A national bank could save the Welsh language

The Bank of England. Picture by Davidcuen (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Benjiman L. Angwin

Napoleon called England ‘a nation of shopkeepers’. His failure to comprehend the power of the banking system is a small part of why he lost the war.

Edward I knew their strength well. He went to Italy’s banks before planning a full-scale conquest of Wales.

When Welsh industry suffered in the 30s, and in the 80s, no native financial institutions existed to sustain Wales’ economy nor non-state job creation.

If Wales is to move beyond reliance upon the British state, Wales needs a bank.

It needs a bank because financial self-sufficiency, on a personal and institutional level, is all important if Wales is to gain further autonomy.

It needs a bank because Lloyds, HSBC and others are pulling out of our towns every day, condemning them to further economic decline.

We have plenty of expertise in this field in Wales. But a young Cymro from Bala who goes to Bangor to study a Masters in finance will often have to leave the country to find a job equal to his skill.

A Bank of Wales would create a nucleus of financial expertise in Wales, and foster the cultivation of financial leadership in Wales for generations.

Leadership

In fact, we need not just a Bank of Wales but a Banc Cymru. The bank’s internal language should be Welsh.

If Banc Cymru is administrated internally in Welsh, it will give Welsh a boost not seen since the introduction of William Morgan’s bible.

The Welsh language has long been put in a box labelled ‘religion and the arts’ and we have been told that it is not a language of finance or science.

That is a hangover from a colonialist attitude that associated the English language with the new and other languages with the old-fashioned.

A bank operating internally in the Welsh language would completely change people’s perceptions of what the language is capable of.

All the terminology is there. You can study modules in finance at our universities through the Welsh language Federal College.

No Celtic nation has a national bank in its native language. The Bank of Ireland is in fact removing Irish from its cash points.

As the Celtic nation whose language is strongest, Wales is in a leadership role.

A Banc Cymru would also ensure that those running the bank are not just Oxbridge graduates on the executive board merry-go-round, who would move the institution to London at the first opportunity.

They will have the cultural understanding to foster Wales-focused economic policies. And survival of Welsh will become part of Banc Cymru’s raison d’être.

An economically vibrant Wales, from Penfro (Pembroke) to Penley (Llannerch Banna) is crucial.

If English-speaking communities are not economically vibrant, Welsh-speakers know Welsh-speaking communities will not be either.

It’s time to put our own financial and cultural interest first and set up a Banc Cymru.

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20 Comments

  1. Pembroke has lost the Co-Op,Lloyd’s and Barclays through lack of use. Penley can just about support a village shop and the only accent you will hear is Salopian. Sir Julian Hodge founded the Bank of Wales in the early seventies but it was taken over by Bank of Scotland in 1986 and ceased trading under that name in 2002. We live in an internet age so how would a new Welsh bank succeed where the large established names have failed?

  2. Beth yw’r cam nesaf?

  3. Think is a fantastic idea. Really it is. The only pity is we’re a people full of good ideas but we never actually do anything about them. What would be the first steps?

  4. The outcome sounds wonderful and I really think its worth pursuing. To be cynical though – where would the initial assets and reserves for the bank come from – the middle east, china, Warren Buffet, illegal bitcoin activities, Eurolottery wins, clever sub-prime mortage ideas, overseas conquests, extracting gold from the sea??

  5. Amelia Davies

    An excellent idea – and I hope someone out there has the wherewithal to bring it to fruition – so many positives here for Cymraeg #BancCymru

  6. As is typical, the name was used by a Welshman and bought up by a non-Welsh organisation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_of_Wales . Look at this sad website now: http://www.bankofwales.co.uk/
    It would be good to get “Banc Cymru” back one day. But a name is less important than the institution itself.
    While a Welsh Development Bank is starting – http://www.walesonline.co.uk/business/business-news/development-bank-wales-gets-green-13345176 – it will not be Welsh-language. The two options are to get the Welsh Government to change its attitudes – something that will take decades at best – or start a separate private bank. As Welsh financial and legal expertise increases – especially in Cardiff – there will be more people who can effect this change. We need a Welsh-speaking Julian Hodge!

    • Very sad indeed. I guess the Reserve Bank Of Wales (in welsh?? – Banc Argadwaf Cymru), Federal Bank of Wales. Banc y Bobl (Cymru) and all sorts of other variants may be future possibilities.

  7. I assume by national bank you don’t mean a central bank – all these things are more than possible, even a central bank and if you google “how to start a bank”, you’ll get various options for doing it – basically we just need some good economists and bankers to help us do it. The UK looks a tricky place to open a bank compared to the US while off-shore via a finance company looks to be a doddle.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/11351625/How-to-set-up-a-new-bank-Itll-take-you-longer-than-you-think-and-cost-more-than-you-think.html

    Even for a very small bank you still need many millions in reserves. In my mind (and I’m thinking in terms of long term here) we could take steps to simply start a bank of some descrition initially which could start doing business, help to galvanise the expertise and then over time start to build up reserves – perhaps this could be held and operated offshore initially and then brought into a newly created on-shore Welsh bank at a later stage?

