the general public in 2021.
On behalf of the team, thank you for your ongoing support!
Tony taking part in the South West Business Expo's Podcast.
We were really delighted with the response from our survey to help us choose a new name. It really helped us in terms of what we choose and what resonated with people across the region - thank you if you took part.
For the time being we will be staying as South West Mutual - it's a name that many are getting to hear about via our growing social media channels and it makes sense to only change things once. But - we do plan to change our identity when we have completed our application process..... you may start to see some subtle changes in our visuals before that in 2020.
Tom Browning has been working hard with us to design our tone of voice for future marketing, an identity that is fitting for a regional bank (if we are granted a license) and something that can incorporate all 4 counties. He's producing something fresh, regional and inspiring.
Watch this space!
I split my week, working three days for SWM and two days for a charity called Christians Against Poverty (CAP). Modern poverty is real, with millions locked in its miserable grip. CAP help people who have often suffered multiple life traumas. Family illness, bereavement, relationship breakdown and poor mental health are some of the causes that can trigger an unstoppable spiral into debt and poverty. Nationally, 37% tell us they were afraid to leave the house before they got help from CAP whilst 35% have considered or attempted suicide as a way out of debt. You can find out more about CAP at www.capuk.org .
I run a CAP debt centre which is a free, non-profit making service funded by donations and grants. This new centre is a partnership between a group of local churches in and around Liskeard & Looe in Cornwall - it started helping people in April 2019, the same month that I started working for SWM.
We help people by giving advice on budgeting & money management, taking over contact with their creditors and working towards them becoming debt free. In my first few months, clients have told me how their outlook has changed by getting control of their situation and having a plan to work with going forward. One young family were living with their curtains permanently closed, due to the fear of bailiffs. After an afternoon preparing an income and expenditure statement, calling creditors and making arrangements, their three young children are now able to play in their front room in natural light without fear of who might knock at the door. It’s a privilege to play a small part in making lives better.
During the summer I heard that CAP had some charitable entries into the 2020 London marathon. They asked people to apply and said they would award the places to those they thought made a good case to have a place. I have done a little running in the past and was looking for an excuse to get into shape and lose a few pounds, especially after I badly twisted my ankle (running!) back in March. So I entered thinking in all reality they’d never pick me – I never win competitions... CAP called my bluff!
I’ll be pounding the streets of Liskeard this Winter in earnest preparation for the run next April, all in aid of the wonderful work that CAP does. I’ll need to be prepared - I’m going to have to train, watch my diet, find sponsorship, find running buddies, prepare a really long Spotify playlist, get the right running gear, make arrangements for the big day, etc. Oh - and still find time to work two jobs, be a good father/husband/son/friend!
It struck me that preparing for the marathon is quite like our journey in opening a new mutual bank. It will be challenging, exciting and rewarding - and I can’t wait to get started. I’ll keep you updated with my progress via a blog on the website and some regular updates on our social media pages.
If you would like to sponsor Darren's marathon run for Christians Against Poverty then you can do so by clicking here.
On Wednesday 20th November, South West Mutual went to the SW Business Expo at Westpoint Arena, Exeter.
While the team have been busy behind the scenes getting ready to apply for our banking license, we haven’t been out and about much spreading the word about our plans. We had no idea what to expect from the day, so we arrived bright and early to set up our stand and settle in.
After a quick coffee to help us warm up, we introduced ourselves to the companies on the stands around us. It was going to be a long day so it’s nice to be able to chat and get to know some of our fellow exhibitors.Tony took part in the Expo's podcast - first up on the day to be interviewed.
During the day, not only were we able to meet people and tell them more about SWM, a few people had already heard of us and made the point of coming and to look for us - which was great! We all took the opportunity throughout the day to walk around the exhibition and to chat to the other exhibitors about their businesses as well as tell them about ours. We made lots of great new connections and reconnected with some familiar faces.
As we packed down the stand at the end of the day, (and had a much-needed sit down with a cup of tea and a piece of cake!) we realised what a successful day it had been. Not just because we were able to engage with lots of people, share our progress with others - but we’d had a fun day out of the office as a team.
Now, it’s back to that application!
Having worked at board level in the finance sector for over 30 years – my last role as the CEO for an organisation committed to providing significant levels of much needed finance to the SME sector - and witnessed the arrival of the challenger banks who continue to champion SME’s, I was delighted to discover the work that South West Mutual is doing to bring a banking resource focused on the people and businesses of the South West.
My wife and I relocated to South Devon in 2017 and through my work with local businesses and social enterprises in the area, I am very aware of what this amazing region has to offer. With its own unique attributes – the high proportion of small owner managed businesses, the varied geography through coast and moors taking in world renowned UNESCO sites and the individuals and groups in cities, towns and villages working tirelessly to improve the lives of the people in their varied communities.
The energy and commitment I come across on a daily basis is second to none and having an organisation such as SWM established in the region focussed on and listening to the needs of the community, will be a fantastic resource that I am very proud to be associated with.
The idea of being able to contribute in some way to SWM immediately appealed to me – predominantly to feel further connected to the business infrastructure in the region – I was also delighted when I received the email from the team informing me that I had become the 100thfounder member.
I am looking forward with great anticipation as the SWM story unfolds – I’m watching the journey they are making to having a regional, customer owned bank in the South West.
This time of year is about people, place, purpose - something that at South West Mutual we talk about a lot. So whatever you're doing over the festive period - enjoy the time with those you love, wherever you are and make the most of that time.
We'll be enjoying some rest after what has been an interesting, energising and brilliant time for all of the team. We have lots to do - but the thought of being another step closer to bringing a bank to this region in 2020 is very exciting!
Making a difference to the communities that we serve is at our very core - we hope that in 2020 you'll continue to support, engage and challenge us to make that become a reality.
Our very best wishes
Tony, John, Darren, Adrian & Annabel
South West Mutual
South West Mutual Limited is Co-operative Society 4451 registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014
Registered office: Broadwalk House, Southernhay West, Exeter, Devon EX1 1TS Tel :01392 984004
* 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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