Wales Cymru

Work is underway in Wales to create a customer owned bank. Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, made this commitment in his election manifesto in November 2018.

Now we can go further in supporting the development of a new Wales-only Community Bank, with branches open to customers in different parts of our country, making funds available locally to small businesses and recycling local savings into local loans."

When ?

The Bank will begin to operate before the end of this Assembly term, spreading to the whole of Wales after the next Assembly election.

 

Mark Hooper is leading on the development of a co-operatively owned, community bank for Wales. He tells us a bit about where they are with Banc Cambria, how Covid19 has changed things and where they go next.

We started working on Banc Cambria ‘BC’ (before-Covid19) and it felt quite different. The Welsh financial landscape was clear; the big banks were continuing their retreat from our towns, villages and city suburbs; the same banks were being criticised for corporate failings in this, shortcomings in that. We knew that many people had little choice but to stick with the bank they had, as frankly, all the major institutions were simply more of the same. The market, we were told, was being disrupted by the ‘Challenger Banks’, but our conversations told us they were failing to challenge the things people really cared about; greed, reduced service provision and a complete disregard for the smallest of businesses. None of them really get the Welsh language; the right for customers to bank in the language they choose, not the one chosen for them. We felt our model had an edge – a straight-forward offering, delivering for its members, not shareholders.

The Senedd’s Enterprise, Infrastructure and Skills Committee had written an excellent report into ‘Access to Banking’ that brought the issues clearly into a Welsh focus. They crunched the figures and honed the problem – they called on Welsh Government to act.

We had data. Lots of data. Data on Wales’ smallest businesses, information about spending patterns. We even had usage figures on cash. We had a big map installed, with stickers telling us where the banks were and more showing where they used to be. We had even started placing pins in towns where we wanted to be; we even visited some. Bigger towns like Buckley in the north east, which used to have a bank on every corner but now has none. Smaller towns like Knighton, where locals told us they had to travel 40 mins each way to get to the nearest bank.

We had attracted some experienced ex-big-bank executives to our Board and Project teams and organisations who offered practical solutions to help us to market quicker. The support package provided by the Community Savings Bank Association (CSBA) would help us reduce time, reduce risks and reduce the costs associated with a banking application, but it wouldn’t stop the process being lengthy, risky and expensive.

We knew this was going to be tough, but we were up for the challenge. We felt we had a solution – like others who were embarking on such similar journeys from elsewhere in the UK (there were eleven groups in various stages of development, two on the other side of the Severn Bridge, who had actually begun their journey to regulation). Think tanks were calling for co-operatively owned community banks to be included in Party manifestos for the General Election in December. We felt we had some momentum behind us all. We were wary of using the term ‘movement’; at least outwardly 😉.

Then we, like everyone else, were confronted by a health pandemic and ensuing economic shock that threw a great big spanner in the works (or more accurately our forecasted spreadsheets) – what a calamity – or so we thought. Welcome to our world of now; most definitely, work-in-progress.

Once we’d got over the initial panic upon realising the datasets we had been developing were looking distinctly chocolate tea-pot like, we were able to take stock, and taking advantage of the lockdown, took some time to recalibrate Banc Cambria to a PC (post-Covid19) world.

First positive, we’ve not launched. Our reality isn’t the reality of the others – we were fortunate in this regard. If the Office for Budgetary Responsibility impact assessment proves in any way to be accurate, the effect on the UK’s existing financial services sector will be dramatic. Even if there was a V-shaped recovery, there won’t be a direct correlation between those going down the downward slope and those who emerge the other side – those losses will be taken by the existing providers.

Secondly, whatever the landscape looks like at the end of this, one certainty is that we’ll all need bank accounts. The concerns people had about big banks still exist; in fact, those concerns could be further exacerbated by the way they handle things over the coming months – none of which will be easy. Will they deal compassionately with loan defaults, mortgage distress and incomplete business plans? Will they take the opportunity to further consolidate their branch network, reduce the availability of ATMs, or withdraw popular products from their portfolio that provide insufficient (comparative) returns? The banks haven’t started well.

