The Church of England has called for an investigation into its own pension fund after a national newspaper discovered it had links to Wonga – the payday lender the Archbishop of Canterbury said he wants to take on.
The Financial Times said the fund, which claims to have a strong ethical investment policy that explicitly bans companies involved in payday lending, has invested in Accel Partners, the US venture capital firm that led Wonga’s 2009 fundraising.
The Most Rev Justin Welby had said the Church of England wanted to “compete” Wonga out of existence as part of its plans to expand credit unions as an alternative to payday lenders.
A Lambeth Palace statement 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.”
It added: “We will also be requesting the Church Commissions to investigate whether there are any other inconsistencies as normally all investment policies are reviewed by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG).”
Earlier, a Yorkshire credit union welcomed the Archbishop of Canterbury taking on the payday lender.
Hull and East Yorkshire Credit Union (HEYCU), one of the country’s largest with over 10,000 members, said the Archbishop recognised they were “trying to create a fairer alternative”.
HEYCU chief executive John Smith said it was now a case of raising awareness of what credit unions offer and for them to “step up to the plate” and give as speedy a service as their competitors.
The credit union’s annual percentage rate is capped to 26.8 per cent while Wonga, which markets itself as a short term lender, charges a representative APR of 5,853 per cent.
Wonga said it welcomed competition “that enables people to manage their financial affairs effectively”.