Surge in support as Northern Mutual bank campaigners launch new website


By Northern Mutual campaign member Bridget Meehan

The Northern Mutual bank campaign was set up in 2019 to establish a mutual bank in Northern Ireland. An alternative to high street institutions, the Mutual would be owned by its customers and put the needs of local people, economy and environment first, and ensure our savings are invested locally.

A growing group of campaigners have been working to raise awareness about the need for a mutual bank and the response has been largely positive from those we’ve talked to, whether that’s been members of the public, community activists, business people, politicians or civil servants.

Recently, we launched a website ( containing information about mutual banking and a resources page providing practical ways to get involved. Even if you don’t have much time to spare, there are still ways to support the campaign. We’re currently seeking the investment needed to apply for a banking licence from the Bank of England, a process that takes roughly two years.

One of the questions people nearly always ask is how a mutual bank is different from Credit Unions (CUs). The question is understandable since we have a vibrant CU movement in NI that’s deeply embedded in our communities. No one wants to support a home-grown bank that could jeopardise the CUs.

We generally answer this question with another question: would you close your bank current account and use only a CU account for all your financial transactions? The answer is invariably no because the majority of us know our CU account wouldn’t allow us to do many of the things our bank account allows.

CUs are distinctly different from banks, mutual or otherwise, because they don’t hold a banking licence and their product offer is limited by regulations. A bank engages in licensed deposit-taking and can lend more than it takes in deposits. CUs cannot do this. CUs in NI don’t offer current accounts, overdrafts, mobile/online banking, business loans or mortgages, although some have offered a few of these services. CUs are restricted in what they can do with member savings. The £millions not loaned out are most frequently deposited in banks where there’s no guarantee of investment back into the region. That’s local wealth extraction right there and that’s something our economy doesn’t need. Rather we need to refocus our existing wealth to rebuild our infrastructure and support our local communities.

But it’s not helpful to talk about differences because CUs and mutual banks have many principles in common and both are alternatives to the existing privatised financial sector. The financial market here is big enough for all of us to co-exist so it’s not an either-or situation. Therefore, the Mutual Bank and CUs could work in partnership, as they do elsewhere. In doing so, local people get local banking with a big say in how the bank is run. It’s all about wealth retention, for local residents, businesses, and investors.

If you want to find out more about mutual banking or if you want to subscribe to our campaign or become a supporter, please visit our website at and follow us on twitter @northernmutual.