The True Story of Bank of Dave, Explained

Netflix’s feel-good biographical film ‘Bank of Dave’ is a story of grit and perseverance juxtaposed with finding a purpose and the desire to see it come to fruition. The narrative revolves around a working-class self-made millionaire Burnley native and the trials and tribulations he faces in trying to set up a community bank that will help the local businesses in the town to thrive. Despite the noble purpose, his journey will see him log horns with some of London’s most elite and prestigious financial institutions and compete to get the first-ever banking license in over a century.

This story’s focus has been battling all sorts of hurdles and fighting against all odds, trying to challenge a system that refuses to cater to all sections of society equally. The heartwarming narrative of a larger-than-life character is such that it has managed to inspire viewers and leave them curious about whether ‘Bank of Dave’ speaks of a real story or is simply a well-made work of fiction.

Bank of Dave is Based on the Inspiring Life of Dave Fishwick

Yes, ‘Bank of Dave’ is based on the real-life story of Dave Fishwick, the founder of Burnley Savings and Loans Ltd. (BSAL). The Chris Foggin directorial, whose title comes from the lending company’s slogan, “Bank on Dave!” narrates the story of the Burnley businessman whose frustration with the flawed banking system leads him to establish an autonomous lending company. The company was formed as a result of the financial crisis of 2008 that had led to a lack of opportunities for the locals and a slump in sales for small-scale businesses, to help aid the town of Lancashire.

Dave’s decision to open the ‘bank’ came when the banks withdrew the loans given to his customers, leading to a huge slump in his business. While his firm was doing okay, the small businesses comprising his primary customer base took a massive hit as they could no longer acquire finances for no fault of their own. This led Dave to start loaning his own money to the minibus buyers on his terms and six months later, there wasn’t a single defaulter, leading him to decide to turn his small-scale loan scheme into a proper bank. However, his plans had to take a backseat as the hurdles were massive.

Dave was asked to maintain a minimum of £10 million in reserve, to obtain a deposit-taking license. His primary challenge came from the elitist financial authorities of London, who had not granted a new banking license in over 150 years and were less than keen to grant it to a Burnley-based van salesman. Despite these challenges, Dave was able to set up his business in 2011. However, he continues his fight to get his firm a banking license. In the meanwhile, to further his philanthropy, Dave donates the profits he makes to all sorts of charities, turning him into an extremely favored individual among the locals.

Image Credit: BBC Breakfast

Rory Kinnear, who essays the titular role in the film, in an interview about the character and the real-life Dave Fishwick, said, “There was something about his tenacity of spirit and purpose, as well as him being equally filled by rage and goodwill.” The film’s premise deals in particular with the struggles of the non-affluent and shows how one decides to stand as a messiah and fight for them. Dave, who is angered at the lack of help and support for the small businesses and people from the high street banks, steps up in support of his people. He opts for a crowdfunding model that enables borrowers to withdraw money and subsequently take on the responsibility of repaying it.

Dave is joined in his fight by Hugh, a London lawyer, junior doctor Alexandra, and his favorite band Def Leppard. Storytelling takes a lot of creative liberties in bringing a lighthearted film to the viewers, and ‘Bank of Dave’ also makes use of such artistic freedom. Certain themes and subplots have been introduced and dramatized to further the plot. While the character of Hugh is a work of fiction the fact that Dave did have a team of attorneys aiding him with his decision-making stands true. Similarly, while Dave did receive setbacks along the way, the shameful schemes and undue harassment invented to prevent him from achieving his dream were fictionalized.

Despite the movie’s emphasis on a single win, one can’t help but feel a sense of happiness and satisfaction in knowing the effect that win has played in real. With the lighthearted script, authentic locations, and events to support the good music and excellent acting (the real-life Dave makes a special cameo), viewers have been feeling full thinking about the wholesome truth behind the story. Thus, while ‘Bank of Dave’ has fictionalized and dramatized several elements of the story thanks to creative liberty, the film’s premise is drawn from real-life hero Dave Fishwick, who went from being a van salesman to the biggest minibus supplier in Britain and a hero the people of Burnley adore and look up to.

Read More: Is Bank of Dave’s Alexandra Ashforth Based on a Real Doctor?