Opinion: Imagine a bank that's there for the public good, the stakeholders not shareholders and is loyal to its region
"But there's nothing so lonesome, so morbid or drear than to stand in a bar, of a pub with no beer."
Although inspired by the Australian outback, this song could be sung in any rural town and village in Ireland and the words would be sure to echo off the walls of at least one hostelry with no beer.
At the top of the hill in our village there is a pub, and like many a similar establishment in rural Ireland, it is closed. There are weeds growing along the front, the paint is peeling off the door and there's a 'For Sale' sign nailed to the wall. Meanwhile, locals wanting to slake their thirst in convivial surroundings will need to find transport to an establishment at the other end of the parish. I suppose people could walk but they would need want to be young, fit and profoundly thirsty.
Our pub-with-no-beer is located on a busy road and I'm sure many a local entrepreneur looks at it and wonders 'should I, would I or could I' - 'should I try my hand at the business, would I have the custom to make it succeed and where could I get finance'.
The answer to the first question can only be answered deep inside the entrepreneur. The second question depends on the kind of business model the prospective publican adopts. While the day of the traditional pub serving only pints and small ones is gone, nowadays it is acceptable to sit on a bar stool at 11 o'clock at night and ask for a cup of tea without running the risk of being barred for life. Indeed, one could call for a skinny latté without having one's sanity called into question.
The nub of it all is in the third question, 'where could I get the finance?" The prospective publican could go to the local credit union. It has millions in local savings and would love to help but is prohibited from giving business loans.
So, barring a legacy, a lotto win or the proceeds from the sale of a matchbox on Shrewsbury Road, the gallant entrepreneur will have to turn to what are called the 'pillar banks'. Pillar banks indeed, after the financial collapse of 2008 they turned into pillars of salt.
Any entrepreneur approaching theses pillars for money to buy and develop a boarded-up pub would need to be well prepared. He or she could be asked to produce the deeds of the ancestral home, census returns from 1601 and financial projections into the next millennium. Not to mention a risk management programme (RMP) detailing how they will handle all possible risks up to and including a return of the Ice Age.