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JAK Members Bank
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Is a Swedish economic association with the right to run banking business.
Is owned by its members, which via the annual meeting make joint decisions.
Is an important part in the grassroots movement in Sweden, seeking to change the conditions of the
economy, both locally and internationally.
Is a well working example of a financing system built upon cooperation rather than competition.
Known simply as JAK or ”the Swedish JAK”, the JAK MEMBERS BANK is a bank where members share the
benefits of a viable, interest-free banking system that they themselves take responsibility for. JAK was
established as a co-operative savings and loan association in 1965 and was granted official bank status by the
Swedish government on the recommendation of the state’s Financial Supervisory Authority in December 1997.
Today JAK has more than 37.000 members. Because JAK is officially recognized as a bank, the savings of
members are covered by the Swedish banking system’s deposit guarantees. This official recognition also
confirms that JAK has an approved structure and management and that it offers a viable, trustworthy and
interesting alternative to other banks. The main function of JAK is to provide members with interest-free savings
and loans. Another important function is to spread information about interest and interest-free economy, not only
in Sweden but also in the rest of the word.
Economy:
Economy concerns our everyday life, the life of our families and the future of this planet. The rules of the
economy are formulated by us, the people. The design of the economy also determines how other things in our
society are to be designed. This means that it is the economy and the money that directly dictate what kind of
lives we will lead. Do we prefer to be stressed, work long hours and suffer a lack of energy for friends and
family? Or would we rather have time for each other? Would you like to live in a spirit of community and
solidarity with others, or continuously feel insecure and uneasy? Economy concerns all of us. It is nothing that
we should leave in the hands of so called experts/economists. Experts cannot conclude what you want to achieve
with your life and society. They have opinions, but they cannot alone decide upon what is right and what is
wrong.
Interests:
Why don’t we want interest involved in our bank? Well, we regard receiving money in exchange for labour as
legitimate; however we do not consider it legitimate to earn money simply with money. The use of interest also
has negative effects on society. It shows up in the prices of services and goods when producers add to their
prices to cover their cost of interest on loans. That’s why we believe also that the interest rate produces overexploitation of natural resources, which promotes a sustainable society. At the same time, in an interest based
economy, money is moved from those who have less to those who have more and thereby assets are concentrated
in the hands of the few. Besides that, since our modern monetary systems are debt-based and practically all
money is debt that has to be repaid with interest, we have a money stock that is always growing exponentially.
Anything that grows exponentially will eventually reach a breaking point. Today we have exponential growth in
both real and financial assets including money.
Our bank. The basics:
Despite the technical changes throughout the years, there are some essential aspects that have been kept
unchanged in our banking model:
- Only members use the bank. We don’t have clients.
- Members in JAK do not charge interest among each other (this was inherited from the Danish J.A.K.)
- Members in JAK who borrow money must also save money in JAK to the same proportion as the loan
(this is an original construction from the Swedish JAK: our saving and loan system)
The requirement of making those members who borrow money also to save money can be seen both as a
practical tool and as an ideological decision. Why?
In JAK Members Bank, the member’s deposits finance all loans. There is no external refinancing. Therefore, the
stock of loans cannot exceed the member’s deposits plus the equity of the bank. To achieve this in a fair way, we
in JAK have decided that there has to be a balance between savings and loans on the individual level.
JAK Members bank is a professionalized bank with around 37.000 members, holding a bank license since 1997.
The administrative expenses of running the bank were 25, 7 million Swedish Crowns in 2010. These expenses
are covered through loan fees and membership fees. The fact that we have a loan fee means that the loans in JAK
have a cost. However, we don’t call this cost “interest” because we see an ideological difference between
administrative cost and interest to the savers.
Popular Education and deep democracy
Education plays a key role in JAK Members Bank. We are a cooperative bank, own by the members and we’ve
chosen a member’s strategy grounded on the Nordic tradition of Popular Education (Folkbildning). What does it
mean?
The Nordic tradition of Popular Education has its roots on the popular movements of the XIX and early XX
century. It is an educational tradition constructed by the people and for the people, with the purpose of educating
themselves to be able transforms the communities and the societies where they live. It is a non hierarchical
educational tradition where everyone shall fell that their experiences, questions and opinions is just as important
as everybody else’s, where everyone shall feel that they understand and can express their experiences.
To choose Popular Education means our strategy to grow is not trough fancy and expensive marketing
campaigns but instead we focus on courses, study circles and meetings, we focus on empowerment. If we, the
JAK members, get a better understanding on how our cooperative bank is working it has very positive
consequences, both on an extern and on an intern level.
On the extern level we see how well prepared members are the best ambassadors of JAK. Members who
understand how JAK works and who have reflected on why they like JAK. For them is becomes natural to talk
about JAK to their friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, etc. In that way JAK grows in size. And if JAK is
growing in size, with more and more members understanding (and practicing) a different way of banking, then it
became easier to be part in the debate and dialogue for alternative economy and to contribute to a wider and
deeper discussion about interest - free economy, both at a national and at international level
And in a parallel process, on an intern level, all those members who have made an effort on understanding how
our cooperative works and have reflected on the possible developments that can be reached, they are well
prepared to participate in the democratic processes of JAK. Every member has the right to participate in the
democratic processes of JAK and every adult member has the right to vote in the general assembly once per
year, but the quality of our democracy grows whenever a member take the necessary time to learn, reflect and
discuss about JAK. In that way JAK grows in depth.
More information
www.jak.se/int
http://vimeo.com/13544381 (4 minutes film. JAK Members Bank: Our bank)