Bank of Mum and Dad: dosh with dignity

The BMB co-founder and chairman explains why his foundation has launched Bank of Mum and Dad.

I got lucky. Although my mum and dad had very little financially, they were always there for us. They had a dignity and pride, which helped us cope somehow through the toughest of times.

Jack Beattie was what today would be called a "self-starting entrepreneur" (I prefer "wheeler-dealer", and as a car mechanic, I think he’d have agreed…) Ada was a "home-maker". And as the mother of eight children, with almost no money to go around, that was quite some home.

If there was a Beattie family trait to evolve from all this, it was "defiance in the face of adversity". And, in that spirit and in their memory, I set up The Jack And Ada Beattie Foundation in 2011. It adheres to their life-long held principles of fair play, care for the vulnerable and getting the job done. It fights against inequality and social injustice in all its forms.

We don’t aim to eradicate global poverty, or reverse global climate change by next Wednesday. We fight small, but equally important battles. Backing achievable ambitions and assisting the vulnerable of the Midlands and London. We fight people’s corners via grants to those most in need. We think of what we do as "guerilla caring".

Our support is as emotional as it is financial, hence our mission statement: "Knowing that someone is fighting your corner is half the battle won". 

As a result, we’ve embarked on myriad missions: flying D-Day Veterans back to the beaches of Normandy; supplying on-board kit for the RNLI; providing emergency accommodation for homeless women via Eaves refuges; and teaming up with Fareshare to supply foodbanks in Birmingham.

The Beattie Foundation is the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life. And, recently, the Foundation launched the most important thing it has ever done. Allow me to explain why.

We live in a land where money lenders make money off the same vulnerable people our foundation is trying to help. Big money. They are utter bankers and it’s time someone did something about them. We hear a lot these days about the mythical "bank of mum and dad". The rescue service for a generation facing the dubious prospect of growing up poorer than their parents. Yet the term has also come to represent a wider social trauma. Who is there to turn to for those trapped between benefits and employment? Aye, Daniel Blakes.

People who find themselves forced towards illegal loan sharks, doorstep lenders or, at best, the notorious payday loans, simply to survive. These loans are for surprisingly small amounts of money and they have become the curse of the working class. They charge too much and care too little. And that’s not how Jack and Ada would have done things.

As a result, the Beattie Foundation has launched Bank of Mum and Dad. Interest-free, charges-free, sharkless loans of up to £1,000. A 12-month repayment period and the promise that every pound returned will be magically recycled into a new loan and passed forward to someone else in need of dignified financial help.

Long ago, when I was a scruffy little Herbert back in Birmingham, my parents often had to resort to what were then called Provident Cheques to get by. The amounts they borrowed would seem tiny today (often as little as 10 quid). But so were the interest rates on paying them back. Pennies.

Today, a proportionately similar payday loan can come with a price tag of 1,500% APR. Now, I’m not a man who likes to swear, but I’ve never cared for the sound of 1,500% APR. Fuck that for a game of Wonga.

Perhaps I should explain exactly how difficult the lives of the vulnerable people we’ll be helping really are. And it’s easy to forget, living as we do in adland (yes, even cost-controlled, budget-shrunk, not-the-place-it-was adland).

Many of the people we’ll be helping are getting by on less than £150 a week. They are "financially excluded" and unable to access mainstream credit. Most have had to borrow money to pay for food.

So what if our borrowers fail to pay back their loan, I hear you quietly ask. So what indeed. Let me tell you a story.

Just after we started BMB, a fella I’d worked with years earlier (an amazing soul singer and voice-over artist), appeared in reception. I could see he’d fallen on hard times; he’d tracked me down and I knew what was coming next. He asked if he could borrow a thousand quid to help pay his rent and get back on his feet.

I gave him the money. And didn’t see him again for about three years.

When he randomly returned out of the blue – looking in slightly better shape – I braced myself for what was to come. He told me he needed to do something. He needed to give me back the thousand quid I’d loaned him. He’d saved it up over the intervening years and brought it back.

That was dignity. A man of genuine pride and dignity. I told him he could keep the money and I took him for lunch at The Ivy and we got drunk and talked about Marvin Gaye for two hours.

There is a dignity in paying back what you owe. A sense of purpose, pride and achievement which I believe most people possess. When they know that the money they repay from our loans will instantly become new loans to help others in similar positions to them, I think they’ll do their best to pay back. And if they don’t? Ours is a moral obligation. Not a legal one.

The one thing that brought me shame in all my years in advertising was having to write the phrase "Your home is at risk if you do not keep up repayments on a mortgage or any other loan secured on it". Then hear some voiceover spew it out as fast as inaudibly possible (lest it use up valuable client air-time). There’ll be nowt at risk with a Bank of Mum and Dad loan.

Free loans for the most vulnerable. No interest. No charges. No fees. And, above all, absolutely no Bankers. A lifeline to those in loan-shark infested waters. "Dosh with dignity", as Jack and Ada might have said.

Please feel free to make a deposit. Terms and Conditions do not apply.

Thanks for listening.

Trevor Beattie is the chairman of BMB; chairman of The Jack And Ada Beattie Foundation; and manager, Bank of Mum and Dad

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