[This is the transcript of my regular radio commentary that aired tonight 4mar11 on KVMR-FM 89.5. I have addended some observations from attending the 4mar11 meeting where the described banking concept was presented.]
Something called ‘community partnership banking’ is being sold to Nevada City right now as you listen to this commentary. Helping to sell the city on this new kind of banking service are none other than the good people of the Nevada City Sustainability Vision Team. These are the same folks who wear many hats and belong to organizations like A.P.P.L.E. that brought you the well-known Nevada City worm farm. Haven’t heard about the worm farm? Don’t ask.
But you might want to ask what is community partnership banking. To get answers, the place to go is the well-designed website of the Unified Field Bank. There you immediately learn that this is an organization with a mission to “serve the global environmental, social and cultural bottom line.” I have never heard of such bottom lines, but at this point the journey is just beginning and one should not lose heart.
As we go deeper into the website, we are immediately flooded with some very familiar sounding words and notions – nurturing, sustainable, renewable, holistic, transparent, empowerment, and so on. These describe things like the bank’s vision, commitment, and intended operations.
As I went through the website in detail, it became clear that Unified Field Bank is actually not a bank, at least not yet anyway. They are really the Unified Field Corporation, a group of marketing and media developers loose on the country trying to set up a network of touchy-feely banks in communities that have a critical mass of sensitive, inclusive, and touchy-feely folks. And as you might suspect, we here in Nevada County are blessed with a goodly portion of such people mainly concentrated in Nevada City and its environs.
Now since Nevada City has been doing a lot of financial cliff walking in recent years and operates arguably one of the most opaque city budgets in the state, it may be that bringing into the city some talent to structure a passel of highly nuanced entity formations is just what is needed to keep the auditors at bay for a while longer.
But seriously, how can this town of a progressive bent reject an organization with a vision statement that includes “nurturing holistic financial ecology”. An organization that will commit “to partner with the keepers of culture so that together we may preserve the strength of ancient wisdom and values while supporting the constant renewal of their applicability to the here and now.” Honest, dear listener, I’m not making this stuff up. It’s there for all to see.
This outfit has been in business since 2008 and has yet to set up its first community partnership bank. But then, these things do take time. You see, one of the first things Unified Field Corporation does is to check our alignment, which they are presumably doing tonight in the city council chambers. In this task, they “explore your group’s strength of alignment with the Core Ideologies for bank and media projects, as well as with an initial draft of a compelling vision of your work.” To do this, they have “developed something we call the Alignment Process.” Not to worry, if our head is not on right, they’ll help us get it there so that we’ll be ready for the new bank.
Besides convincing the progressive elements of Nevada City, this corporation claims to have made inroads with other California cities like Santa Barbara, Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Sonoma County, South Los Angeles, and Ojai. Do we detect a pattern here?
You did notice South LA thrown in there didn’t you? Well, on the Dark Continent this company is involved with something called DEEP – Developing Empowerment and Economic Prosperity – that does “social business incubation” using a “Hybrid Social Enterprise model” for “sustainable development in Africa”. Presumably, the successes from that region of buzzing entrepreneurial expansion will serve as templates for us to apply here in Nevada County.
When all is said and done, what could be finer than socialist banking coming to the Sierra?
My name is Rebane and I also expand on these and other themes in my Union columns, on NCTV, and on georgerebane.com where this transcript appears. These opinions are not necessarily shared by KVMR. Thank you for listening.
[5mar2011 update] Last night, along with Jo Ann and Russ Steele, I sat in the Nevada City council chambers listening to the well-attended talk by UFC CEO David Rose who explained in all available detail what a Unified Field Bank was and how it would work. All three of us really paid attention and took a lot of notes. Mr Rose is an experienced salesman and gave an excellent presentation. Russ Steele has a good summary of the presentation on NC Media Watch, along with his assessment on what was said. Here I’ll just add a couple of points from my takeaway.
1. The basic idea behind a UFB is high sounding, hits all the progressive hot buttons, and is totally untested. It requires $500K cash up front to buy the franchise offered by UFC and start operations. In the meantime UFC itself is attempting to raise $3,600,000 to fund its operations selling and promoting these franchises across the country and around the world.
2. Regarding their expertise in banking, business, and especially doing business in California, there doesn’t seem to be any there. Presumably UFC will hire some people when they get money, but that will be then and this is now.
3. The entire UFB concept of ‘holistic’, ‘sustainability’, ‘local’, ‘freeze dried’, ‘money flow’, and so on is a paper plan whose economics have not been tried anywhere – at least not with any business success that would invite more people to practice it and make money. The plan forward here seems to be ‘you pay us first, and then we’ll earn while you learn to see whether/how it will all work out’.
4. I believe that our local Nevada City Sustainability Vision Team people can do at least as well in trying out such local sustainability concepts by using the same money they would raise to partner with an established bank in the county – like Citizens Bank – and charge forth in a phased approach executing a crawl, walk, run plan that is tailored to our community. Citizens Bank is an operating bank and would bring all the local banking know-how needed for such a project. Hell, if the Vision Team wants some expertise from tried and true capitalists (successful in making profits and meeting payroll, but not necessarily “aligned” according to the ways of UFC) in planning such a venture, I’d even pitch in, and also offer to see if SESF would join them in the effort.
5. Bottom line, I don’t see what Mr Rose and his team of enthusiastic naifs would bring to this party. If it can be dood, we can do it ourselves.