The inside track on banks
Editor Rob Harrison on our new banking report
As part of Move Your Money Month our special banking report was released for free earlier this month. Below editor Rob Harrison gives us the inside view on the report...
1) Did you have a dialogue with the companies? Which were the best/worst companies at responding to requests for information?
Best were the ethical companies Ecology Building Society, Triodos, Charity Bank and Co-op. We speak to these guys regularly anyway, we know their ethics and that ethics are central to what they are doing.
Also good were Tesco, HSBC and Santander which was surprising as larger companies often don't get back.
Everyone else failed to respond - except Handlesbanken which was a late entry and didn't get one sent out.
2) What areas of interest were you forced to leave out of the final report due to lack of space?
We left out extra details on credit unions which is a shame because they are an interesting alternative to the commercial banking sector for two reasons. Firstly they provide credit to people that often can't get bank accounts and secondly they are highly democratic. Look out for more on credit unions in the next issue of the magazine.
3) Is there anything you'd like to research further?
We wanted to look at ethical procurement policies at banks, and possibly do some benchmarking around carbon impact measurement. This was difficult due to the masses of information that we found when researching our regular categories. I think generally we are going to look at making these categories integral to what we do but it takes time to get it right. We only use categories that are well planned out and have real relevance.
4) Are ethics improving in this sector?
Probably not. The financial crisis has messed so hard with core business models at a lot of banks and so their focus has been elsewhere over the last three years. This a massive irony because the crisis should have been the perfect time to force the banks into changing their policies especially those that are tax payer owned. We could have seen a very society focused banking sector but its business as usual which is probably only storing up problems for the future.
5) Did anything surprise you?
The level of resources coming from civil society sector in really
detailed analyses of unsustainable lending practices. There are groups from all over investing lots of time into the research from Banktrack to grassroots organisations in South Africa and you can now find cut down versions of much of this on our database. As I said in the question above I think people see that now is the time to apply some pressure so we can see some real change. Also I think campaigners and the public alike are genuinely angry with the collapse and the lack of real action since it. That's why we are getting campaigns like Move your Money kicking off.
6) What would or do you buy?
Predictably, Smile (current), EBS (savings) and Triodos (ISA)
7)What would be your one wish in this sector for:
Move your money...
No more lending to dirty fuels...
split retail and investment banking properly
Our special banking report is now available for free as part of Move Your Money Month.