“Catalonia has a peculiarity that is tremendous…” James Sène, Founding President of 11Onze
“I’ve been asked to come and motivate you, and it’s a bit strange because I think that, for people who have left their family and their things to come to this place for three weeks, you don’t need any motivation”. James Sène, welcoming the first 50 11Onze agents. Memorable moment at the 11Onze Academy, where agents are trained for 3 weeks to provide cutting-edge, efficient, neobank financial solutions.
Below is a transcript of the talk by James, Founding Chairman of 11Onze:
How do you motivate people who do this? It’s going to be quite complicated for me. In fact, I was about to say “well, motivate me a little, right?”, because I’ve had this project (11Onze) in my head for a year and a half or two years now and seeing you all is motivation as well. So, instead of trying to motivate you, to explain, to pull de wool over your eyes… by the way, I speak quite impolitely, as I said, I live on my own and I got used to swearing…so,Toni, if I say something I shouldn’t, raise your hand so it can be deleted from the recording.
What is 11Onze?
So, I thought I’d explain to you what 11Onze is, what this is all about. Because I think that if you have a perspective of what we are doing, you can generate your own perception of what 11Onze is and communicate it better in your own way. So, we have to do a little bit of a review of everything so that you can understand what we are doing. You are doing courses now, but it is important to get a perspective to better understand what is going on and why we are doing this.
Right now, the world is as you can imagine… and with Covid it’s an added bonus. But without Covid, it was already known last year, in the markets, that there would be a “crash” in the system. It was already known. Why? Because we have reached a level where the neoliberal system that is in place has burned all services and created a situation where there is a lot of money in the hands of the very few. And the majority of the people who produce this money do not have it, they have difficulty accessing it or, simply, when they do have access to it, they get into even more debt and this creates a vicious circle. The financial and banking systems have become an extractive industry, as the money does not go back to the people who produce it, it creates a deficit. And this deficit has been going on until it has reached a point where they themselves have seen that the system needed a reset. Therefore, everybody who is involved in business or finance knew, in June last year, that this would “blow-up”.
We have had Covid on top of it, so it has been a double “blow-up”. The situation, which we have not yet perceived, will be much worse. That is to say, what comes after Covid will be much worse than what we think will be. Many jobs have been destroyed that would have been destroyed just the same, but with Covid, twice as many. Many opportunities have been lost in addition to all the complications we had: 50% unemployment, young people, etc. Now I don’t want to draw you a catastrophic picture, but it is real. On top of that, in Catalonia we have the political situation we have, which is another added problem. So, what happens when a society, a system goes bankrupt? Someone has to pay for it, and that’s how it is. And generally, the people pay for it.
In this case, the people who have a little, who have saved, pensions, etc., pay for it. That’s how it is. All crises are paid for by the people. I will not tell you about cases of banks that we have rescued that, technically, we had to rescue. This is not the problem; the problem is that they have not paid it back. One thing that many people don’t know is that money creation goes through the banks. Money creation systems go through credit. Banks create money when they give you credit; when banks collapse they need money to be injected so that they can create credit and continue the loop. That’s why 60 billion has been taken and given to the banks, to avoid a collapse. This was a necessity, a technical necessity. The problem is that they don’t pay it back. But what was done at the time was the right thing to do.
There is a lot of talk about neoliberalism and many political parties mention it, most of them don’t know what they are talking about because if they knew what neoliberalism is, they wouldn’t talk so calmly, especially with societies that call themselves democratic. I will take a step back to explain where all this comes from, and then we will understand many things that are happening, to be able to make a revolutionary project, you have to have perspective. The world has become globalised and if you don’t have a geopolitical perspective you can’t understand the things that are happening and why they are happening. When you know, you can anticipate what is coming, so that when it happens, you are in a stronger position and are able to get through it better. They are opportunities, crises are opportunities.
