• Jules Peck

Exciting update on progress for Avon Mutual

We are very pleased to report that we have started the new year with some very exciting news and are forging ahead with finalising our Regulatory Business Plan for our bank licence application.

Due diligence and investment news

Our main news is that Bristol City Council (BCC) have just signed off the next tranche of their investment in Avon Mutual after a very detailed year-long due diligence process they commissioned accounting firm RSM to undertake.

This next tranche of £100k funding follows on from £200k previous investment from BCC, as well as significant investment from other Local Authorities in the region, and is a major milestone for us as it illustrates both a serious ongoing commitment from councils but also that our financial and impact plans have been through a very high level of independent due diligence.

We are confident that this will open the way to significant further investment from parties who have been awaiting the outcome of this due diligence process. This includes other councils in the region as well as other institutional and private investors.

Some headlines on our planned impact

With the climate and nature emergency and inequality now being centre stage in the ‘levelling up’ and 'build back better' agendas, we are very excited about the role the bank will play in our local economy.

Some of the headlines of the kinds of financial, business and impact plans we have and which RSM reviewed in their recent due diligence include:

  • Balance sheet lending of £0.6bn and cumulatively lending over £1.2bn by year 10.

  • Local multiplier economic impact of £740m-£1.7bn in the first 10 years of operation, excluding any economic impacts from financial inclusion and mortgage lending.

  • 79,000 jobs created or protected through our lending and operations.

  • Serving more than 15,400 SMEs, including sole traders, urban independents, and 3,300 charities and other mission driven businesses.

  • 66,800 individual customers of which more than 10,300 will be financially vulnerable.

  • 2,200 unbanked people brought into the financial system with their own current account, producing at least £700,000 saving per year on the Poverty Premium.

  • £0.9m saved in interest for vulnerable customers not using high cost credit.

  • £533m of our assets based in the ‘real economy’ rather than the financialized/speculative economy.

  • Deriving £155m of our revenues from activities in the real economy (75%).

  • By Year 10, £390m assets will be with projects that create a positive social, economic, or environmental impact.

  • Other significant alignment with and reporting across issues including UN SDGs, carbon emissions, pay ratios, diversity metrics and other areas of social and ethical relevance.

Next steps

In addition to working with RSM on this due diligence work, over the last year we have been progressing well with the bank licensing process and we are currently putting the finishing touches to what we hope will be our near final Regulatory Business Plan. Soon after we input this plan to the regulators, we hope to have reached the critical ‘Challenge’ stage of the licensing process - a stage at which more than 90% of banks go on to gain a bank licence.

Once through that ‘Challenge’ stage we can expect between 6 and 9 months of final licensing process work with the regulators before we gain an initial ‘Authorisation With Restrictions’ allowing us to build and test systems and start the launch of the bank to the public.

As a result of reaching these major milestones and having already raised close to £2m start up funds, we are now continuing our current investment round hoping to raise a further £500,000 to take us through the Challenge stage.

In other important news, we are also currently in discussion with the Treasury and a number of parliamentary supporters, including Treasury Minister and local MP John Glen and Kevin Hollinrake MP, a key champion of ours and a Treasury Select Committee member, about the consultation on the Dormant Assets Bill, which we hope will allow us to gain access to the next tranche of £1.7bn Dormant Assets. Assuming this is successful we would hope such funds would go a long way to matching the multi-million pounds of capital we hope to bring in from local institutional investors including Local Authorities.

A reminder of our vision and the support we have

Imagine a bank rooted in and owned by its community and with a mission and business model not to extract value for the few but to mutualise the benefits of finance for all. A bank that helped build a new sustainable and inclusive economy for its region.

Now this no longer has to be the stuff of dreams. With your support we are making this a reality here in the West of England and pioneering a model others will follow across the UK.

We have a growing list of supporters across the region and in key roles nationally. It was great to see our mutual banks movement also getting two supportive mentions in Michael Gove’s recent Levelling Up White Paper and similarly local Devizes MP Danny Kruger called for government support of our bank in his recent Levelling Up Communities report saying “We need a new era of community power to replace the era of large public and private bureaucracies….The allocation of private capital in the UK is too short-termist and, by reinforcing success in the South East and the big city centres, it perpetuates inequality between and within regions. A necessary corrective to this is a proper regional banking system, which understands the strengths and needs of an area and supports local businesses over the long term. Good work is being done in this space.

Similarly Salisbury MP John Glen, Financial Secretary to the Treasury and City Minister, has said “The Government welcomes the efforts to establish regional mutual banks and recognises the importance of diversity in the banking system. Officials have been engaging with prospective mutual banks over their efforts to raise capital and look forward to further discussions. Your vision for the benefits which mutual banks rooted in local communities could create is compelling and I welcome your efforts to establish regional mutual banks.”

We have similar support from businesses and business networks, community groups, faith groups and leading figures from across the region. In addition it is great to have strong support from key figures in Parliament including Kevin Hollinrake MP, Co Chair of the APPG on Fair Banking and Treasury Select Committee member who has said of our movement “Given whats at stake and the imperative of building an economy that serves our mutual interest, utterly compelling”. The APPG’s Vice Chair Lord Holmes who has in addition made proposals for amendments to the Financial Services Bill for support for our banks.

Bank of England Governor, Andrew Bailey, has been vocal in his support for our model and its also exciting to have Andy Haldane, until recently Chief Economist at the Bank Of England, championing our local banking model and joining as the new CEO at the RSA, who initiated our movement back in 2017.

We are proud to have a number of our supporters and our investors writing supportive words which you can read here including local business people, community leaders and leading figures from the environmental community.

Watch this space as we will continue to update you regularly on our progress and please do get in touch with any questions or offers of support.

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