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Church of England invests in Wonga financial backer


Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby suffered embarrassment today after it emerged the Church of England pension fund invests in a key financial backer of Wonga just 24 hours after he said he wanted to compete the payday lender “out of existence”.

Yesterday Welby unveiled his plans to compete with Wonga and other payday lenders by launching a credit union through 16,000 churches.

But the Church of England has admitted to the FT today it invests in Accel Partners, a US venture capital firm which led Wonga’s 2009 fundraising.

The Church has a strict ethical investment policy and bans investment in payday lending.

A Lambeth Palace spokesman said: “We are grateful to the Financial Times for pointing out this serious inconsistency of which we were unaware. We will be asking the assets committee of the Church Commissioners to investigate how this has occurred and to review the holding in this pooled investment vehicle.”

The FT says the investment is only worth a few million pounds compared to a portfolio of more than £5bn.

Welby led the charge in forcing the Government to regulate payday lenders from next April during the passage of the Financial Services Act 2012 through the House Lords.


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There are 9 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Hypocrisy is fine, evidence of lack of systems in controls in an entity that wants to lend to least creditworthy is not.

  2. God moves in a mysterious way.
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm.”

  3. I left home late for my commute to work today (a mile or so walk on the beach in the sun) specifically so I could hear the Archbishop interviewed by John Humpries on Radio 4. @Sam, please do go back and listen to what he said on the Radio, it was an excellent interview and he explained his position expertly. Can I suggest that before anyone else posts on the subject they listen to the interview as they may end up with more egg on their face than some believe is on the Archbishops as I can’t see any.
    A lot of my clients choose to use Ethical or SRI funds, the financial markets are not a perfect system and just as Ethical funds can’t get everything right, nor can Sharia Compliant funds (as I have looked at some of these too and I could question how some of them can actually describe themselves as such)
    What I would say however is that ALL funds should at least subscribe to the UN Global Compact or something similar as these are universally accepted criteria and usually involve a firm breaching the law and making money by it, but in a different jurisdiction. The default should be UN Global Compact and funds should state that they do NOT comply with it rather than the other way round and from asking client’s the question, I suspect you’d see a nearly 50% take up rate. You can bet your bottom dollar the FCA will not make this a required question and nor will NEST as like with the death penalty, given the choice, the voting public would actually vote for it. I would even if I was wrongly convicted of murder as I’d rather be hung for something I didn’t do, than imprisoned for life.
    Life should mean life, the prisoner always has the choice to terminate their own sentence early.
    I decided to post this anon for a change, but I suspect you’ll guess who I am anyway.

  4. the last man to get so animated was ArthurScargill who took the NCB trustee to court for investing in South Africa pre end of aparteid – he lost, its worth reading the reasons as I think the Archibishop could lose too!

  5. @ Robert – Did you listen to the Archbishop on Radio 4 at 8.10 this morning?
    Please confirm whether you did or didn’t as I have great respect for you Robert, but you may have fallen foul of the reporting rather than the words said by the man.
    He wasn’t animated in anyway similar to Arthur Scargill or Maggie thatcher for that matter. He put his point clearly and with good humour and I for one agreed with his words to Mr Humprhies.
    Robert – sorry for posting anon, but as I did with the first post, i will have to stick with it now.

  6. Driving the Venture Capitalists out of the temple?

    Anything that helps bring credit unions into the light has to be seen as a postive. They are woefully under publicised, especially amongst those who would benefit most from their services.

  7. Pension trustees (like most other trustees) have a firm legal obligation to their beneficiaries and must not get side-tracked by personal or politically motivated investment decisions. As mentioned already, there is case law on this topic concerning the miners pension scheme.

  8. Is Justin Welby an Archbishop or just a loose Canon?

  9. @Derek and other posters, whilst Intake your point, I would again ask did any of the posters hear the Archbishop interviewed on Radio4 on Friday? The reporting is unbalanced and comments by the media and blogs does not reflect the interview at all in my opinion. For the record, I am NOT a practicing Christian, so I am not talking up the church I am referring to an interview by an individual and statements being twisted by reporting and spin with different motivations.

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