Ethical Banking for Co-operatives

You likely know this but just wanted to highlight that most money in the economy is lent into existence by private banks, which yes invest in and are controlled by all sorts of very dodgy people and stuff (HSBC was literally founded on opium, although to be fair loads of big old companies on the stock market made their fortunes dealing arms or drugs or both, plus lots of slavery and plundering thrown in for good measure - often all of the above combined).

And I’d bet pretty much every CoTech co-op have bank accounts with unethical banks too (because the ethical options are so limited)?

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We bank with Unity Trust, they don’t provide debit cards and their, Microsoft powered, website isn’t great but they are more ethical than the Co-operative Bank who were previously with…

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Yeah I’d say they are the best option overall for relatively ethical business banking. Triodos good too but charge for absolutely everything. And some seem to report good experiences with Metro Bank too (who also score relatively highly on ethical rankings).

But Unity Trust e.g. to invest in arms etc (indeed, as I understand it - but only from hearsay, it was the Co-ops Bank’s ethical policies which excluded arms and hence Trade Unions of workers in the arms industry too, which led to the creation Unity Trust) and quite a few people who’ve I recommended them too were turned down when they applied for an account :-/

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Hang on a moment. Unity Trust - which as I remember is basically reselling NatWest - is more ethical than the Co-op? That’s a matter of opinion. Coop remains the only bank with a customer-led ethical policy. Having seen the process close up I can vouch for the genuine response to customer demand.

What bank other than the Co-op has an independent cooperative Customer Union? All CoTech members invited to join (just £12 a year!)

Perhaps we should split this discussion of banking off into a new thread?

The problem I had with the Co-operative Bank, in 2014/2015 when Webarchitects decided to to move, was that the bank appeared to be following a neocon agenda, first they closed Cage’s account, then the Cuba Solidarity Campaign account and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign accounts. The last straw for me was the closure of the Sheffield PSC accounts as many of the activists are friends and neighbors.

We - the customer union - have spent many (oh so many) hours working on this issue - largely in cooperation with Amnesty who commissioned an in-depth report (Newsletter 28 April 2017 | Save Our Bank). We co-organised a seminar and PSC attended (Workshop on NGOs and banking sector | Save Our Bank). It is so very much more complicated than we imagined. De-risking affects many NGOs with banks all over the world. There is some Neocon background in the US regulator that is behind some of the de-risking but not in the leadership of the Co-op bank. Frankly then hedge funds don’t give a hoot, they just want the bank to stop losing money so they can sell up and get out. The bank handled some of it very badly - closed account unnecessarily (around 400, mostly SMEs but also about 50 NGOs) - and they have apologised. And stopped. The problem is much bigger in other banks. PSC moved to Unity Trust and credit to Unity Trust for taking that on (the Co-op was terrified of a regulator fine). That the Co-op responded as they did to our protests builds confidence for me that they are worth saving.

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What might be worth doing is looking at the business bank accounts provided by the London Community Credit Union.

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sorry Billy I don’t see any business accounts mentioned on LCU - am I missing something?

I’m using one! :slight_smile:

It’s possible that they haven’t updated their website.

I ALWAYS deal with them by physically going in to one of their branches.

I NEVER use any online banking, as i had ID theft back around 2000, so i got in the habit of being even more paranoid than normal. After i explained to the manager what had happened, and how much it had cost me, they said that they were happy to accommodate my needs.

(Hint: It’s not paranoia when you know someone is out to get you… :smiley: )

Last time i spoke with them, they were working on a set of updates to their account systems, so i’ll mention this to the manager tomorrow, and i’ll let you know what they tell me.

I had a chat with the staff at my local branch.

They have changed their website, and the staff that i spoke to hadn’t realised that the business bank accounts weren’t mentioned there.

( There may be the possibility of Outlandish, or another Co-op doing WebDev work for getting some contracting out of this… :smiley: )

They took the details of Space4, Outlandish, and the London-CoTech-MeetUp group, and they emailed the Community Engagement Officer, who’s the person that’s responsible for this sort of thing.

