People are increasingly interested to know how they can influence Britain’s big companies. The “shareholder spring” has seen a revolt against boardroom greed. The AGMs of Barclays Bank and Trinity Mirror, among others, saw shareholders saying they were fed up with directors awarding themselves super salaries and fat bonuses that did not reflect company performance.
Most people don’t own shares. But we’re all consumers and we can use our spending power to influence company behaviour. Like many people, I try to be discriminate in my shopping. I usually buy bread, milk and the local paper from the independent shop in my street, rather than a supermarket. When in the supermarket I try to buy local produce – why on earth does anyone in Bristol buy Canadian cheddar cheese?! I would guess that most people behave in a similar way, though our individual actions would be more effective if part of a wider campaign.
Such campaigns to use mass spending power to effect change have been around for a long time. In the late 18th century many Bristolians shunned goods linked to slavery. It wasn’t for another century that Captain Boycott, shunned by his Irish tenants, gave his name to avoiding disreputable individuals and companies. As a student I had a “Boycott Barclays” poster, protesting the banks links with apartheid era South Africa. As people are more likely to divorce than move their bank account I would guess that Barclays to this day has a smaller than normal market share of accounts held by my generation of graduates.
Now there’s a 21st century campaign to change banking. Originating in the United States, the Move Your Money campaign seeks to punish banks that have not changed their behaviour since the financial crisis of 2008/9. I met the founders of the UK branch of Move Your Money in my Westminster office 6 months ago. I tabled a Commons motion supporting their aims and mentioned them in a debate on banking. We agreed that I would also move some of my own money to support the campaign.
I opened my account with the Midland Bank when I was in the sixth form. So I’ve been with HSBC for a quarter century. I’ve had no problem with them and they weathered the financial storm better than most and did not need a taxpayer funded bailout. So I’m not completely boycotting them. But I am going to deposit my savings with a bank that has a different business model. I’ve chosen Dutch bank Triodos, which just happens to have its UK headquarters in Bristol.
So on Friday, the same day as HSBC’s AGM, I went to Triodos’s office to meet the team. I’ve now opened an ISA with them and will deposit £1,000. I will also move my existing HSBC ISA account to Triodos. I know that my savings will be used by Triodos to invest in businesses that are “working to make a positive environmental , cultural or social impact” in Britain.
I hope my move will encourage others to move their money.
More on Move Your Money here: http://www.moveyourmoney.org.uk/
More on Triodos Bank here: http://www.triodos.co.uk/en/personal/