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Supporting ethical banking

May 28, 2012

People are increasingly interested to know how they can influence Britain’s big companies.  The “shareholder spring” has seen a revolt against boardroom greed.  The AGMs of Barclays Bank and Trinity Mirror, among others, saw shareholders saying they were fed up with directors awarding themselves super salaries and fat bonuses that did not reflect company performance.

Most people don’t own shares.  But we’re all consumers and we can use our spending power to influence company behaviour.  Like many people, I try to be discriminate in my shopping.  I usually buy bread, milk and the local paper from the independent shop in my street, rather than a supermarket.  When in the supermarket I try to buy local produce – why on earth does anyone in Bristol buy Canadian cheddar cheese?!  I would guess that most people behave in a similar way, though our individual actions would be more effective if part of a wider campaign.

Such campaigns to use mass spending power to effect change have been around for a long time.  In the late 18th century many Bristolians shunned goods linked to slavery.  It wasn’t for another century that Captain Boycott, shunned by his Irish tenants, gave his name to avoiding disreputable individuals and companies.  As a student I had a “Boycott Barclays” poster, protesting the banks links with apartheid era South Africa.  As people are more likely to divorce than move their bank account I would guess that Barclays to this day has a smaller than normal market share of accounts held by my generation of graduates.

Now there’s a 21st century campaign to change banking.  Originating in the United States, the Move Your Money campaign seeks to punish banks that have not changed their behaviour since the financial crisis of 2008/9.  I met the founders of the UK branch of Move Your Money in my Westminster office 6 months ago.  I tabled a Commons motion supporting their aims and mentioned them in a debate on banking.  We agreed that I would also move some of my own money to support the campaign.

I opened my account with the Midland Bank when I was in the sixth form.  So I’ve been with HSBC for a quarter century.  I’ve had no problem with them and they weathered the financial storm better than most and did not need a taxpayer funded bailout.  So I’m not completely boycotting them.  But I am going to deposit my savings with a bank that has a different business model.  I’ve chosen Dutch bank Triodos, which just happens to have its UK headquarters in Bristol.

So on Friday, the same day as HSBC’s AGM, I went to Triodos’s office to meet the team.  I’ve now opened an ISA with them and will deposit £1,000.  I will also move my existing HSBC ISA account to Triodos.  I know that my savings will be used by Triodos to invest in businesses that are “working to make a positive environmental , cultural or social impact” in Britain.

I hope my move will encourage others to move their money.

More on Move Your Money here:

More on Triodos Bank here:

13 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2012 8:45 pm

    It’s brilliant seeing Lib Dems like you supporting the cause of ethical banking. I think we should be doing more as a party to support this campaign.

  2. Faiz permalink
    May 29, 2012 11:28 am

    I agree with you, I always ask not only the banks but, also companies if they invest or use call centres in India. this is to high light human rights abuses in Indian held Kashmir.

  3. May 29, 2012 5:19 pm

    I think Move Your Money came out of the Occupy movement, didn’t it Stephen? A tacit endorsement? Or just coincidence?

    • May 29, 2012 10:39 pm

      It certainly stems from anger with the Wall Street banks carrying on “business as usual” after the bail out. But think Move Your Money predates the Occupy protest. Besides, the aim of the campaign is to build up local banks, not smash up capitalism. Of course in the UK it is really difficult to move your money to a local bank because the vast majority of local building societies floated and then got swallowed up by the big banks. The Coalition Govt’s banking reforms will inject some more competition back into the high street.
      The origins of Move Your Money are explained here:

  4. Chris Bury permalink
    May 30, 2012 2:51 pm

    Very good Stephen. I had to open an account when I signed on for disability in 1996. Co-op bank was the opnly one which allowed me an account. I am still with them.

  5. May 31, 2012 5:03 pm

    I’ve had an ISA with Triodos for the best part of the last decade. Switching to politics, I would be happier if all Lib Dems in government put their money where you have – in particular the Climate Change minister needs to take on Osborne over the latter’s disgraceful fronting for fossil fuels and his deliberate lack of support for renewables.

    • May 31, 2012 8:57 pm

      John – I assure you there is plenty of creative tension within the government on green issues. Ed Davey is following Chris Huhne as a strong minister for making the govt green – the Green Deal starts later this year (several pilot projects already in place in Bristol) and the Green Investment Bank will make its first investments.

  6. Nigel deshpande permalink
    June 1, 2012 8:40 pm

    Do you support genuine reform of the financial system through a robin hood tax on socially useless financial transactions. Cameron has opposed this as one would expect from the tory’s. What are the lib dems doing and why aren’t we seeing progress on this.
    Nigel – a frustrated and angry constituent!

    • June 2, 2012 2:05 pm

      Nigel – I’m also interested in this issue. I’ve met the leaders of the campaign and arranged for them to come to the LIb Dem Treasury & Business Committee of ministers, MPs and Peers, which I chair. But it’s important to understand what the “Robin Hood Tax” is all about. It has three elements – a levy on banks, a financial activities tax (FAT – ie extra profits tax) and a FTT, financial transactions tax. The Coalition Govt has introduced the first one, raising > £2.5billion a year. It’s the last one that’s a real headache. The UK could not do this on our own, without New York, Hong Kong and other financial centres also moving. So pressure for the FAT is more likely to pay off.
      Also – the coalition of charities that back a RHT want the money to be mainly spent on international development. The UK will by next year be the first major economy in the world to spend 0.7% of our GDP on overseas aid. A remarkable fact, given our economic circumstances and the downward pressure on other budgets.

  7. June 7, 2012 9:25 pm

    Really pleased to see you publicising the move your money campaign and moving money into an ethical bank.

    The “Just Banking” conference partly sponsored by Triodos raised lots of interesting ideas and it would be great to see some of these being discussed and promoted by politicians.

    I have been very disappointed with the lack of a response to the financial crisis by politicians, it seems that the approach is to prop things up and hope we can get back to how it was before (from both this government and Labour). I support the “Positive Money” campaign ( ) to educate the public about the monetary system and their proposals to end money creation by private by banks as debt, and am pleased to see some MPs such as Steve Baker for the Tories and Michael Meacher for Labour (any Libdems?) being involved and seemingly being keen to make it a cross party issue. Even if you don’t agree with all the proposals of “Positive Money” surely we need much more control of the financial system to avoid ever increasing inequality between the rich and poor ? I think spending on overseas aid is missing the point if the financial system is left unchanged.

    Thanks again for writing about this anyway, it’s something that should have much more coverage in the media.

  8. June 16, 2012 12:41 pm

    Reblogged this on stevenraisondotorg and commented:
    Good to see fellow lib dem bank with triodos been customer since 1998


  1. Les Bonner » Blog Archive » Stephen Williams: Supporting ethical banking
  2. Stephen Williams joins ‘Move Your Money’ campaign to promote ethical banking « Steve Beasant

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