The 10 scary places that banks invest your money

Written by Lisa Stanley Mann on 28th October 2015

First published October 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, 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.

The average current account holder may even stand to gain financially from switching too, according to last week’s Competition and Markets Authority report.

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 (NB. Shell’s decision today to pull out of Canadian tar sands is significantly good and will mean less money heading there via banks).

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 Chilio

10. High-frequency trading (dark pools)