I've written in the past about the interesting (and highly profitable) move by Australian Trade Unions into the "Superannuation" (wealth management/mutual fund/pension account) industry, to great success.
The "Industry Superannuation Fund" phenomenon continues to power on, expanding and gradually picking up market share from the commercial funds. But the basic idea has been "solved" and now they are looking for where to go next.
Since the superannuation funds don't actually do their own investment (they spread the money out to a collection of investment managers) and they have a highly trusting "captured" customer base (workers in unions) it makes a lot of sense for them to move into banking and leverage that trust to claw back profits that would otherwise go to bank shareholders.
Members Equity is a small Australian bank that is owned by a collection of industry super funds.
It is gradually forming into a full service conventional bank, offering regular accounts, mortgages, and all the other random products that a typical bank offers. But it also serves as a trusted manager for a portion of the super fund's investment cash, and because it's owned by them, all the profits from the bank get sucked back into the funds, and thus to the union (and other) workers.
While still small, it seems like an idea whose time has come. Banks have such a bad reputation for screwing over their customers, that having a bank that is (at a fairly high degree of separation) owned by the customers would mean good things for both the customers, staff morale, and the industry in general.
Now that my bank has been swallowed up by one of the "big four" (Australian competition law explicitly forbids the biggest four banks merging with each other, so those four have bought almost all the smaller banks between them) I'm wondering whether it might be worth moving...
My only concern is that about 4 times a year I need to go to a physical branch, and ME doesn't really HAVE any physical branches