Thank you for your support and interest in South West Mutual. Since the last letter we have submitted the first part of our application to the regulators, a big step on the way to becoming the first member owned mutual bank in the region
We really appreciate the words of encouragement, offers of support and people validating the need for a bank run for the people of the region, by people of the region. So onto the latest news from us......
Social media is a really great way of sharing our story - so you can now follow us on twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Click on one of the links to follow, leave a message of support and read our articles.
Tony has been out spreading the word about the benefits of regional community banks and ethical finance. He has spoken at the Banking on a Just Transition project , promoting exactly the kind of environmentally and socially just finance that we hope to embody here at SWM. Tony also addressed the Welsh Assembly on the topic of cooperatives and mutual and attended the Centre for Local Economic Strategies community wealth building summit, all good networking and profile-raising opportunities.
We are also very grateful to have a very supportive group of non-executive directors, who offer us invaluable guidance and advice on our journey. Our thanks to them for being there – sometimes at a moment's notice, to ensure that we created a compelling, professional licence application to the regulators.
We are also working alongside our colleagues at Avon Mutual and Greater London Mutual – we are sharing lots of our thinking as well as jointly commissioning some research about how our communities will be better served by regional banks. Being part of a co-operative and how we work together, will continue to be a key differentiator for us. One of our new founder members will share his thoughts on this and his own experience later in the newsletter.
Tony representing SWM at the Welsh Assembly
We have been out and about meeting new friends - one of those visits was heading to The Apricot Centre at Huxhams Cross farm, to consider locations for any member events we plan to hold upon launching and to network with other social enterprises. Huxhams Cross Farm is found on the edge of the Dartington Hall Estate near Totnes in Devon.
It covers 34 acres of land that was bought by the Biodynamic Land Trust in 2015. The Trust holds land in perpetuity for sustainable food production. The Apricot Centre team are the first tenants of the farm and continue to develop it from a bare collection of 5 fields, that were put down to conventional barley for the last 40 year, to a rich and diverse food producing farm.
The wellbeing service base at the apricot centre works with the farm and nature as a co-therapist, working with vulnerable young , those with mental health issues and their families.
We are starting to attend more networking events and meet new people, who are either keen to see how we can work together – or to help us spread the word about our plans. If you would like to learn more – or think that we can collaborate together, please let us know.
If you attend a networking event in any part of the region - and you think we could benefit from attending, again let us know.
We welcome Olly Haynes who has joined us on a Student Internship for the summer and is already making a difference as part of the team. It's great to have a voice in the team that understands what we are trying to achieve and validates that our value set resonates - regardless of age.
Olly is just about to embark on his 4th year at Exeter University , studying Politics and French.
He is supporting us with detailed research for our licence application as well as being our resident social media guiding light!
We are delighted that Annabel will be joining the team four days a week from this month. Annabel has been with us 1 day a week for some time - and we are thrilled that she's going to spending more time with us.
She will have the unenviable task of helping keep the project on course as well as organising the team! We know that she'll do a fantastic job.
We’d like to extend a warm welcome to Andrew North who has joined as a founder member. Andrew has 30 years’ experience in the mutual & co-operative sector. He lives in Ashburton and loves Dartmoor - he is keen to give his support what we are aiming to achieve at South West Mutual and had this to say:
‘I'm excited about the progress being made by South West Mutual. For the first time, we could have a truly co-operative banking service, putting members at its heart. This means a positive, different way of doing banking and one that's centred on the South West.
In over 20 years involvement in the Co-operative Movement, I've worked for consumer-owned co-ops, engaging members, their communities and in governance.
I've helped members understand their co-op, so they could be more involved, and I've organised debates on ethical issues confronting their co-op so members could understand some of the dilemmas faced by an organisation upholding co-operative values & principles. I lost count of the number of times I explained why The Co-operative Bank couldn't be a co-op - until 2014 the law didn't allow it.
I've seen some co-ops being successful businesses but acting no differently to their competitors. I've seen others being successful co-ops doing great things but failing commercially. The best co-ops are successful co-operative businesses - and they put equal emphasis on all three words. They are successful businesses, which put members at their heart, and are focused on member needs, rather than those of shareholders. They achieve positive change and disrupt markets.
As someone who has worked through highs and lows in the Co-operative Movement, at last I can look forward to a co-operative, owned and influenced by members, which will provide great banking services for the South West, from the South West.’
We thank Andrew for his kind words of encouragement and of course think he is correct to be optimistic about our prospects, practically every other day a news headline makes the case for our existence. It was recently reported that online banking will overtake physical banking within two years as major banks emphasise new technologies and cut back on branches. The head of Money at Which? argued there is still demand for physical branches in a community. We also recognise this demand so there is a clear opportunity to fulfil our social and financial mission.
The climate emergency still looms large, but attitudes and actions are changing, and we think we are well placed to meet people’s demands to live sustainable everyday lives through our ethical practises and the provision of products and services that support them. A key part of our application to the UK regulators, will be how we demonstrate our difference to support segments of our communities across the 4 counties.
Whilst we are conscious of the some of the negative impacts of social media – we will use them carefully to share our voice and message. You can also contact us directly through the website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org should you prefer.
And what next?
We will be entering the next round of fund raising during the later summer and autumn months. This is a key time for us as we will also be working on the full licence application.
We have our first meeting with the Prudential Regulation Authority in early August – their feedback will help us shape the application and gain insight on their initial thoughts.
Thanks for your support as always.
Head of Membership
South West Mutual Limited is Co-operative Society 4451 registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014
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.
Some Images supplied to us by Landscape & Wildlife photography