This is what I saw in 2015 and until 2016 I was already aware of a few laws being passed that, in some way, opened up access to the banking system to new players. What is now called a neobank, etc. This is an opportunity and that is why 11Onze has already started to prepare for it; in this case, to be able to ride the crest of the wave when they decide to use it. I know that everyone likes to be anti-establishment, but all systems that are set up (political, economic, etc.) are prepared for the anti-establishment backlash. When they are made, they know that they are also made to go against, and they are prepared to stop this. What they are not prepared to do, is to compete. Because they can’t imagine that you, instead of going against them, will go ride their wave, compete with them. What does this mean? Well, that opportunities like 11Onze, when they come to market, will test the banking system because it will do things that they would have to do, they could do, but don’t do them because they don’t want to do them. People don’t know this. They say a bank can’t be ethical because it won’t make money, this is a lie. They say we won’t make it because we need a lot of money. Well, if we are many we will have a lot of money; the money we have is ours. Today we have tools to put our ideas together, to put our efforts together and compete with the system, this is what we are doing.
But going back to the beginning of why we are in this situation, actually this situation was born a hundred years ago. One man, Walter Lippmann, is the father of neoliberalism. He is the one who, at the end of the 19th century, at the beginning of the 20th century, he was a journalist, he is the one who created the word “Cold War” to give you an idea of the influence he had on American politicians. Walter Lippmann said, after the First World War, this is a mess, this can’t be, people are people, they are dumb, and you have to create a system where the best, the elite, decide and the people at the bottom, because they are dumb, will do something useful because there are more intelligent and prepared people who make decisions for them.
All these ideas come from Darwinism, which is called “biologism” in economics; this “the strongest will win” and all this nonsense they explain to us. Some of it is true, but on the other hand, we are people, it is not always the strongest that have to take everything, there are other things that come into play. Therefore, when Lippmann makes this theory, what he intends and above all he says, is that democratic systems have to be set up even if people are deceived because they are not capable of thinking for themselves, therefore, we need an elite.
At the same time, there was another man, John Dewey, who said just the opposite. Dewey said that people are people, and within people there are many people and within the population there are many populations. What you have to do is to create communities that, if you educate them, they themselves will find the economic and social solutions for their own accomplishment. They don’t need a parent to tell them what to do. Many of you can imagine that Dewey didn’t win, right? Because the way things are going…
All these theories around ’38, before the Second World War, were created in France by the Lippmann colloquium, and this is where neoliberalism was born, based on an idea that is totally anti-democratic: you simply have to create an elite that manages the goods, in a way they think it’s suitable for the rest of the people. If you look at it, it had an evolution thirty years later, and now we live in this situation, we have the European Union. People we don’t even know, most of us don’t even vote for, deciding everything. What you can eat, how you can travel, how you can interact, which car you can use… And we don’t know them, we are supposed to vote for them, but we don’t really know what they do. And at the same time, all the laws they decide impact on our lives. This is the neoliberalism that Lippmann wanted to sell and has already sold very well.
You find yourself in a situation where you can’t fight against the system because you don’t even know what the system is all about, you don’t even know where the slaps come from because you are in a system that from education, politics, economics is focused on the very few people controlling it. And unfortunately, when only a few have control, this is not democracy. When a few have control, they generally end up keeping everything and what we have to do, I think, is to go back to what Dewey said. In other words, give people a choice, explain things well, don’t make things complicated, so that they can make a decision. If you look at it, when you go to a bank, you come out, most people think “I’m stupid, I’m nuts” and they, who are supposed to explain all this, don’t understand it either, they are reading a piece of paper. This is very serious, nobody does anything about it. But without money, you cannot live. Without money you can’t eat, you can’t study, you can’t have a house…. Money is so important, so central, that I think it is absolutely insane that people are not told where it comes from, how it works, basic things. So that when you go to a bank you can understand it and make a decision. But this is of no interest because it comes from the same idea that we are not capable of managing our resources on our own. It all comes from the same source which is purely and simply anti-democratic.
