Building a Bank for the West of England: One year on
Avon Mutual was established a year ago to create a regional cooperative bank for the West of England covering Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and North Somerset.This blog, originally posted on the RSA website here, gives an update on progress during our first year.
An Introduction To Avon Mutual
We are launching the bank as part of a wider movement supported by the RSA and led by the Community Savings Bank Association (CSBA) founded by my fellow Avon Mutual board member James Moore FRSA. We have ambitious plans to set up 18 banks similar to Avon Mutual right across the UK with London and the South West kicked off already and Wales and some other regions following close behind.
I’ve been lucky enough to have lived right across the wonderful region of the West, growing up in the rural Cotswolds and Cheltenham, then rural Forest of Dean and super-urban Bristol. Although I’ve also lived in London, Brussels, Seville and Australia I returned to my roots here about ten years ago and so it feels a real privilege to be able to give something back by helping this revolution in banking take place here in my home patch. Anyone who knows this area knows that it’s on fire with all sorts of community-led initiatives building a new community wealth based economy. It makes the region the perfect place to be launching this new bank. We’ll be partnering with everyone from local authorities and universities to Transition groups, Bristol and Bath Regional Capital, Bristol Pound, community energy groups, credit unions and a host of others who are important anchor institutions in the region’s community wealth building ecosystem.
We are impatient to start serving communities that are looking for an ethical, relationship-driven and customer-owned bank that champions our region. However, starting a new bank is a long process involving considerable regulation and detailed planning. Our ambition is to gain our banking licence and open the first branches in mid 2020.
Between now and then we need to:
• Raise £20 million of share capital
• Put together a team of ethical bankers committed to serving the residents and businesses of the West
• Complete detailed market research, operational planning and systems implementation
• Gain authorisation from the Bank of England and Financial Conduct Authority to become a bank
• And finally, open the doors We continue to raise first round investment, having raised over £300,00 so far of a £400,000 target. This is only open to certain categories of investor, including professional investors, institutions and high-net worth and sophisticated individuals. If you believe you qualify under one of these categories and would like to hear more then please do get in touch.
The Journey So Far
Since kicking off the process a year ago we’ve been busy building a movement of supporters and champions across the region. You can see some of the people who’ve endorsed the plan for the bank here. With the RSA we’ve run a series of public events across the region to explain our plans and engage stakeholders to hear what they want from our bank. We’ve also had hundreds of one-to-one meetings with people and organisations and spoken at over thirty events.We’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some fantastic media students from Bournemouth University who have worked up some draft media and comms material for us and some brilliant interns from other universities who have done great work on market research.Avon Mutual have been revealed as joint winners of the ‘For The Better Award’ developed by Teamspirit with the Finance Innovation Lab to gift marketing and PR consultancy to help accelerate the impact of not-for-profit organisations tackling financial health.
We have also just announced the recruitment of exciting additions to our Board. We were honoured to have been approached by a significant number of highly skilled local people for our board and have appointed four, all with long-term experience in Bank of England Senior Management Regime regulated roles, to form the core of our board. They are:
• Dena Brumpton who recently retired from being CEO of Barclays Savings, Investment and Wealth management.
• John Schofield who has held roles such as Group Chief Risk Officer and Head of Audit at Old Mutual Bank, NatWest, the London Stock Exchange and Ecclesiastical Mutual Insurance.
• Graham Hughes who is one of the Founding Directors of Church House Trust plc; a bank which was subsequently sold to Virgin Money plc.
• Tracy Morshead who is Chair of Mortgage Brain and the National Friendly Society, NED with the Newbury Building Society and has worked at Principality Building Society, Nationwide, ITV and GrandMet.
A key role for the board will be to support our bank license application process with the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) which is now commencing. This board’s diverse skill sets and experience will add significant momentum to the launch of our region's first community owned bank and we are on target to have received our licence and to be open for business in 2020. As well as amazing support from Mark Hall and Eleanor Toner at the RSA, and James Moore from the CSBA, I’ve had a huge amount of support from Tony Greenham. I’ve worked with him through the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the RSA and he is now helping us here at Avon Mutual, as well as starting our sister bank SW Mutual in the next region down from ours. Another important shout-out goes to the irrepressible and multi-talented Fionn Travers-Smith who has been another core member of our team. We’ve also been inundated by offers of support from people with amazing experience in everything from marketing to fintech and we are setting up an Advisory Council to bring these key stakeholders into our wider team.
What Can You Do?
The response to Avon Mutual around the region has been very encouraging, and you can read more about us at www.avonmutual.org. Can you help spread the word? If you’d like to play a part in establishing Avon Mutual, please consider forwarding this email to someone you think might share your interest in this initiative; if they live or work in our region, suggest they sign up on the website. Going forward we will be sending updates every couple of months or so, or when something particularly exciting happens! Maybe you live in our region and would like to help us in some other way or invest in the bank. If so we’d love to hear from you. You can email me at email@example.com.