The big banks make a lot of money from our collective financial lives. One figure (one of the big banks use internally) suggests that they make an average of £400 per annum, per active current account. That’s not jiggery-pokery, it’s the margin they make on your loan, the fees from your ISA, or the interest charges on your overdraft PLUS the uses they put your cash to when you’re not needing it (lending to whoever they choose, for whatever purpose they think will make them money). If we assume there are 2.5M active personal current accounts in Wales; that means c. £1BN per annum leaves the Welsh economy into the arms of the shareholders of the big banks. A post-Covid19 Wales will need to find ways to keep its money for as long as possible – the circulation of cash being vital to the economic well-being of our communities.

From the outset, a key difference in Banc Cambria’s business model related to the provision of a Wales-wide branch network. Initial evidence seems to suggest the Covid19 crisis is likely to hit high streets disproportionately hard. Wales’ retailers were suffering before the pandemic and things are harder still now. The emergence of a new bank onto high streets across Wales will act as a stimulus to the wider retail offering, portraying confidence, community by community.

One of the key opportunities the lockdown affords us is the time and space to see how banking operations have worked (or not) in a locked-down world. We will benefit from looking, listening and learning, particularly over the first few months and ensuring our retail offer can cope with uncertainties and fast-moving legislative changes. We could be the first Covid-responsive retail banking operation – one that has been designed to deal effectively with lockdowns, social-distancing and changes in the relative importance of cash in the everyday mix.

We know that it takes life events for people to choose a new current account provider. Ordinarily that tends to be going to university, getting married, getting your first mortgage, getting divorced, then remarried, perhaps. The post-Covid19 world could be one of those life events, but for all of us. Banking is a vital part of everyday life that we can control – other countries have a strong co-operative banking cohort; no reason we can’t have the same.

Finally, the issue that seems even more critical in a post-Covid19 world relates to the timeliness of the launch of Banc Cambria. We want to be able to launch into the start of the post-Covid19 recovery; to catch the first wave and encourage others to join us. Whilst recognising that establishing a bank takes time, rest assured being alongside Welsh people and Welsh businesses when they need that help to re-emerge is our No. 1 priority. We are on the case.

Mae Mark Hooper yn arwain y broses o ddatblygu banc cymunedol i Gymru sydd mewn perchnogaeth gydweithredol. Mae'n sôn ychydig wrthym am ble maen nhw arni gyda Banc Cambria, sut mae Covid-19 wedi newid pethau ac i ble maen nhw'n mynd nesaf.

Fe ddechreuon ni weithio ar Fanc Cambria cyn Covid-19 ac roedd yn teimlo’n hollol wahanol. Roedd tirwedd ariannol Cymru’n glir; roedd y banciau mawr yn parhau i encilio o’n trefi, ein pentrefi a maestrefi ein dinasoedd; roedd yr un banciau’n cael eu beirniadu am fethiannau a dyffygion corfforaethol. Roedden ni’n gwybod mai’r unig ddewis i lawer o bobl oedd aros gyda’u banc presennol, gan fod yr holl sefydliadau mawr fwy yr un fath i bob pwrpas. Cawsom wybod bod ‘Banciau Herio’ yn amharu ar y farchnad, ond dywedodd ein sgyrsiau wrthym nad oeddent yn llwyddo i herio’r pethau roedd pobl yn teimlo’n wirioneddol rwystredig yn eu cylch; trachwant, llai o wasanaethau a diystyru’r busnesau lleiaf yn llwyr. Nid oes yr un ohonynt yn deall y Gymraeg mewn gwirionedd; yr hawl i gwsmeriaid fancio yn yr iaith o’u dewis, nid yr un a ddewisir ar eu cyfer. Roeddem yn teimlo bod gan ein model fantais – cynnig syml, sy’n cyflawni ar gyfer ei aelodau, nid cyfranddalwyr.

Roedd Pwyllgor Menter, Seilwaith a Sgiliau’r Senedd wedi ysgrifennu adroddiad gwych ar ‘Fynediad at Fancio’ a roddodd ddarlun clir o’r sefyllfa yng Nghymru. Fe archwilion nhw’r ffigurau a mireinio’r broblem – fe alwon nhw ar Lywodraeth Cymru i weithredu.

