The Archbishop of Canterbury is “furious” after learning the Church of England invests in a key financial backer of Wonga, Sky sources say.
The Most Rev Justin Welby has made no secret of his opposition to the payday loans firm and had earlier said he wanted to “compete” it out of business by expanding the reach of the Church’s credit unions.
But now a link has been found between the Church and the very company that lies within the Archbishop’s sights.
The Financial Times reports that the CofE’s pension fund has put money into Accel Partners, a US venture capital firm that led Wonga’s 2009 fund-raising efforts.
The fund claims to have a strong ethical investment policy that bans firms involved in payday lending.
A Church spokesman said an investigation would be launched.
“We are grateful to the Financial Times for pointing out this serious inconsistency of which we were unaware,” he said.
Mr Welby earlier said he had informed Wonga’s chief executive, Errol Damelin, of his credit union mission.
“I’ve met the head of Wonga and we had a very good conversation and I said to him quite bluntly ‘we’re not in the business of trying to legislate you out of existence, we’re trying to compete you out of existence’,” he told Total Politics magazine.
“He’s a businessman, he took that well.”
The Archbishop launched a new credit union for clergy and church staff earlier this month at the General Synod in York.
Mr Welby, who has served on the parliamentary Banking Standards Commission, has said he plans to expand the reach of credit unions as part of a long-term campaign to boost competition in the banking sector.
The Government is investing £38m in credit unions to help them offer an alternative to payday lenders.
The entire payday lending industry, worth £2bn, was referred last month for a full-blown investigation by the Competition Commission after the trading watchdog uncovered “deep-rooted” problems with the industry.
Wonga is to launch an advertising campaign which will set out “ten commitments” about its lending practices – an apparently tongue-in-cheek reaction to the Archbishop’s remarks.