De JAK Bank

Vanaf 1997 is in Zweden de JAK BANK actief, met een vergunning van de
Zweedse Centrale Bank. Evenals de Nederlandse Rabobank is de JAK Bank
een coöperatieve bank. Dit betekent dat de leden het voor het zeggen
hebben. Nu is de positie van de leden bij de Rabobank vergelijkbaar
geworden met die van een aandeelhouder in een beursgenoteerde
onderneming. Maar de 38.000 leden van de JAK Bank hebben het voor het
zeggen. Uit oogpunt van medezeggenschap zeer democratisch, maar in de
realiteit niet altijd handig. Want verschillen van opvatting kunnen al
gauw tot vertraging in of frustratie van de besluitvorming leiden.

Jakhuset061218

 

Het meest exceptionele aan de Jak Bank is echter het rentevrij bankieren
dat wordt toegepast. In een wereld waarin rente inkomsten de basis
vormen van het verdienmodel van alle banken is dit werkelijk bijzonder
te noemen.

De JAK Bank heeft hiervoor gekozen vanwege vier basisprincipes met betrekking tot rente:

1 Rente werkt destabiliserend op de economie

2 Rente is een belangrijke oorzaak van inflatie, werkloosheid en uitputting van de natuurlijke hulpbronnen

3 Rente veroorzaakt opeenhoping van geld bij een kleine groep mensen

4 Rente bevordert korte termijn denken

Het waarom van deze basisprincipes leg ik uit in Een Menselijke Economie.

Hoe succesvol is een bank die zijn inkomsten niet baseert op rente?

Uit de geschiedenis van de JAK Bank over de afgelopen vijf jaar
blijkt dat deze bank het moeilijk heeft om het hoofd boven water te
houden. En toch leveren de mensen in deze organisatie een geweldige
prestatie want met een totaal pakket aan kosten van bijna 28 miljoen
Zweedse Kronen wordt een totaal volume van bijna 2 miljard Zweedse Kronen
in- en uitgeleend! En dat is een grote prestatie, die niet leidt tot
vette bonussen voor het management. (1 Zweedse Kroon = 0,10 Euro)

Toch werd er in de afgelopen vijf jaren vier keer verlies en maar een
keer winst gemaakt. Het gevolg hiervan is een geleidelijke erosie van
het kapitaal dat de JAK Bank minimaal nodig heeft om te kunnen
voortbestaan. En dat voortbestaan staat op het spel als de verliezen
blijven voortduren.

Waaruit haalt de JAK Bank zijn inkomsten? Uit de jaarlijkse bijdrage
van de 38.000 leden en uit het doorberekenen van behandelingskosten.
Totaal leverde dit in 2009 26 miljoen Zweedse Kronen (SKR) op. Te weinig
dus om de kosten te dekken.

De JAK Bank heeft dus een probleem. De kosten moeten omlaag en/of de
inkomsten moeten omhoog. Op de website van de JAK Bank wordt promotie
gemaakt voor internetbankieren. Als dat zou kunnen worden geëffectueerd, dan zouden de kosten omlaag kunnen worden gebracht. Of
dit voldoende is zal moeten blijken. Meer bijdrage van de leden vragen,
die al geen vergoeding voor hun spaargeld krijgen, lijkt niet mogelijk.
Ook omdat de spaarders als gevolg van inflatie de waarde van hun
Kronen van jaar op jaar zien slinken. Want de realiteit is dat de bank
in een wereld bestaat waarin geldontwaarding door inflatie een gegeven
is.

Stel dat het JAK Bank model van rentevrij bankieren in Nederland zou
worden ingevoerd. Wat zouden de initiatiefnemers in Nederland dan van de
sympathieke Zweedse pioniers kunnen leren? 

