Bank of Dave: Is Sir Charles Denbigh Based on an Actual Banker?

In charting the David vs Goliaths narrative of ‘Bank of Dave,’ the Netflix film pitches the story of Dave Fishwick, a small-town millionaire with dreams of opening a community bank at Burnley. However, the banking institutions of London, which haven’t approved the establishment of a new bank in over 150 years, stand in Dave’s way, consistently plotting against his success. At the former’s center, Sir Charles Denbigh, one of the biggest bankers in the country, occupies an antagonistic role.

The film itself is partially based on a true story and equips inspiration from the real-life Dave Fishwick’s career and aspirations for its storyline. As such, Denbigh’s position in the story will likely pave the way for curiosity regarding the connection of a real antagonist in Fishwick’s life.

Sir Charles Denbigh, a Fictional Antagonist of the Banking World

Even though real individuals and events have inspired the base premise of ‘Bank of Dave,’ the film still possesses numerous fictionalized details, including Sir Charles Denbigh’s character. In fact, most of the storyline surrounding Denbigh and the Big Banks’ blatant schemes toward Dave and his banking dreams is a work of fiction. The plot line was added by screenwriter Piers Ashworth, seemingly for the sake of storytelling.

In real life, the banking institutions of London never attempted to dig up Fishwick’s alleged criminal past on a technicality in order to prevent him from starting up his bank. Likewise, although Fishwick has received pushback against his idea, there are no public records of any bankers conspiring against his success. Yet, despite the inaccuracy in the bankers’ portrayal within the film and Denbigh’s part in it, some of the resistance the Burnley businessman has received in his mission is worth noting.

For instance, during his banking journey, one David Buik of City brokers BGC Partners told Fishwick that he didn’t have a chance at obtaining a banking license. Likewise, another industry expert said, “If you [Fishwick] went to the right school and had the right parents, you might be considered a fit and proper person to go into the banking industry … there is no evidence you are.” Therefore, it remains evident that some segments of the real-life banking institutions of London have had substantial issues with Fishwick and his financial endeavors.

Still, even though these instances showcase hostility toward Fishwick, no high-profile banker has ever gotten maliciously involved in holding Fishwick back. Nonetheless, the man faced considerable trouble when he initially attempted to make his dream a reality. As depicted in the film, the authorities asked Fishwick to deposit a minimum reserve, although, in real life, the amount was ten million pounds instead of twelve.

Yet, the amount remains exorbitantly high, at least to Fishwick, who discussed the same in a conversation with the Guardian and said, “They said I needed that amount in reserve but that I could never, ever use it. How come? Surely it should be pro-rata to the size of what you’re doing?” Thus, in real life, Fishwick failed to push past all the hurdles required to open his own bank. Instead, he established a loaning company, Burnley Savings and Loans, in 2011.

Although this loophole is helping Fishwick improve the financial life of his community significantly, he’s still trying to turn his business into a UK-regulated bank that stands for and by the community. “They told me that if I use the word deposit or say I’m a bank, then I will go to prison,” shared Fishwick when speaking of his current business and relations with the banking world. “Yet not one single banker in the City, the people who have pocketed millions in bonuses and let us all down so badly, has ended up in prison. God forbid that I should try to offer pensioners 5% interest.”

Ultimately, despite Fishwick’s more than contentious relationship with London Bankers and Institutions, the man has no real-life banking rival upon whom the filmmakers could have based Sir Charles Denbigh. Therefore, the character remains a concentrated individual for the narrative to showcase the pitfalls of the banking industry, especially in relation to the real-life Dave Fishwick.

Read More: The True Story of Bank of Dave, Explained