Tuesday 5 May 2009

Towards a European Social Investment Bank.

Well the Moravian wine tasting and cultural evening was a great success. The faux peasant band and the rurally costumed maidens took me back to visits long ago to former Communist regimes where they specialised in this sort of evening. All very jolly. I was particularly taken with the Rieslings. I have purchased two to enjoy at leisure, though I was most abstemious in my drinking. I fly back this afternoon by Ryan Air and you need your wits about you with them!

I'm sure my staff are looking forward to the raft of helpful emails they will receive this morning, with new ideas and suggestions that have occurred to me over the Bank Holiday, though I have refrained from suggesting we establish another taskforce. We set one of those up last week and are working on a Commission so I must be fair.

I made a very useful contact whilst here. The keynote speaker yesterday was Prof Dr. Helmut Anheier who is probably the leading academic expert on NGOs in Europe. He is the Director of the Social Investment Centre at Heidelberg University. Indeed he was once a collaborator with the great Lester Salamon of the States. Together they bestride world research into the third sector. I'm afraid we simply do not have anyone of the same calibre in the UK. Why is this I wonder? Given the strength of our sector you would expect us to tower too.

Over a Muller Thurgau we discussed the potential for a European Social Investment Bank. He knows of Futurebuilders but had not realised quite how big we now are. He marvelled at the strength of a £400m loan fund and said this was exactly what was needed. In investment markets you have to have scale, so whilst it is good (indeed essential) to have a range of players you must also have size.

His speech yesterday was about the need for more sources of investment into the sector. He says this is the new frontier for our sector. This is very much the theme of Lester Salamon in the States.

Futurebuilders is a real role model for what can be achieved through social investment. It's a credit to our Government who set it up and have provided the loan funds. It is also to the Tories credit they too see the need for expanded loan funds in our sector. At the recent meeting of ACEVO's Tory task force we discussed this with Nick Hurd MP, the Shadow Third Sector Minister. But the Government really do now have to get proverbial fingers out and get cracking with our own Social Investment Bank. We are to have a consultation. It needs to be short and to the point. The Government must use the time to force the Banks to cough up the unclaimed assets. It's a disgrace they are still hanging onto these funds. And I'm afraid the banks still don't understand that by failing to divest these funds - which do not belong to them - they miss a great PR coup.

I blame the woman who runs the British Bankers' Association. She keeps popping up on TV or radio to defend the undefendable. Last time I heard her she was whinging on the Today programme about how unfair it is we all castigate the bankers! Wake up and smell the coffee please and stop this whine. You let us down. Mea Culpa Maxima Mea Culpa indeed) is appropriate now. And recompense. So give us our money.

Anyway the upshot of our discussion is we agree to hold a roundtable in Heidelberg in June and bring together the key players - Futurebuilders in the UK and the French proponents of a SIB. We have been in discussion with the French credit and mutual sector about how to propose such a bank. Hugues Sibille, President of Credit Cooperative in Paris is a great fan of Futurebuilders and sees scope for similar models in France, but he believes the current crisis is the right time to move on Brussels. We are aiming to hold an Anglo French Summit on this soon involving the respective Ministers (Liam on our side. So the idea is gaining ground. I feel like a Man with a Mission. And what I turn my hand to I usually achieve. In time..

1 comment:

BBA said...

Another childish pop at the BBA and its people. There is much to disagree with here, not least because you are not willing to engage constructively with the banks on this. The banks' position is simple: the money belongs to our customers, and our first priority is to them. The industry is spending a great deal of time and effort doing this. Once all avenues have been exhausted, the money can then be released through the scheme currently being designed by the Government - and we are working with the Government to ensure this happens to the benefit of all. It's not our money, and it certainly isn't yours: it belongs to our customers, and this is something the Government has recognised in drafting the Act which will enable unclaimed assets to be released to community causes.

So there are no grounds for your unfocused inferences diminishing our hard work and achievements so far. Best lay off that Riesling we think.