For the love of Dave

Dave Fishwick started a bank to help his community and big banking fought him all the way. Now his story is told in a feel-good movie Bank of Dave, in cinemas this month.

By Ara Jansen

Dave Fishwick’s story is a perfect David versus Goliath tale. How does the owner of a minibus business, who wants to open a community bank, take on the English banking system and win?   

What had spurred this seemingly crazy idea was that during the global financial crisis of 2007, locals had started asking Dave for small loans – an amplifier for the local busker, help with a catering company, IVF and funeral expenses. 

Over that time, he lent out about one million pounds and says no one defaulted and this gave him an idea. He went up against the London establishment to open a community bank in his hometown of Burley (near Manchester) where all the profits go to local charities. 

He won and ended up setting up Bank of Dave in 2011, which is officially called Burley Savings and Loans. 

Now his story has been made into a mostly true movie called, you guessed it, Bank of Dave. It’s an inspiring and feel-good tale of how the little guy (Dave played by Rory Kinnear) took on the suits (Hugh Bonneville) and won with help from a struggling London lawyer (Joel Fry), a local doctor (Phoebe Dynevor) and a concert by Def Leppard.

“It’s totally bonkers,” says Dave, 51, about both his success and the movie coming out in Australia. “Rory Kinnear looks more like me than I do. So maybe as he’s playing in the next Bond movie, I can be his double!”

Bank of Dave is filmed mainly in and around Burnley, which was important to Dave, including in his own home and the pub where he does karaoke. The father of two admits he’s a bit rubbish at karaoke but he’s got plenty of heart and that’s what counts. 

Dave recently got a letter from the nurses in the gynae wing of a local hospital near his hometown. They said 200 people jostled daily for the use of one microwave at lunch and could Dave help them buy another one. For Dave it was an easy answer: of course. Through the profits of Bank of Dave – which all go to charity – the nurses have received not only a new microwave but an oven. 

These are the kinds of requests Dave gets all the time. Other recent requests include a kitchen and a year’s supply of food for a local school because kids were starting class hungry and a year’s worth of milk for a church’s soup kitchen.

Since 2012, Bank of Dave has given away 31 million pounds to charity and helped thousands of people. Dave has become commentator and pundit on the big banks (he calls them “financial weapons of mass destruction”), a newspaper columnist on financial issues, penned a book and made a number of shows about his story.

“The big banks really do want to get rid of me. They’ve offered me a lot of money to sell and they can’t believe there isn’t a number I will sell for,” he says with great satisfaction. “The Bank of Dave has a worldwide following, people love what it stands for. I’m frightened of nothing and no one.” 

Not bad for a kid who left school at 15 with no money or skills. He worked as a labourer until he decided it was time to experiment with his passion for cars. He asked a local garage to let him fix up and sell one of their old cars and take a cut. He made 30 pounds, kept going from there and always had two of three jobs on the go. Now he has a number of successful businesses, David Fishwick Minibus Sales operates internationally and is the head of a community bank.

“I would love it if the movie inspires people in Australia and New Zealand to start their own banks to help people who are struggling. While I can’t start those banks myself, I’m happy to give people free advice on how to do it.” 

Dave says it might well be time to change his name, as in the streets of his hometown no one calls him Dave anymore, they all call him Bank of Dave. He ponders out loud whether “of” is a decent middle name. Yup, it’s another thing which is totally bonkers about his life. 

Bank of Dave opens in cinemas this month.    

We have three double tickets to give away, enter here.