Roedd gennym ni ddata. Llawer o ddata. Data ar fusnesau lleiaf Cymru, gwybodaeth am batrymau gwario. Roedd gennym ffigurau defnyddio arian parod hyd yn oed. Roedd gennym fap mawr, gyda sticeri’n dweud wrthym ble’r oedd y banciau, a mwy yn dangos ble roeddent yn arfer bod. Roeddem wedi dechrau gosod pinnau mewn trefi lle roeddem ni eisiau bod hyd yn oed; fe wnaethom ni ymweld â rhai hyd yn oed. Trefi mwy o faint fel Bwcle yn y Gogledd-ddwyrain, a arferai fod â banc ar bob cornel ond sydd bellach heb yr un. Trefi llai o faint fel Trefyclo, lle dywedodd pobl leol wrthym fod rhaid iddynt deithio 40 munud bob ffordd i gyrraedd y banc agosaf.

Roeddem wedi denu rhai cyn-swyddogion profiadol o fanciau mawr i’n timau Bwrdd a Phrosiect a sefydliadau a gynigiodd atebion ymarferol i’n helpu i gyrraedd y farchnad yn gyflymach. Byddai’r pecyn cymorth a ddarparwyd gan y Community Savings Banc Association yn ein helpu ni i leihau amser, lleihau risgiau a lleihau’r costau sy’n gysylltiedig â chais i fancio, ond ni fyddai’n atal y broses rhag bod yn faith, yn llawn risg ac yn gostus.

Gwyddem fod hyn yn mynd i fod yn anodd, ond roeddem yn barod ar gyfer yr her. Roeddem yn teimlo bod gennym ateb – fel eraill a oedd yn cychwyn ar deithiau tebyg mewn rhannau eraill o’r DU (roedd un ar ddeg grŵp mewn gwahanol gamau datblygu, dau ohonynt yr ochr arall i Bont Hafren, a oedd wedi cychwyn ar eu taith i reoleiddio). Roedd melinau trafod yn galw am gynnwys banciau cymunedol mewn perchnogaeth gydweithredol ym maniffestos y Pleidiau ar gyfer yr Etholiad Cyffredinol ym mis Rhagfyr. Roeddem yn teimlo bod gennym rywfaint o fomentwm y tu ôl i bob un ohonom. Roeddem yn ofalus i beidio â defnyddio’r term ‘mudiad’; yn allanol o leiaf 😉.

Yna, cawsom ni, fel pawb arall, ein heffeithio gan bandemig iechyd a’r sioc economaidd ddilynol a amharodd yn fawr ar ein gwaith (yn enwedig ein taenlenni rhagolygon) – am drychineb – neu felly y tybion ni. Croeso i’n byd ni fel y mae nawr; heb os, tasg sydd ar y gweill.

Unwaith i ni ddod dros y panig cychwynnol ar ôl sylweddoli bod y setiau data roedden ni wedi bod yn eu datblygu yn edrych ddim gwell na tebot siocled, fe aethom ati i bwyso a mesur y sefyllfa a manteisio ar y cyfyngiadau symud, gan dreulio tipyn o amser yn ail-ffurfio banc Cambria ar gyfer byd ar ôl Covid-19.

Y peth cadarnhaol cyntaf, nid ydym wedi lansio. Nid yw ein realiti ni yr un fath â realiti pobl eraill – roedden ni’n ffodus yn hyn o beth. Os bydd asesiad effaith y Swyddfa Cyfrifoldeb Cyllidebol yn gywir mewn unrhyw ffordd, bydd yr effaith ar sector gwasanaethau ariannol presennol y DU yn ddramatig. Hyd yn oed pe bai yna adferiad siâp V, ni fydd cydberthynas uniongyrchol rhwng y rhai sy’n llithro i lawr y llethr a’r rhai sy’n dod drwyddi yr ochr arall – bydd y colledion hynny’n cael yn disgyn ar ysgwyddau’r darparwyr presennol.

Yn ail, sut bynnag fydd pethau’n edrych ar ddiwedd hyn i gyd, un peth sy’n sicr yw y bydd angen cyfrifon banc arnom ni i gyd. Mae’r pryderon a oedd gan bobl am fanciau mawr yn dal i fodoli; yn wir, gallai’r pryderon hynny gael eu gwaethygu ymhellach gan y ffordd y byddant yn ymdrin â phethau dros y misoedd nesaf – ni fydd dim o hynny’n hawdd. A fyddant yn ymdrin yn dosturiol â diffygdalu benthyciadau, trallod morgais a chynlluniau busnes anghyflawn? A fyddant yn manteisio ar y cyfle i gydgrynhoi eu rhwydwaith canghennau ymhellach, lleihau argaeledd peiriannau ATM neu dynnu cynnyrch poblogaidd yn ôl o’u portffolio sy’n darparu enillion annigonol (cymharol)? Nid yw’r banciau wedi dechrau’n dda.