When i described the co-working space, and the number of co-operatives that were there, they were very interested, and said that they would be in touch.

I’ll follow up by email, and drop over to their main office on Monday.

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Thanks for this thread.

This is kinda old now but I did have this bookmarked:

I did look at Nationwide business accounts as I have had an account there for 12 years but you have to have a minimum inital deposit of £10,000 :astonished:

For us personally, it seems like the Co-operative Bank is the only viable option in terms of having no fees, solid online banking and having an actual card.

Though it seems the Unity Trust offices are in Birmingham. Maybe I can go chat to them.

The web based business banking system they had when we left was a fairly terrible off-the-shelf one — totally different from their customer account site and looking at the login form it doesn’t appear to have changed, Unity Trust’s interface isn’t much better and if having a debit card matters then Unity Trust isn’t an option.

I take that back. Have heard the same from others also :dizzy_face:

Yeah I had a coop bank business account some years ago and the online service was a disaster. Also the local co-op branches don’t deal with the business accounts so you can’t actually go in an deposit cash or cheques

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If this is still of interest to people, we’re currently looking at moving our main account so looking for alternatives to The Co-op Bank.

It’s nothing personal, they just don’t seem to offer the services we need right now which is a shame.

If anyone has any recent experiences, or more up to date information than the above I’d love to hear it. Otherwise let me know if this is still of interest to people, or not that important any more.

If you are definiertly going to move your account away from the Co-operative Bank I think it would be really useful if you were to get in touch with the people at the ‘Save Our Bank’ customer union, run - at least in part by @shaun - to let them know what services you are missing and your rationale for moving your account elsewhere. They seem to have real influence now with the bank’s senior management.

Co-operative Web is a relatively substantial co-operative business last time I looked, and is exactly the type of business that the Co-operative Bank should be serving.

It may not make a difference to your decision to move, but it might prompt the bank to review it’s service offer to make it more useful to those that remain. Our micro co-op has banked with the Co-op, free of charge, since about 2006. I’ve not seen any compelling reason to move, and despite the occasional problems with service, it doesn’t seem any worse than any of of the dealings I’ve had with other banks over the last 30 years or so. (Don’t get me started about Unity Trust). Which sort of leaves you with Triodos (I’m not aware of any other bank that might reasonably be called “ethical” - something of an oxymoron).

Hi Graham,

Thank you for the link, I will be sure to get in touch.

Like you, we have banked with them since 2006, and haven’t had any issues. Unfortunately we’ve hit two blockers recently for using them for our main account.

If we do find a suitable bank to move to (as we won’t move unless we are convinced it is the right bank), we would still look to keep an account with the Co-op Bank, somewhere we could keep our reserves to both spread the risk, and also keep supporting the bank.

The ethical question is a really tough one, and would be the thing that stops us from moving away. As I say, the decision to move is purely down to missing/changed functionality causing us issues and if there were a way for the bank to resolve these we would most definitely stay. Unfortunately I don’t think they’d be enough of a call for the changes to make it worthwhile for them. But then I could be wrong!

We’re leaving Triodos over a lack of Xero integration, a debit card, and the convoluted international payments system

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So one of the reason we’re leaving Co-op bank is the integration with Xero issues. It used to work seamlessly, however due to recent changes you can no longer import up to date information and they are soon removing the automatic link (14th March) so you will need to do a manual import. Apart from it now being a lot more time consuming, it also brakes our financial forecasting tool.

The second reason is the lack of account access levels, meaning we have to give everyone blanket access. We are just about to add a new member to our accounts team, and want to be able to give different users different access to our accounts.


Hi Nick (thanks Graham).

We’re meeting senior management at the bank on 4th March and would be happy to pick this up. I understood the change in Xero integration affects all banks? The Co-op is very interested in ethically motivated SMEs at the moment and I’m sure they’d respond with vigour to feedback from CoTech members.

The bank has formally recognised the customer union so we’d have more leverage if Co-operative Web were a member. Only £12 a year!