Raising Finance

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Dave Fishwick, funding hero of the hour?

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If you didn’t see “Bank of Dave” last night on Channel 4, I suggest you try to watch it as soon as possible.

This was the story of Dave Fishwick, owner of David Fishwick Minibus Sales, the largest supplier of new and used minibuses in the UK. Businessman, Burnley man and soon to be “bank” manager, Dave is sure to become one of those reality TV stars we see a lot more of.

Why? Well, for one thing, Dave’s a straight talker.

“The banks are shit,” he says. Dave doesn’t do sitting on the fence, but he does have his reasons. Back in 2008-2009 when the credit crunch hit, Dave saw many of his customers ready and willing to buy vehicles from him but unable to access the finance they needed to do so.

Knowing these customers well, he decided they could afford to borrow the money they needed and started lending it to them. When this worked, Dave realised he could also help other businesses in Burnley that couldn’t access the finance they needed.

But how does an individual go about setting up a bank? After a bit of fruitless googling, Dave took a different approach.

“I want to speak to Mervin King, he owns the Bank of England”

It quickly became clear to Dave that setting up a bank would not be simple. It would require a banking licence and a vast amount of cash (£10m was mentioned) in order to safeguard depositors.

Fortunately for Burnley businesses and the film crew, Dave would not be put off. He began to establish a presence on the Burnley high street and was soon employing staff.

“Rule number one,” he tells his employees, “is never lose money. Rule number two, never forget rule number one.” As the show went on, we as an audience were coming to understand the common sense, enthusiasm and hard work that had brought Dave Fishwick to where he is today.

Dave’s opportunity to get up and running came when his application for a consumer credit licence arrived. While not a banking licence, this did give him the opportunity to start lending.

The businesses who came to Dave Fishwick with the need for money were facing the same lending barriers as most SMEs in Britain today. First up, a café/catering business looking to take advantage of a new community of consumers. Their issue was depressingly familiar. Rejected by their main bank, they had assumed their chances of funding were over. Step forward the hero of the hour, Dave Fishwick.

Next up, an aqua centre that wanted to invest in a new showpiece, black tipped reef sharks. Once again Dave stepped in, also chipping in with some management advice to get the plan off the ground.

Lender and mentor; isn’t this exactly the sort of relationship manager most businesses are looking for? From a quick scan of the @FishwickDavid Twitter feed, the answer is yes.

Essentially, Dave won over the audience because he came across as a good bloke, with a bit between the ears and his heart in the right place. You can imagine the businesses he lends to think exactly the same thing.

I didn’t agree with everything he said. I believe the FSA is right to stop anyone from simply calling themselves a bank and taking deposits from individuals. But Dave Fishwick does understand the problems facing businesses seeking finance.

I often hear that we need to return to the old system of Captain Mainwaring style bank managers. But as one of my colleagues suggested this morning, with his “everyone matters” attitude, wouldn’t we prefer a Dave Fishwick in every town?

Joe Carstairs is writing on behalf of Funding Options, the online service that helps you find the right business finance solution from a range of products and providers. 

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