Mae’r banciau mawr yn gwneud llawer o arian o’n bywydau ariannol ar y cyd. Mae un ffigwr (mae un o’r banciau mawr yn ei ddefnyddio’n fewnol) yn awgrymu eu bod yn gwneud cyfartaledd o £400 y flwyddyn, fesul cyfrif cyfredol gweithredol. Mae hynny’n fwy na chwarae gyd ffigurau; dyma’r elw y maent yn ei wneud ar eich benthyciad, y ffioedd o’ch ISA neu’r taliadau llog ar eich gorddrafft A’R defnydd y maent yn ei wneud o’ch arian parod pan nad ydych chi ei angen (rhoi ei fenthyg i bwy bynnag a ddewisant, am ba bynnag ddiben y credant fydd yn gwneud arian iddynt). Os byddwn yn tybio bod 2.5 miliwn o gyfrifon cyfredol personol gweithredol yng Nghymru; mae hynny’n golygu bod tua £1 biliwn y flwyddyn yn gadael economi Cymru i freichiau cyfranddalwyr y banciau mawr. Ar ôl Covid-19, bydd angen i Gymru ddod o hyd i ffyrdd o gadw ei harian cyhyd ag y bo modd – mae cylchrediad arian parod yn hanfodol i lesiant economaidd ein cymunedau.

O’r cychwyn cyntaf, roedd gwahaniaeth allweddol ym model busnes Banc Cambria o ran darparu rhwydwaith o ganghennau ledled Cymru. Ymddengys fod y dystiolaeth gychwynnol yn awgrymu bod yr argyfwng Covid-19 yn debygol o daro’r stryd fawr yn galed iawn. Roedd manwerthwyr Cymru yn dioddef cyn y pandemig, ac mae pethau’n anoddach fyth yn awr. Bydd cael banc newydd ar y stryd fawr ledled Cymru yn ysgogiad i’r arlwy manwerthu ehangach, gan gyfleu hyder i un gymuned ar ôl y llall.

Un o’r cyfleoedd allweddol y mae’r cyfyngiadau symud yn ei roi i ni yw’r amser a’r lle i weld sut mae gweithrediadau bancio wedi gweithio (neu beidio) mewn byd o dan gyfyngiadau symud. Byddwn yn elwa ar edrych, gwrando a dysgu, yn enwedig dros y misoedd cyntaf, a sicrhau y gall ein harlwy manwerthu ymdopi ag ansicrwydd a newidiadau deddfwriaethol sy’n symud yn gyflym. Gallem fod y cwmni bancio manwerthu cyntaf  i ymateb i Covid-19 – un wedi’i gynllunio i ymdrin yn effeithiol â chyfyngiadau symud, cadw pellter cymdeithasol a newidiadau ym mhwysigrwydd cymharol arian parod mewn bywyd bob dydd.

Rydym yn gwybod mai digwyddiadau mawr mewn bywyd sy’n cymell pobl i ddewis darparwr cyfrif cyfredol newydd. Fel arfer, mae’r digwyddiadau hyn yn tueddu i fod yn bethau fel mynd i’r brifysgol, priodi, cael eich morgais cyntaf, cael ysgariad ac yna ailbriodi efallai. Gallai’r byd ar ôl Covid-19 fod yn un o’r digwyddiadau hynny mewn bywyd, ond i bob un ohonom. Mae bancio yn rhan hanfodol o fywyd bob dydd y gallwn ei reoli – mae gan wledydd eraill garfan fancio gydweithredol gref; does dim rheswm pam na allwn ni gael hynny hefyd.

Yn olaf, mae’r mater sy’n ymddangos yn fwy hanfodol fyth mewn byd ar ôl Covid19 yn ymwneud ag amseroldeb lansio Banc Cambria. Rydym am allu lansio ar ddechrau’r adferiad ar ôl Covid-19; i ddal y don gyntaf ac annog eraill i ymuno â ni. Rydym yn cydnabod bod sefydlu banc yn cymryd amser, ond gallwn dawelu eich meddwl mai bod law yn llaw â phobl Cymru a busnesau Cymru pan fydd angen yr help hwnnw arnynt i ailgychwyn yw ein prif flaenoriaeth. Rydym yn gweithio ar hyn.

 

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