The story of the ethical Wave Community Bank

Ann Hickey, Chief Executive of Wave Community Bank, speaks with the Brighton and Hove Living Wage Campaign about Wave Community Bank’s mission; their growing communal impact; and about her journey into the sector.

Could you give a brief description of Wave Community Bank’s journey – and its mission?

Wave Community Bank is a co-operative that was set up in 2000 to help local people save together and borrow at affordable interest rates. We provide financial education, budgeting tips and encourage people to save so they are better able to deal with financial shocks when they happen. It started in Brighton and Hove, and now our area covers East Sussex, Kent and Medway. Currently over 9000 people save together and from those savings we lend to people across our area at affordable interest rates. This helps people, who may have limited options for credit, to use us instead of high interest pay day lenders or loan sharks. All our savings are protected by the Finance Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) and as a credit union we are fully regulated by the PRA and FCA.

Why did Wave Community Bank join the Living Wage Campaign?

We have been a Living Wage Employer for many years. We have a small but committed staff team supported by volunteers. By being a Living Wage employer I can ensure that those who are paid the least receive pay rises in line with inflation. This is particularly important at the moment with all of us feeling the cost-of-living crisis.

What is your most memorable recent moment at Wave Community Bank?

In April we were visited by Rachel Reeves Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and Peter Kyle MP. We had a discussion with her about how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting our members and how difficult it is for local people to get on the housing ladder. She had a good understanding of what we do, as she is a member of her local credit union. It was in the run up to the local elections, and I have never seen so many TV cameras and journalists in our humble office before!

What is your favourite thing about working in your industry?

I have been involved with WCB for over 20 years in various roles. What I really enjoy about working in this industry is providing a professional regulated service like banks and building societies, but with a mission to help our members and community. I am really lucky to work with a skilled and committed staff team and board that have helped us adapt and enhance our services over the past few years. We have been able to  change our digital services to meet the needs of our members across our whole area, while keeping our local touch.

What makes Wave Community Bank unique?

We work with our local communities. We have over 1000 members who have benefited from a rent deposit scheme in partnership with a local authority that has helped them move into rented accommodation then saving their rent deposit retrospectively. We have worked with partners providing zero interest rate loans to help people apply for residency permits and pay rent deposits to help them out of hostels. We have helped over 200 people access Universal Credit by helping them open basic bank accounts.  We help single parents with Family Saver loans.  We also work with local employers to provide savings and loans schemes via payroll deductions and financial education to their staff. We have seen a 30% increase in employers wanting to work with us since in the past year as the cost-of-living bites as they are concerned about their employees’ well-being. We offer members a 20% discount on Brighton & Hove & Arriva annual Bus passes and discounted gym membership.

You won’t get all that from a high street bank!

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