I’ve been here for 30 years, I’m 51 now, so I came here when I was 21, for the Olympics. I won’t bore you with my CV, but I have travelled all over the world, I have set up companies in all places (continents) except Australia. Therefore, I know a bit about what the world is about and Catalonia has a peculiarity that is tremendous, something that most people here ignore: the associative capacity that exists here is almost nowhere to be found. In Catalonia there are 70,298 associations, more or less one association for every 100 inhabitants. There is no other place like it with the essence that this land has. That people do things together. By doing things together, this country does extraordinary things. That is why from history we have, arguably, the first Parliament. Maybe we don’t agree, but it seems that we do. We are talking about more than a thousand years ago when people were not thinking about our current situation, we said well, let’s get organised and decide, right?
We have a more recent case, the 1st of October, in which you could imagine everything, except that people would end up defending, hiding… I have personally seen people in my village preparing to run through the bush with a ballot box and not mentally. Running, going up and down to see how they would do it if the Guardia Civil came. It’s something that doesn’t happen anywhere, I don’t know what happens here, but there is a feeling of “once we all decide to do something, nobody can stop it”. It happened at the Olympic Games, in Barcelona they were totally different, their distinguishing feature was the volunteers. It was incredible! I came here getting paid, and the volunteers pushed me to work harder and they didn’t get paid. It was non-stop and this gave a strength to the games that has never been seen before, then volunteers began to be introduced in other games.
It is a land of coming together and creating things. You have to know this. That’s why I thought, in the current situation, with what is coming, I have to look for a formula to get us back into partnership; normal, everyday people. To pool our knowledge, that’s why we have an exceptional management team, and I’m not just saying that because they are here. I have done some pretty special things with extraordinary teams, but I have never, ever had such a powerful team of executives. They are excellent, you will see in time, they are excellent globally. The people that work here are extremely good, people everybody would want to have, and they are here doing this.
Also, in reference to this, it’s so strange, in the Civil War, which by the way, badly called Civil War because it was a coup d’état… but the compelling thing about this issue is that it ended up being lost because of a lack of capacity and geopolitical vision. What happened here in Catalonia is one of the most powerful events of social change in the 20th century, on a par with movements such as communism. People decided to create communes and start managing; 70% of the industries in Barcelona were run by the employees and the best thing is that they worked better than before. And this cannot be done in a context where capitalism is being created on the one hand and socialism on the other, which, by the way, are the same thing because they are dedicated to managing scarcity.
Capitalism and socialism manage scarcity: I keep this for myself and since I alone control it, I have power. They do not manage abundance, all the world’s economic systems are set up with this idea of scarcity management and the control of a few over everything. These are two mechanisms that you will see in all social and economic models. This is the barrier that you don’t see, and that you don’t understand, what you are doing and you never get out of it because it is set up like this. You can go against the system with strikes, which is fine, but they are not sustainable, you can’t go on strike for six years or three months. What you have to do is organise and compete, this country is ready to do that because mentally, people are capable of doing these things.
If you look at the logo that some of you are wearing, all of this is represented. You go through these images without knowing the content, but if you look at it, we have a number eleven that everybody thinks “11th of September”. I personally think 11th August, death of Guifré el Pilós. You have the bars of the Olympic village, the Mapfre towers, you have the 1st of October, when we have the four bars written at 11Once as the flag of Catalonia. I explain these things to you because the content is in the symbols, now when you see them you will understand more of our things represented by 11Onze. That is why we have decided to create 11Onze: to resurrect the capacity of this land to create things for the people, but doing it with the people. This is the first part of “where it all comes from”.
This is all very nice, but what do we do with all this, right? The opportunity we have is that, to change things, we have technologies. The ability to interact so quickly with each other and exchange goods and services is fundamental. In fact, it is a global paradigm shift, if you look at it, we are making a shift from managing scarcity to managing abundance and I will give you examples, so you can see symbols of this paradigm shift, why it has changed. Businesses that will be successful, have to do it within this paradigm, because technology has given people more information… faster, governments have fallen because of Twitter for a reason. When people have more access and more contact, they create. And if people create, they compete. Complaining, licking our wounds is getting us nowhere. Look at the mentality of what abundance management is. Facebook, what does it manage? Knowledge, content, abundance. Uber, instead of having the taxi system controlled by a few, by scarcity; I put my car and I can do it. It blows it up. Airbnb, controlled hotels, laws, etc., well, no. I put my house and it’s over. Technology manages abundance. All businesses that work is because of this abundance management. Abundance is people. This is what 11Onze wants to do and can do because not only do we have the technology, the legal framework that was opened in 2017 allows us to create a bank. If we have the technology, and we have the knowledge, we set up a bank.
