1/2: How to Open a "Bank", Thu 12/07/12, 9pm, C4
It's Dave versus the Goliaths of the banking world as Channel 4 follows one man's fight to bring old-fashioned banking back to the High Street. With the global financial system in a mess, bankers in disrepute and their customers feeling short-changed, straight-talking minibus supplier Dave Fishwick has had enough. If the high street banks aren't lending enough to keep the economy going, why doesn't he just start his own? Surely it can't be that difficult?
Dave starts his fight in his hometown of Burnley and his plan is refreshingly simple: he promises is give 5% interest on savings and then use that money to lend to people struggling to secure loans from the big banks. If after six months his local bank works, Dave says he's going to do something the big banks just can't bring themselves to do - instead of paying bonuses, he'll give any profits to charity. As Dave says: "if I can make £1 after all the bills are paid, my bank will be £2billion and one pound better off than the RBS, because they lost £2 billion."
The first of this two-part series highlights how banks operate and explores the archaic protocol demanded by the mysterious banking regulators. But with Dave's blunt, dogged and fearless approach to business being applied to the closed club of banking the result is a real eye opener - for all involved.
Almost everyone in banking that Dave asks for advice tells him to forget the idea, some suggesting that if he continues to call his venture a "bank" he could end up in prison. But the people of Burnley still support him and Dave presses ahead anyway. Together with help from local businesses and tradesmen they turn a tiny old flower shop into Burnley's very own "bank" and have a grand opening to launch the venture. The day is a success but without any licences to lend or borrow, Dave's "bank" may end up getting him in hot water with the authorities.
When Dave gets the first of his valuable licences - allowing him to lend - he tries out his belief that Bank managers need to meet their customers face-to-face and take a close look at their businesses. From a busker needing a loan for a new amplifier to a tropical fish store needing a snappy attraction, Dave meets people in the community who until now have been unable to borrow money. The money starts pouring out of the "bank" - and it starts to make a real difference to the town.
But there's no money coming in from savers and without a deposit-taking licence from the Financial Services Authority, David has to lend out more and more of his own money to his borrowers. When the FSA decline his application and refuse even to meet him, Dave vows to find a way.
Can a minibus dealer from Burnley revolutionise how we bank and will the authorities take him seriously? With banks like RBS - who in 2011 posted an attributable loss of £2billion and yet still paid out £785 million in bonuses to staff - can we afford not to?