Consuming Issues: Stop moaning about your bank - just go somewhere else
Saturday 26 February 2011
Capitalism is an undemocratic system. Unlike democracy, some have more "votes" than others, because they own more shares in an institution, or because they have more to spend on certain things in certain places. Still, we consumers have more power than we might realise. Without us there would be no companies. Or indeed banks, to bring me to my point. For if you are really, really upset about the bonuses the banks are paying to their traders and managers – £6bn in all – then my suggestion is to do something about beyond whinging. And that something is to move your account. Put at its simplest; if you don't like the £9m Barclays is paying to its boss Bob Diamond, say, then you can always boycott Barclays.
You may recognise that phrase because it worked before. The Boycott Barclays campaign in the 1970s and 1980s – especially among students – helped to persuade Barclays to divest from its operations in apartheid South Africa. It took 16 years, but in 1986 the bank buckled and sold the subsidiaries. The same pressure could be brought to bear today. Why, you might l ask, should I have to disrupt all my regular payments and go though heaps of hassle just because the people who run my bank are greedy? To which the answer is threefold.
First, it is easier than ever to switch bank accounts. Much has been written, rightly, about the pitifully feeble competitive state of the market for banking services, but you will still find that another bank will be keen to take your business, even your overdraft. I had an email the other day from Santander offering me £100 to switch to them. I have no idea whether their deal is really value for money, but I mention it as a small piece of evidence that the banks are not that indifferent to winning custom. So the hassle may not be as onerous as you think, and you can quite easily join an arguably more ethical organisation such as theCo-op Bank, say, or the Nationwide Building Society.
Second, this is one of the few ways you can influence the behaviour of a corporate in a capitalist society. Short of building up a substantial shareholding, the only thing that bank customers can do is to move their accounts. We don't think twice about huffily declaring to supermarket checkout staff or a budget airline representative that we will take our custom elsewhere if we encounter poor service. That ought to include the way that companies treat their employees and fulfil whatever social obligations you happen to think fit. To take other, more ethically-driven examples, we don't have to buy trainers made in sweatshops or bananas grown on exploitative plantations or go on holiday to repressive regimes, and we don't have to bank with people we don't like.
Third, I ask you to consider the sophisticated view that a bank that pays extraordinarily large sums of money to people to take unnecessary, dangerous risks with your money is not really a safe or suitable place to leave your money. It is true that there is an industry compensation scheme and the Government guarantees deposits up to quite a high threshold (£85,000 last time I looked); but, as long history shows us, governments and guarantees come and go. In the final reckoning we should all take responsibility for what we do with our own cash, just as we do when we buy a car with a reputation for passenger safety, or choose a school for our children or assess the crash record of an airline. There is such a thing as responsibility, and it doesn't just apply to the bankers.
I will not be shifting my bank account from NatWest because I'm not that bothered about what they pay Stephen Hester and his colleagues, as such. I agree that the amounts are obscene. I agree that it is especially distasteful in a state-owned institution. I agree the whole banking system has been reliant on state support on the cheap, and they are being cheeky. My perspective is simply that there is a lot of high pay and social injustice around and corporate abuse, and I would be happy to tax all of the rich in a fairer, more rational fashion.
So I would levy heavier taxes on the incomes and wealth of the traders and execs of banks irrespective of state support at all; on the overpaid directors of companies far removed from finance; on aristocrats; non-dom billionaires; property speculators; fat cat lawyers; agri-farmers; pop stars; premiership footballers; local authority chief executives, the whole plutocratic lot. I would vote for it. And I would stop whinging about the banks.
Independent Partners: See how much you could save by switching credit cards. Compare now
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
Look beyond the usual shows for the best festive telly
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
The battle for control of Stieg Larsson's £30m legacy
Bargain Hunter: Keep taking the tablets to get £30 off a new Kindle Fire
Mark Dampier: Britain's small-cap funds punched well above their weight this year
Questions of Cash: I want to top up my national insurance contributions and get a better pension
How to start your own internet business
A savings account is not the best place to save
- 1 Tim Sherwood challenges Daniel Levy to set out vision for Tottenham Hotspur’s future
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 #Teamnigella: It’s the only side to be on
- 5 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£59999 - £80001 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: A Top 10 firm in ...
