Thursday, 15 October 2009

Shareholders in humanity -- ethical banking options?

Yes, I know, I know, it's another response to Nick Baines' blog. This time the post was on finances, and the incongruity of the Tory party defending bankers' big bonuses at the same time as proposing a squeeze on the nation's poorest in order to get supposed benefits scammers back to work.

I wrote in comments there:
It may be that there is some kind of scam but I do not perceive it as widespread; even if that perception is in error I suspect that such scamming may be a symptom of a more systemic problem. I think the bankers who are being allowed such astronomical bonuses are the bigger scammers. They’re also much easier to catch, but for the fact that as a society we have allowed ourselves to place so much value and worth in money that our elected politicians are cowed by the threat of these people throwing their toys out of the pram if someone asks them to behave responsibly toward humanity rather than just shareholders.

Of course if I look at it as a systemic problem with the way we assign value and worth, I’m every bit as culpable as the bankers or any real or imagined benefits scammers. Ouch. And so my question for myself, as always, concerns what I can do to mend that, what I must do to re-align my own values and develop integrity so that my thoughts, words and deeds reflect the innate worth of every human being. I don’t have all the answers to that (sorry Kevin!) but I’ll keep trying to learn.

We are all shareholders in humanity.

How, you might ask, am I culpable?

One of the big ways is that I bank at a high street bank. I don't have much in the way of savings, but millions of others who also don't have much are still enabling the bank to lend out our money... probably not all that ethically. I think we've seen well enough in the last two years how unsustainable some lending policies are.

I don't know if there is ever a good ethical case for charging interest on loans; the usury discussion is something for another time. Meanwhile, I'll be having a good look around this website which is provided by EiRIS, and seeing if I can find a better bank.

I'm also interested in your recommendations, if you're in the UK and have banked with an "ethical" bank or credit union.

Once I have any spare money I'll be looking at things like Kiva, Zopa and MyC4.


Ernest said...


The only ethical bank that I am aware of is the Cooperative Bank, who run their whole business on ethical lines.

I have used them in the past and found them to be very good.

I changed due to circumstances to another Bank, but am thinking of going back to them.

The Exegesis Fairy said...

I bank with the Co-op and also with Halifax.

I'm trying to switch over.

However, banking with the Co-op is, with the best will in the world, like banking with your slightly dotty great-aunt.

Once the account is set up, you're great. But they suffer from a lack of back room staff, so it'll take longer than your average high street bank to get set up.

From there on, you're mostly ok.

Sometimes you have to tell them things a couple of times.

Exactly like your dotty great-aunt.