The 10 scary places that banks invest your money

Written by Lisa Stanley Mann on 28th Oct 2015

Real life horror stories are everywhere. No, not poltergeists – the investment decisions of banks and fund managers operating sans conscience.

The money in your bank account doesn’t just sit in a vault gathering cobwebs until you push your pin number into the hole in the wall. Your chosen financial provider puts that money to work, for bad as well as good.

Of course, not all banks invest scarily, some are practically angelic (Triodos has just launched the UK’s most sustainable bank account), whereas others are on the road to spiritual recovery.

There’s no need to get completely spooked. If you’re not happy about any of the investments below, then simply challenge your bank, or vote with your feet and switch.

Recent figures from the Current Account Switching Service put the number of switchers at just 0.31 per cent of account holders, with Nationwide attracting the bulk of them with its 5 per cent in credit interest offer.

However, Triodos reckons that people also feel more inclined to switch bank accounts if their new account promises more of a sense of purpose.

Bevis Watts, Managing Director of Triodos Bank UK says: “The response we’ve had to our new current account indicates that people are motivated to switch banks—they just needed a bank to reflect their values. For many years now, consumers have had the opportunity to align their values with the food they choose to buy, the transport they take, and the energy they consume. Now they have that choice with their daily finances. Switchers to Triodos know that we are completely transparent about where we lend their money, and that it is working towards positive social, cultural, and environmental change.”

For an easy-to-navigate summary of which bank’s invested where, and what may be potentially ‘dodgy deals’ as they call them, take a look at Bank Track, which publishes a global list of banks, sorted by country; the companies they invest in, and the focus of those companies.

1. Fracking

A number of banks are invested in fracking companies, no surprises there. But you might be spooked to learn that Barclays owns 97 per cent of Third Energy, the company that had hoped to start fracking in Yorkshire.

2. Rainforest destruction in Borneo

Rainforests in Indonesia and Borneo are being destroyed for the extraction of thermal coal.

3. Mountain-top coal mining 

Several banks have funded US companies engaged in Mountain Top Removal, although many have since divested from such companies.

4. Human rights abuses 

UK financial institutions have invested in an American company, CSC, which was allegedly involved in CIA rendition flights.

If these four areas haven’t spooked you enough already, you can use the Bank Track website to explore more, including:

5. Destruction of the Great Barrier Reef

6. Oil production from tar sands

7. Deforestation, habitat degradation, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses in the production palm oil

8. Animal testing

9. Controversial dams in countries such as Laos, Myanmar, Brazil and Chile.

10. High-frequency trading (dark pools)

Sign up to our weekly newsletter

Get better with money, in every way.