And here we will set our conditions. It will be legal, we will do it with their tools, their rules, but we will do it our way. It is legal. If we want to give mortgages at zero interest, then we give them a zero interest, because money costs -0.5. Now we are in negative interest, having money in the bank costs money, so there is money left over. If they already give it to me at -0.5, I can give it at 0, I still earn 0.5, why do I have to give it at 2 or 3%? I don’t need to.
At the end of the day when you manage and spread the risk among many, the risk becomes small, so you can take it. Then it has to be distributed fairly and in a way that is equivalent to the effort that each person is making and the risk that he or she is also assuming. It wouldn’t be fair to take on a small risk and make little effort and have more than the other. We are entering into a type of communism and stories that are still the same thing, don’t be fooled. We have to share the risks, but we also have to be fair and that the distribution is made according to the effort and the risk that each one assumes. This is a natural distribution, this is what we want to do with 11Onze without going into detail, because when you go into detail you will see it in the products just as you will see it in the logo, you will see it in how we do things. The basis is there, you have it. Do you need someone to come and say, listen, why don’t we build a human castle? The only place in the world where people get together and make a human castle, you are unaware of it, but it’s everywhere! It’s the essence of this populace, that’s why we shouldn’t have any doubts, if we put our minds to it, we’ll do it. And moreover, we can say it openly because the only people who can stop it are other people. No government, no lobby, no Ibex can stop it.
It will happen like with the 1O, if we decide, and we have the tools, we will do it. There is no need to hide, that’s why we explain from the beginning that we are doing this and why the selection process is so important. You have gone through a very specific selection process. Some of you probably still doubt why you are here, if you haven’t studied anything like this. That’s normal, but you are the 1%, and you are here for a reason. Because you can do what we want to do, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. You have earned your place here. Focus on learning as much as you can, by sharing knowledge with each other, we are trying to create balanced groups with parity. You will see that all three generations are here, they are here to reinforce this sharing of knowledge and habits. If you focus on learning, you will come out of here much stronger, much more aware of what a few of us, 50 and soon 150, can make and can do to change society.
This is what I wanted to explain to you today so that you understand the essence and by the way, it is not new to set up a community bank. Building societies are, well, they were. And why have they disappeared? Why have we moved to a model where resources are distributed in a way that is controlled only by four banks? And if it can’t be explained, and there is no example like 11Onze, we do not awaken the desire of someone who says “now I’m going to set up an electricity company”. We get together, we look for engineers, everybody joins this electricity company, and we sell the electricity for half the price. Now there are many laws that allow it because they have written them themselves and if we don’t take this opportunity now, maybe 50 years from now you will be the ones be asking someone else to set something up.
James, what do you expect from Catalonia’s future project 6 years from now?
I can tell you what I hope 11Onze will do for the country. Our idea is to create a bank that anticipates the market, I can assure you that in five years we will have the capacity and control over our finances. It is not that complicated. The structure we have created at 11Onze, as a bank, has a foundation in Switzerland for strategic reasons and the profits go here. The foundation has it written that all the money will be invested in Catalonia, you just have to know in which sectors. If we establish them strategically, we will control 40% of Catalonia’s GDP. We have a way of doing things, there is nothing coincidental about it. We will do it, don’t doubt it. The more people we rescue, the more capacity we will have and the more stability there will be in our markets. And when people see that by coming together we can do real things, they will start demanding things. And then we can talk about where we can go, we can’t pick and choose if we don’t have money.