Case Study: Walden Mutual
Location: New Hampshire, USA
Investment type: Bank deposits ranging in type from individual community members through to larger investment actors
The first US Mutual bank to be chartered in five decades, Walden Mutual is pioneering a place-based, community-supported bank focused on affecting local and regional food systems change.
“Mission built, not just mission-driven,” the development of Walden, in New Hampshire, has been spearheaded by Charley Cummings. While working to develop Walden Local Meat Co. (a whole-animal marketing and distribution initiative,) Charley saw there was a huge gap in finance facing businesses across the supply chain.
He could see that alternative forms of finance on offer were charging up to 10% interest rates and weren't a viable option. Knowing that deposits are one of the cheapest sources of capital, he set about working towards getting a bank charter in which investors and local community members could deposit their savings. This in turn could be used to finance lower-interest loans to address the capital constraints of ethically aligned businesses and organisations across the regional food and farming system.
For the bank’s core capital, Walden was able to raise $25 million in special deposits from over 200 catalytic investors, ranging in size from $5000 to over $1 million. These special depositors will get dividends equal to 30% of the bank’s post-tax profits.
The mutual structure of the bank means that the bank’s depositors are also its shareholders, with voting rights on control and corporate structures. An additional element to this collective governance is that around three dozen local leaders serve as corporators, who elect the bank’s board of directors.
Walden Mutual now has a waiting list for individuals wanting to deposit their money into the bank. They are offering finance to farm, fishery, forestry and food businesses as well as non-profits and community organisations. Loans are tailored to meet the needs of individual borrowers to address critical needs, from long-term transition finance to repayment schedules that fit with seasonal cycles.
Walden also works to support their lenders through co-marketing opportunities with the bank. They connect these businesses with their motivated, values-aligned community of depositors to open up new market opportunities and community connections.
“We don’t support businesses that socialise their costs but privatise their profits.
We do support the sustainable growing, harvesting, processing and selling of local food in sync with nature, and we focus on the long term.”
This case study is an extract from Regenerating Investment in Food and Farming: A Roadmap.