  • Er moet een verdienmodel worden uitgewerkt dat voldoende oplevert
    om de bedrijfskosten te kunnen dekken, fatsoenlijke lonen uit te kunnen
    betalen aan de medewerkers en een winst te kunnen behalen die groot
    genoeg is om de groei van de bank niet in de weg te staan. 
  • De Bank moet worden opgezet als internetbank.
  • Het verdienmodel moet worden gebaseerd op marktconforme tarieven
    voor de diensten die de bank verleent. Geen rente, maar uurtarieven voor
    de werkelijk geleverde diensten en aan de werkelijke ICT kosten
    gerelateerde kosten doorberekening aan de klant. 
  • Afspraken tussen de leden van de coöperatie en de directie die zo
    moeten worden geformuleerd dat de directie vrijheid van handelen krijgt
    binnen de missie en doelstellingen van de bank. Met verantwoording
    achteraf aan de leden.
  • De inbreng van de leden moet bij de start voldoende zijn om aan de kapitaal eisen van de Centrale Bank te kunnen voldoen.
  • Er moet een winstdelingsregeling met de leden worden afgesproken
    waardoor men, als er winst wordt gemaakt, op zijn minst gecompenseerd
    wordt voor het waardeverlies door inflatie en de te betalen Box 3 belasting van 1,2%.

Dit zijn een aantal belangrijke basisvoorwaarden. Er zijn
vanzelfsprekend meer. En ook al lijkt het veel, ik denk dat het mogelijk
is om op basis van een realistisch verdienmodel deze doelstellingen te
kunnen waarmaken en tegelijkertijd toch voor de klanten nog veel
goedkoper te zijn dan de gewone banken
, met hun enorme overhead lasten
(waaronder de veelbesproken bonussen). Bovendien kunnen er andere
criteria worden toegepast voor wie wel en wie niet in aanmerking komt
voor een lening, waardoor starters en innovatieprojecten meer kansen
krijgen.

Als idealisme voorbij gaat aan de realiteit dan werkt het niet. Maar
als idealisme op een gezonde manier samengaat met realisme, dan kan zich
hieruit ook voor het bankbedrijf een nieuwe kans voordoen.

(c) Ad Broere

Ana Carrie explains how the JAK Banking system works.

In 2001, Feasta’s money group investigated the feasibility of
establishing an interest-free bank in Ireland. The most promising way
seemed to be to persuade the Swedish JAK Bank to establish an Irish
branch. However, since JAK had no experience of running branches in
Sweden, its directors turned the idea down. This is a report from a
money group member who went to Sweden to study the bank.

Can a bank operate successfully if it does not charge interest on its
loans? The Swedish JAK Medlemsbank (Members’ Bank) certainly does – it
has been called the safest bank in Sweden. This account of how it does
so is based on two visits to its headquarters in SkiƒÂ¶vde and numerous
conversations with JAK’s enthusiastic staff and members, both in Sweden
and in Ireland. I am indebted to the staff of JAK for their hospitality
and assistance, and to Feasta for its financial support.

Savings Points

JAK’s primary objective is to provide its members with interest-free
loans. In order to accomplish this, it must attract interest-free
savings. JAK uses a system of “Savings Points” in order to balance
saving and borrowing.

Given the choice of borrowing without interest or saving without
interest, most of us would gladly choose borrowing. While people are
generally willing to save temporary surpluses of money in current
accounts that don’t pay interest, few are willing or able to save more
significant amounts over a long period of time with no compensation. JAK
cannot, of course, lend money without having savings on deposit and so,
using an imaginative system of Savings Points, each member who wishes
to take out a loan must save money first and, over a lifetime with JAK,
every member will have saved roughly as much money and for the same
period of time as they will have borrowed. You could almost imagine JAK
as allowing its members to borrow (interest-free) from their future
selves.

