Consuming Issues: Stop moaning about your bank - just go somewhere else

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; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

    £15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

    Day In a Page

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most