£50000 - £75000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Harrington Starr: Project Manage...
£60000 - £90000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Harrington Starr: Business Analy...
£Negotiable: Citifocus: High calibre individual with institutional client serv...
Day In a Page
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds
A four-bedroom chalet bungalow with three bathrooms and a spacious garden, £525,000
A two-bedroom flat with an open plan kitchen and two balconies, close to Arsenal station
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A Grade II-listed home with six bedrooms, secluded landscaped gardens and views across Hadley Green
A Grade II-listed mansion with two apartments and a cottage, near Gretna Green
A three-bedroom Grade II-listed mews house with vaulted ceilings and roof garden
A spacious Grade II-listed family home with annexe and equestrian facilities among four acres of land in Itchingfield
A four-bedroom home with exposed brick walls and open fires in the picturesque village of Northill
A Grade II-listed property with five bedrooms and unique tower, overlooking Hastings Old Town
A charming five-bedroom detached family home, set within half an acre in Kew
A two-bedroom maisonette set on the top two floors of a period building, close to Kentish Town Tube.
Take advantage of the extra space provided by former stables and outbuildings at this five-bedroom farmhouse.
This three-bedroom Victorian terrace is near to Queen’s Road Peckham station, Nunhead station.
A five-bedroom modern house with terrace, swimming pool, Zen treehouse and large carp pond
An unexpected gem with four bedrooms, remarkable vaulted reception and a galleried study area
A five-bedroom house in one of Lymington's most sought after tree lined avenues, moments from the marinas and sailing clubs
A grand early 19th century B&B close to the historic harbour, with four en suite bedrooms
A four-bedroom, 17th century home with walled gardens, a landscaped terrace, cellar and open fires
A six-bedroom house with five bathrooms and four reception rooms spread over 4,000sq ft of luxury living space
A stunning three double-bedroom apartment with two decked terraces in the exclusive gated community, Bromyard House
A 10-bedroom period, family home amid beautiful surroundings in the centre of the Wentworth Estate in Longcross village
A stylish three-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms and private landscaped garden, moments from Fitzroy Square
A Grade II-listed Elizabethan barn with landscaped gardens, exposed elm beams and four bedrooms, all with lovely views
A six-bedroom family home, dating back to 1280 with four reception rooms, barn, swimming pool and tennis courts in Harwell
A spacious two-bedroom flat, refurbished to a very high standard with private landscaped garden, close to Kentish Town station
An exceptional two-bedroom apartment with balcony and underground parking in the centre of Richmond
A one-bedroom, luxury, duplex apartment in the grand landmark building, Imperial Hall
Run a fabulous boutique shop, live above it in a one-bedroom flat and let a second one-bedroom flat that comes part and parcel
A Grade-II listed, thatched cottage in Hundleby village, with five bedrooms, a coach house and three and a half acres
A spacious two-bedroom flat in the heart of Hoxton Square with wooden floors and roof terrace
A five-bedroom family home with stunning pool and gym complex set among two acres of land
A six-bedroom period house with heated swimming pool and a separate two-bedroom annexe cottage in Townlake, £795,000
A spacious and contemporary two-bedroom flat arranged over three floors, with garden patio close to St George Square, £600,000
A one-bedroom flat in a beautiful Regency building opposite the beach in Kemp Town, £190,000
A two-bedroom flat with London skyline views close to Surrey Quays. £395,000.
A seven-storey tower with three bedrooms and a stunning roof terrace. Guide price: £850,000.
A 16-bedroom country pile with nine reception rooms, four self-contained flats and a 13th century Peel Tower. £850,000.
A classic six-bedroom Victorian Manse house 10 miles from Edinburgh. £495,000.