For a new JAK member, the first step towards an interest-free loan is
to save and thereby earn Savings Points. These are calculated as the
amount saved, multiplied by the number of months for which it is saved,
multiplied by a Savings Factor. This factor varies according to the type
of savings account the member has selected and is lower (about 0.7) for
a demand account from which savings can be withdrawn at any time. For
example, assuming a Savings Factor of 0.9, we have1 :

€100 1 Month 0.9 = 90 Savings Points

The Savings Factor varies with the type of deposit account and is
lowest for demand accounts where savings can be withdrawn at any time
(about 0.7).

Example 1: Either of these scenarios would earn identical Savings Points.

After saving for a minimum of six months, a member may apply for a
loan. In order to borrow €1 for one month, one Savings Point must be
redeemed. The amount borrowed and the time taken to repay are entirely
up to the member, provided that the appropriate Savings Points are
available. For example, borrowing €90 (or €9,000) over 1 year uses as
many savings points as borrowing €45 (or €4,500) with repayments spread
over 2 years.

Example 2: A Basic Loan.

Example 3: An alternative basic loan, borrowing half as much but repaying it over a longer period.

In addition to a Basic Loan that uses Savings Points already earned,
members may apply for an Additional Loan using Savings Points that will
be earned in the future. An “Allocation Factor” (currently 14) is
multiplied by the member’s current Savings Points to determine the
number of points available for an Additional Loan.

Each loan repayment includes a savings instalment, and the payments
are structured so that when the loan is fully repaid, all necessary
Savings Points have been earned. A consequence of this is that upon full
repayment of an Additional Loan, the member has built up significant
savings. Savings made during the course of repaying a loan are known as
Post-Savings, while those that precede the loan are Pre-Savings. Once
the loan has been repaid, the balance of the post-savings is available
to the member to be withdrawn or, as frequently happens, to be used as
the start of saving for a new loan.

Example 4: A Basic Loan with an Additional Loan.

There is no interest charged on a loan, of course, but members must
place 6% of the value of the loan on deposit for the duration of the
loan, and additionally pay a loan fee to cover administration costs.
Members also pay 200 SEK (about €22) when they first join JAK and 200
SEK per year as a membership fee.

JAK is a virtual bank in the sense that it has no branches and
business cannot be transacted in person. A necessary and prudent
decision since the membership of JAK is quite spread out over a large
country, and also resulting in no bias against rural members who would
have to travel much farther to their nearest branch. A result of this
“virtual” status is that JAK members must have an account with another
bank with which to conduct their day-to-day financial affairs. Members
transfer money into or out of their JAK basic account via post giro,
bank giro or Internet into their other accounts. With improvements in
technology and the changing financial infrastructure, JAK hopes in the
near future to offer direct deposit of paycheques and credit/debit card
facilities to its members. For some members, this might negate the need
to bank elsewhere.

 

Credit control

Like any bank, JAK must ensure that loans can and will be repaid.
Unlike most banks, however, JAK’s system of saving and borrowing has
several unique features that combine to give it an enviably low default
rate.

A member applying for a loan is given a range of options for the loan
size and duration based upon their desired loan amount, desired
repayments and available savings points. When they have made their
selection, the loan department within JAK must assess the member’s
ability to repay the desired loan. The member’s income and expenses are
evaluated with the assistance of computer software that calculates
average living expenses for individuals and families based upon age and
gender.

Between 20 and 25 applications are processed per week, and 95% are
approved. Most loans are secured, either against property or with a
personal guarantor. Loans for up to 37,000 SEK (about €4,000) with 2-5
years’ duration can be unsecured, but these are limited to 5% of JAK’s
turnover and so surplus applications must be held in a queue until funds
are available. The most common reason for borrowing is to refinance a
conventional bank loan obtained to buy a house followed by purchasing a
car and making home improvements.

In general, people who can save regularly are good performers when it
comes to loan repayments. The JAK system where saving must precede
borrowing is therefore ideally suited to attracting these regular
savers. In addition, around half-way through repayment of a loan there
is a break-even point where the Post Savings on deposit are equal to the
balance outstanding on the loan, and from this point forward the loan
is fully secured by the member’s savings.

