When it comes to what we buy, us Brits have a conscience.
More of us than ever are turning our noses up at plastic bags, plastic straws and plastic packaging in supermarkets, choosing organic food and generally trying to do our bit with what we buy.
But when it comes to our personal finances? Not so much. The giant, mono-brands of HSBC, Lloyds, Natwest and RBS are still top of the tree for current accounts, despite their questionable environmental impact.
Renewable energy tariffs are making waves, thanks to the likes of Bulb Energy, but when it comes to banking, we don’t necessarily equate where our money is kept with doing our bit.
Yet we might just be on the cusp of a much more diverse and competitive banking market, thanks to the new wave of digital banks, such as Monzo and Starling, as well as other more traditional rivals, such as Virgin Money and Metro.
One area where challengers can steal a march on the Big Four is on this thorny subject of what banks actually do with your money. Less established banks have the opportunity to make a virtue of their lack of contact with some of the world’s most harmful industries (compared with the big banks). Some are doing just that – and it appears to be winning them customers.
A history of inertia
Despite a more competitive market and increasingly easy methods of switching current account, research shows that the average UK account holder still has a longer relationship with their bank than their husband or wife.
Incredibly, Brits stay with their account provider on average five and half years longer than the length of the average marriage (that’s 17 years compared to 11.5 years). A little less than one million customers on average a year since 2013 have bothered to switch banks.
#Upbanking – banking with purpose
Despite this inertia, Triodos Bank, the UK’s most sustainable bank and Good Egg mark holder, is acquiring switchers who are attracted by the opportunity for their money to work for real social and environmental change.
Banks don’t tend to make a big song and dance about what they do with our cash – that’s perhaps because it’s often not that great. Barclays finances tar sands projects in Canada, for instance (curiously, you don’t see acres of blackened earth on the TV ads) while HSBC said this weekend that it would continue to finance coal projects in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.
A recent report from True Digital suggests that values – not overdraft interest rates or even customer service records – could be the key motivator to switch bank accounts.
The report, Breaking Inertia, points out that some account switchers are already looking beyond the old, larger institutions for a bank that matches their values.
Good With Money calls this #Upbanking.
Should I #upbank?
If you have a bog standard current account from a high street provider, the chances are your money could be serving you and society better.
If features such as the overdraft interest rate or in-credit interest rate are not too important to you, then the chances are your money could be making more of a positive difference, without hurting your pocket.
The main alternatives to the big four are Triodos, Co-op Bank and Nationwide, although some digital challengers including Starling are also shaping up their ethical appeal, so it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on them.
See our pick of the top guilt-free current accounts here.
Still not sure?
Here are 32 signs you are a potential upbanker:
- You buy your lunch from Planet Organic, Whole Foods or CRUSH
- You take a re-useable coffee cup into coffee shops with you
- You own, or would like to own, a S’Well water bottle
- You make a weekly trip to your local farm shop
- You love David Attenborough, yet sometimes find his programmes too upsetting to watch
- You hang your washing on the line at the merest hint of sun
- You feel guilty every time you throw something away
- You holiday in the UK primarily to avoid causing air traffic pollution
- You have a green energy tariff from the likes of Bulb, Pure Planet or Green Star for the environment as well as for your pocket (see this pick of cheap-ish renewable suppliers)
- You choose from the organic range at H&M, despite sometimes preferring the other items
- You drive a diesel because you were told it was better for the environment and now hate yourself for it
- You find adverts for banks patronising/ cynical/ unsettling
- You are uninspired by your bank
- You resent your current bank
- You could not care less about your current bank
- You are mildly to strongly infatuated with Elon Musk
- You are vegan
- If you do eat meat, you feel guilty about it
- You buy organic rather than essentials or basics ranges
- You go to music festivals
- You give money to Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the RSPB or the National Trust
- You go camping
- You are fundamentally disillusioned with the ability of successive governments to provide for society’s most needy
- You know what WOKE means
- You suspect some might call you bleeding heart
- You suspect some might call you a snowflake
- You think that capitalism is a reflection of humanity rather than a fundamentally corrupt economic system
- You know you could do a bit more to do your bit, but can’t be bothered
- You want your kids to be proud of you
- You long to own a Tesla or just any electric vehicle
- You’d like to live in a zero carbon eco-home
- You’re just a good person
Why Kat Brealey #Upbanked
Triodos customer Kat Brealey recognised the importance of this opportunity for social impact, saying that the Triodos Current Account was a chance for her to make a clear statement about the kind of world she wanted to live in and the kind of values she wanted to support.
“For me, switching to a Triodos Current Account is just another piece of the puzzle in terms of being proactive about trying to live according to my values – so once the option became available, I wanted to take it. These days I’m keen that my money doesn’t just ‘not do bad,’ but actively does good – which is why the Triodos model appeals.”
Want to upbank to Triodos? Pay it a visit :www.triodos.co.uk/change