BASC’s Dr Conor O’Gorman this morning featured on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme to discuss the issue of de-banking of people and businesses associated with shooting.
Banks under pressure
Is the Financial Conduct Authority debanking review going to help shooting businesses? There’s some hope, as BASC’s Conor O’Gorman explains …
A very British scandal
Everyone in the trade will be aware of the recent banking scandal that erupted in the aftermath of Nigel Farage’s bank account with Coutts being abruptly closed, with no explanation given, other than verbally over the phone that it was a “commercial decision”.
Unfortunately, that is a scenario that too many of us will recognise, having experienced similar situations arise out of the blue and then going through the personal and financial turmoil involved – followed by the postcode lottery of finding another bank to open an account with.
Mr Farage took to social media from day one with a series of videos and, with him being outspoken and a public figure. those updates kicked up a storm that soon had Coutts and their owner NatWest running for cover as the truth emerged of a much wider issue.
Discrimination against shooting
Over the years BASC bas supported many shoots and businesses with complaints against unfair banking practices, including sudden unexplained account closures and refusals for new applications, difficulties with online payments. the use of card machines and applying for credit.
We have taken on the banks one by one at the top table about these issues and supported several complaints to the Financial Conduct Authority.
We know that decisions are being made by bank managers in nearly all the banks to close accounts or refuse to open accounts when they see words such as ‘gun’, ‘firearm’, ‘shoot’ or ‘shooting’ in the paperwork. However, trying to make a case stick has felt at times like fighting the tide. And where we have had good cases, those involved have been reluctant to complain for fear of the consequences, which is completely understandable.
The most bizarre aspect is that there is no consistency to the decision making. In the same bank. even in the same branch of that bank, will be lots of shooting related accounts. Yet, we see decisions taken against some of those accounts but not others.
The worst part for those shoots and businesses affected is the lack of an explanation and a feeling of powerlessness in the face of the corporate world.
You wouldn’t expect your electricity. gas or water to be shut down because of your interest in shooting, so why should banks be allowed to get away with denying us fundamental financial services?
A sector-wide issue
In 2021 BASC launched a ‘banking services and the shooting community’ survey and last year we produced a research report on the survey results.
Of 325 survey respondents, 43% indicated that they had experienced banking difficulties, with the most common difficulty being opening an account, followed by processing online payments, sudden closure of an account, and obtaining credit.
Some repeated themes from the feedback included difficulties due to the nature of the business. accepting card payments, changing account signatories, access to on line banking or lack of branches/counter service.
Where explanations were provided by the banks for difficulties experienced, the overall theme was that banks had a policy nor to associate with anyone connected to firearms.
The broad range of banks highlighted in the feedback implied that difficulties experienced were not necessarily restricted to just a few banks but more of a broader banking industry issue.
The key revelation arising from Nigel Farage’s banking experiences was that there were banking sector policies around people deemed ‘politically exposed persons’. which apparently gives wide discretion to the banks to refuse people financial services all tied up with money laundering risk rules.
It turned out that many British politicians and their direct family members had similar experiences to Nigel Farage. But like many a scandal it took one high profile person to speak om for others to follow and voice their concerns and experiences.
To cut a long story short this led to calls for a banking probe by politicians.
Amidst these developments, BASC wrote to Andrew Griffith MP. Economic Secretary to the Treasury (who had been calling for a banking review), highlighting the banking issues faced in the shooting community together with a copy of our research report and requesting that our experiences should feature in any banking probe. This led to an expose in the Telegraph. which we provided content to. with supportive comments from a range of politicians to our cause.
As details emerged of the likely terms of reference for me FCA banking review we sent our evidence to the FCA chief executive and we await further details of the review.
So, will this help shooting businesses currently experiences banking issues? Possibly, but that needs some of us to come forwad. hard that this is to do. The banks are under pressure and this is the time to push back. Please contact me if you are having issues by email to email@example.com
Looking ahead. if the banking review goes to plan and its recommendations are implemented, there will be safeguards in place to reduce the likelihood of future banking issues in our sector.
This article first featured in the September issue of Gun Trade News.