Very few JAK loans end in default. Borrowers are decidedly involved
“members” as opposed to disinterested “customers”. Many feel quite
strongly about the idea of interest-free banking and this common bond
goes a long way towards encouraging good behaviour. Personal guarantors
rarely need to be asked to make good on their guarantee.

Liquidity

At the simplest level, a bank takes one person’s savings and lends
them to someone else. Ideological arguments aside, this presents some
practical difficulties. Firstly, what if a saver wants their money back
before the borrower has finished with it? Secondly, what if there are
not enough or too many borrowers relative to savers?

The first point is generally dealt with in the banking system by
having a reasonably large number of savers and making sure that enough
money is set aside to cope with those who, on any given day, want some
of their money back. While individuals might withdraw their savings in a
random manner, a large group of savers will tend to be stable and
predictable.

It is JAK’s policy to keep a minimum of 20% of pre-savings available
in either a bank account or in government bonds, either of which can be
made available almost immediately. Too much liquidity means that money
is lying idle rather than being lent out to members, so it is not seen
as desirable to have much more than 20% on reserve. Post-savings do not
need to have a component on reserve since these can only be withdrawn at
specified times.

JAK also encourages stability from its savers by offering a higher
Savings Factor in long-term deposit accounts. JAK members can choose
from 6, 12 and 24-month deposit accounts which represent the advance
notice required to make a withdrawal.

With regard to the second point, JAK has a more difficult balancing
act between saving and borrowing than other banks, due to the fact that
the two are intimately linked by Savings Points. Most people save with
the intention of borrowing in the future. An excess of saving today
could indicate too much demand for borrowing next year.

The Allocation Factor has a central role in the relationship between
supply of savings and demand for loans. In general, the JAK board sets
the Allocation Factor to reflect the current level of liquidity within
the bank. The greater the pool of excess savings, the higher the
Allocation Factor to encourage members to take out loans and reduce the
excess. Unfortunately for JAK, the relationship between the Allocation
Factor and the demand for loans is not as simple as this. In the short
term, increasing the Allocation Factor can actually make things worse,
as members decide to increase their Savings Points with a view to taking
out a larger loan in the future. Excess demand for loans would be
particularly problematic for JAK. Reducing the Allocation Factor would
likely lead to an outcry from members who had made financial plans based
on a higher factor. The alternatives, however, would be to refuse more
loans or to introduce a waiting list. The dynamics of this
saving/borrowing relationship are likely to be a constant challenge to
JAK’s management as the membership grows and the range of banking
services offered by JAK expands.

JAK culture

A significant amount of JAK’s energy is devoted to communicating with
its 21,000-strong membership. JAK is a co-operative, fully owned by its
members. In addition to a quarterly newsletter, 24 regional offices
staffed by trained volunteers keep in touch with members through study
groups and exhibitions. While JAK’s primary function is to provide
interest-free banking, it is also viewed by the membership as a vehicle
for economic reform.

A recent innovation in support of economic reform is the Local
Enterprise Bank. Community members save in a special JAK account and,
rather than earning points themselves, their savings are used to provide
an interest-free loan for a local enterprise. Savings are fully
guaranteed, so members are not exposed to any financial risk. The first
two projects to be funded in this way are an ecological slaughterhouse
and a replica Viking village. It is an interesting experiment in local
finance for local projects, and so far has been very warmly received by
local media and participants. While savers don’t, of course, receive any
interest on their savings, they benefit both economically and otherwise
from the improvements in their local economy and infrastructure as a
result of the projects.

Conclusions

The JAK Members’ Bank is unique in the commitment it inspires from
its volunteers and staff. It provides affordable and responsible
finance, and enables its members to have a say in where their money is
invested. I have no doubt it will continue to be true to its purpose and
values while exploring new frontiers in ethical finance.