    I sense a Banc Cymru would be a very long term project, but worth starting.

  8. Tame Frontiersman

    A “Bank of Wales” was founded by Sir Julian Hodge in 1971. The bank was taken over by The Bank of Scotland in 1986 and ceased trading under the Welsh brand in 2002 its HQ was Cardiff and it had 7 regional branches

    The Welsh Government’s wholly owned investment bank, Finance Wales (Est. 2000.) – HQ Cardiff, is intended to evolve into a new development bank -HQ Wrexham

    Once there were many local Welsh banks who issued their own notes. The one probably best remembered today is the Aberystwyth & Tregaron Bank aka ‘Banc y Ddafad Ddu’ or ‘Bank of the Black Sheep’. On his new “State of Wales” website, Mr Owen Donovon explores currency option for a future independent Wales

    The Principality Building Society has grown by mergers and acquisitions to 53 branches and 18 agencies across Wales and the English border. Swansea and Monmouth are 2 smaller societies
    There are 21(?) Credit Unions in Wales, the largest the Cambrian has 7 branches across North Wales and in Newtown.

    Dr John Ball, a lecturer at Swansea University, posted an interesting article on the Institute of Welsh Affairs website (28.2.14) entitled “Wales needs a stock exchange not a bank” In 1973, the Irish Stock exchanges merged with British stock exchange after both countries joined the then Common Market. It demerged in 1995

    Noting the trend for financial institutions to move from high street locations to a web presence and the necessity to create well paid jobs in rural Wales as part of any strategy to halt the decline of the Welsh language, then opportunities to work in virtual branches, from home and from multi-purpose buildings in rural communities and small towns should benefit language and economy.

    While on this topic, it might be asked whether Wales (and UK) now have the right framework of regulatory oversight and corporate governance for the banking and financial sector? Families and businesses in Wales are still struggling with the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis. The Financial Times (11.4.16) estimates that the 10 biggest misconduct scandals have cost Britain’s banks and building societies almost £53bn in fines and other penalties since 2000.

  9. We already have a major Bank based in Cardiff, its called the Principality B Soc , its more bilingual than any other bank, sadly it refuses to offer bank accounts and loans are all to housing. Nationwide BS however offers a very wide range of banking services. its a start! Most members are in Wales,its our Bank already.

  10. This is an excellent idea, though I do wonder how it would succeed where the other large banks have failed to be able to keep bramches in small towns open. Maybe they are too greedy, expecting to make millions of profit from each branch.
    In the Balearic islands in Spain, there is a bank called Sa Nostra which has branches in very small towns, manned by one person for a couple of days a week. There is also a cashpoint machine and somewhere to pay in cheques when the branch is closed. We need to study how this bank manages to survive and thrive.
    I’m certain that if Banc Cymru reopened branches in small towns which have lost their banks over recent years, people would go in their droves to open an account there, businesses especially.
    Well done Benjiman.

    • You mention cheques Rhys but I think I have only written one in the last year. We are fast moving towards a cashless society with the trend to tap and go.The days of nights safes outside banks and long lines of traders paying in their taking are gone forever. Banks are closing everywhere across the UK as we all move online. This is not a situation that is unique to Wales.

  11. Perhaps the Welsh government should be investing in home-grown ‘fintech’ or financial technology (divert some money away from tourism). Some companies that come to mind are Monzo, iZettle and GoCardless.

    Although not a substitute to a real bank, they’re starting steps that could lead to something bigger. Monzo is currently operating as a pre-paid card for making payment, while they sort out a full banking licence to give its customers the option of having a current account with them.

  12. It could be worth considering the approach of the Mondragon Corporation as they set up their own financial institution that is now a huge player. The Caja Laboral Popular Cooperativa de Crédito was set up in 1959 to provide a source of finance for the workers’ co-operatives that make up the corporation.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caja_Laboral

    I think that anything that stays ‘grass roots’ owned by the workers, and out of the hands of multinational bankers has to be something worth considering.

  13. The Bellwether

    A national bank is NOT what is needed nor is the ludicrous so-called development bank. A localised and dispersed network of LOCAL small banks, with Welsh speaking staff, is required made up of a proper US style credit union, professionally run, and post offices. It is not necessary to re-invent the wheel! Solutions are to be found all over the world – we need to implement them here.

  14. Watch this https://www.rt.com/shows/renegade-inc/379579-uk-finance-curse-suffer/ In this episode professor Richard Werner explains the German banking system and how it creates real wealth rather than the asset inflation our big high street banks create. 1500 not for profit peoples banks hold 70% of all private individuals deposits, these banks lend locally to create enterprise unlike the big high street banks who want to lend big to big business who invest globally. German s.m.e’s have no problems with finding funding and in the 200 year history of the volks banks not one has had to be bailed out.

  15. If all the above worked then we would never have seen the demise of the credit unions and building societies across the UK in the last century.
    Facts speak for themselves and BBC Radio Wales can not manage 5% of the English speaking population of Wales so where does that leave a business model for a Welsh speaking bank?

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