Dave lends where banks don’t – just like CDFIs

David Fishwick, star of Channel 4's "Bank of Dave"

Written for and originally posted at www.cdfa.org.uk

He likes bananas and he’s not a fan of banks. So plain-speaking David Fishwick decided he wanted to launch a bank with a difference. A new 2-part series on Channel 4, which began last night, told his story.

The irrepressible minibus entrepreneur had realised that his customers, many of long standing and with a history of repeat business, had started finding it impossible to access affordable finance to buy his buses. So he lent them the money that banks wouldn’t, and they paid him back.

Then he started to despair at how many other businesses in Burnley were suffering for lack of access to credit. So Fishwick launched his own one-man crusade to open his own bank, and no matter how many financial experts told him it would be impossible, he was determined to do it.

The programme, of course, was a hive of great moments, and Dave has a plethora of soundbites up his sleeve. I particularly liked “they should make solicitors listen to ‘you can’t hurry love’ before they go to work in the morning – that’d get them going” and the moment when Dave lent money to a shark business (an expanding water centre), a lovely and I’m sure deliberate contrast to the sharks like Wonga lending to businesses at exploitative interest rates. And it certainly touched a nerve with viewers, with something like 20 tweets per second posted with the hashtag #BankofDave whilst it aired, all overwhelmingly positive and many proclaiming Dave to be a hero, or suggesting he become Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Ultimately Dave couldn’t get a banking license, but was able to open “Burnley Savings and Loans” with a prominent slogan of “Bank on Dave!” Using a crowdfunding model he matches lenders wanting 5% interest to local business and personal borrowers. His ‘bank’ now apparently lends, on average, £25,000 every week, and uses old-fashioned personal relationships and ‘getting to know’ its borrowers to make lending decisions.

In his blog Fishwick says that “what matters at the moment is that we’re open and making a difference. Seeing a business thrive, when it could have gone under without a little bit of money at the right time makes me so happy…my dream is for small “banks” like mine to spring up all over the country, and to go back to a system of banking that’s focused on people, not bonuses.”

Dave’s right of course: businesses, individuals, (and social enterprises) need access to affordable finance. Community based finance. The members of the Community Development Finance Association (CDFA) offer exactly that, and lent nearly £200m last year at affordable rates, to customers who would otherwise have faced financial exclusion. Just like Dave – they are heroes of the finance sector.

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