With Bob Diamond’s resignation the latest twist in the saga engulfing the UK’s banking sector, more people than ever are thinking it’s time to seek out more ethical options for their finances.
Triodos Bank, which provides a range of ethical savings accounts and has 40,000 accounts in the UK, has seen record levels of interest over the past week and expects this to continue growing.
The number of account applications online at Triodos Bank in the UK increased by 51% over the last week, and Monday 2 July saw three times as many accounts opened in the UK compared to an average day. Total visits to the bank’s UK website increased 24% over the last week, and phone enquiries increased 22%.
Charles Middleton, UK managing director at Triodos Bank commented: ‘We are delighted to be welcoming more customers than ever to Triodos. Now that people are prompted to think more consciously about their money and realise its potential to do good or bad, we believe things will start to change at a more fundamental level too.
‘Switching current accounts is all very well, but the power for people to really effect change in the banking system lies in what people do with their savings. If people moved their savings away from banks who say very little about what happens to their money once invested, to banks that in fact do the opposite and make a virtue of telling depositors how their savings are being used, UK banks would have to sit up and take notice. They would no longer have the financial support to be able to do all these things that have got them into the mess they are now in.
‘Do you care about how your money is being used? We challenge consumers and bankers to consider the transparency of banking and really start to make a difference.
‘AtÂ Triodos Bank we take pride in doing things differently. We offer straightforward banking with a high quality of service and will always tell our savers what we are doing with their money. We think this straightforward model is the way banking should be.
‘A fair profit, a strong capital base and a stable funding base from savers’ deposits are integral parts of our approach. As such we have no need to engage in the wholesale markets and will never lend out more than we have on deposit. Nor do we make use of derivatives and other complex financial instruments that can put savers’ money at risk. Our shares are not listed on any stock exchange to ensure we don’t become diverted from our sustainable banking mission in the drive for a fast profit or negatively impacted by the vagaries of market sentiment.
‘At the core of our banking, we are directly connected to the real economy, only financing sustainable businesses delivering clear social, environmental and cultural benefits with a lasting positive impact.’
With UK banks due to reveal their half year financial performance at the end of July, figures also reveal how values-based banks such as Triodos have outperformed more established banks when it comes to their balance sheets. The report* showed values-based banks have higher levels of, and better quality, capital, with an average BIS1 Ratio of 14% over three years compared to less than 10% among mainstream banks, and an average Equity/Asset ratio of more than 9% compared to less than 5% at mainstream banks.
Triodos Bank’s experience in Europe
It’s not only in the UK that Triodos is starting to see unprecedented interest in sustainable banking. Recent events in Europe have lead to vast numbers of Europeans switching to Triodos and other ethical, sustainable banks. In fact, following the Spanish banks bailout Triodos’ Spanish branch was overwhelmed, doubling new customers in a single month.
Triodos Bank has seen its income, balance sheet, net profit and AUM grow steadily over 2011 and into this year. Over two decades the bank has built assets under management of 6.8 billion Euros, and growth of 20% per year, delivering a consistent profit. It has around 22,000 loans to sustainable businesses such as Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage, Ecotricity, Cafedirect, and Glastonbury’s Worthy Farm in the UK, and has welcomed more than 350,000 customers across its operations in the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Germany.
Middleton concluded: ‘At last people are beginning to wake up to the fact that there are credible alternatives to the established financial system, and that they can get a social and environmental return on their money, as well a decent financial return.
In contrast to the opaqueness of the mainstream banks, Triodos publishes details of everyone it lends to via its website www.triodos.co.uk/transparentbanking.