Time for an ethical policy


#1

I am nearly ready to switch completely, but still have Coop and Triodos accounts because they have Ethical Banking policies. Isn’t it time Monzo got one too?

I want to know that any money I have will not be used to support weapons and torture, cruelty, exploitation and slavery, corrupt regimes or other despicable things.

I know this is on a wish list for monzo and that it takes resources to research and implement, but previous discussion of this is now lost under old mondo links so it’s time to reopen the subject.

Couldn’t you start by adopting the policies of one of the other ethical banks as a starting point?


(Craig A Rodway) #2

“Our Ethics and Values”:


(Rika Raybould) #3

As above, https://monzo.com/ethics/ contains our current ethical policy. Because our only investment currently is back into customer overdrafts, it can be significantly shorter. :hot_coral_heart:


(Adam) #4

I have to agree with Reubs.

An ethical policy governs corporate behaviour, and by definition almost, future behaviour - so what Monzo does in the future is essentially ethically unlimited - to the bad side as well as the good - because Monzo doesn’t yet (hopefully) have an ethical policy to govern it.

Does that explain why your ethical policy (or rather your lack of it) is important to me?

Worst case scenario: after making massive progress with loads of new customers, Monzo is bought out by a hedge fund in the Turks and Caicos Islands and ethics go out the window.


(Adam) #5

This whole question is actually quite simple. Without an ethical policy, Monzo is essentially unethical. Is that how you see yourselves? I can’t switch my main bank accounts over to Monzo (despite really wanting to) because of this.

For me it’s clear cut and for you, well, I guess you are ethically drifting.


(Matt) #6

The Co-Operative bank:

https://www.co-operativebank.co.uk/aboutus/ourbusiness/ethicalpolicy: “In 2017, we marked the 25th anniversary of our Ethical Policy.”

3 disciplinary histories, 2013, 2015 and 2016: https://register.fca.org.uk/ShPo_FirmDetailsPage?id=001b000000MfFIYAA3

Paul Flowers: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/mar/06/disgraced-ex-co-op-bank-boss-paul-flowers-crystal-methodist-banned-from-financial-services

I’m not quite convinced not having an ethical policy makes a bank unethical or in Co-Op’s case, celebrating 25 years of an ethical policy doesn’t make the bank ethical.


#7

What’s the ethics equivalent of greenwashing?


#8

The ethics come from the top - my reading of Tom is that he’s an ethical guy. If Monzo gets taken over by a hedge fund, the last thing they’ll be worried about is an ethical policy - they’ll simply change it.


(Dan) #9

Agreed, an ethical policy is absolutely not a prerequisite on being ethical.

You obviously draw the line yourself on what you feel is ethical, but does not having a policy really equate to a company acting unethically?


#10

bunq is taking a novel approach. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

https://together.bunq.com/d/4909-update-choose-what-happens-with-your-money/7


(Adam) #11

Hmm, well I appreciate that the idea of having an ethical policy might not be as hip as e.g. some technical questions, but I fear this is causing all your responses to be less than well thought through.

The key point is that an ethical policy is a must for an organisation. It guides the future behaviour of the board and staff.

My statement was about definitions of words in an attempt to drive the point home. An organisation without an ethical policy by definition has no ethics and that could mean “unethical”, although point taken, if you look up ‘unethical’ it also actually means “morally wrong”, which I assume Monzo isn’t.

That Co-op bank director was disgraced - but I don’t think that invalidates the concept of ethical policies.

Also interestingly, they were bought by a hedge fund and due partly to the strength of customer support for their ethical policy, they did not toss out their ethical policy, rather they re-committed to it.

If you want proper business advice rather than just my ideas, then look at the Ethical Consumer and the work they do. It’s very interesting.


#12

Some interesting points there. I don’t work for Monzo, but here’s my take.

There’s a difference between behaviour and policy. A policy is a statement of intent. Behaviour is what people do and how they go about their work.

Behaviour is, in my view, much more critical. Imbuing the right culture, values and behaviours in an organisation is super difficult - but something that Monzo has done in spades. It’s really quite exceptional.

This means that Monzo staff have a passion for the company and its values.

And those values drive ethical behaviour. And encourage a culture of situational awareness - of examining problems from first principles with regard to what’s happening in the world around them.

For the reasons that others have outlined, I think that ‘write once and publish’ strategies or policies are fundamentally flawed without this level of cultural support behind them. And as situations change, policies will too. Do you really think that publishing a policy today will bind future iterations of Monzo’s Board? Policies can be - and are - changed. With respect, you’re fooling yourself if you think that a simple document can determine future behaviour. Instead, it’s best for the leaders to try and ensure that what they’ve built has momentum, is part of an organisation’s DNA and can’t be easily unpicked. As I say, this is best done through values, behaviour and culture.

That’s not to say that Monzo shouldn’t make public its ethical stance (which they’ve tried to do at https://monzo.com/ethics). And I agree that as they become a more mature bank they might want to review what they include. But Monzo is, at the moment, a very simple bank. They hold deposits at the Bank of England and lend to customers. That’s it. Given they point that no bank can bind its future self with just policy document, I’m not sure what else you want? :thinking:

Anyway, this is at danger of becoming an essay. But I hope it’s been helpful and dispels the myth that “An organisation without an ethical policy by definition has no ethics” :slight_smile:


#13

Monzo is advocated by Ethical Consumer. Ironically their site has a paywall…


#14

Would be good to know what ethics you are looking to see discussed in such a policy. The three main ones I can think of are the treatment of customers, treatment of staff, and their investment policy.

I have never seen a company treat their customers any better than Monzo, and if you speak to their staff, I have never seen such an engaged team, at least in a business environment. As for investment, it is already well documented that Monzo only invest in the business itself, or in lending to customers, so I can’t see any Saudi weapons turning up on the balance sheet if that’s your concern. Hopefully in future they’ll be able to invest in progressive industries too, but I think that’s a while off.


(Matt) #15

I work at a Financial Services firm that is listed on the FTSE 250, we don’t have a published “Ethical Policy”, so I tend to think the word “must” is maybe a bit strong here.


(Adam) #16

Oh right, I forgot about the paywall. I found a youtube video they have:

An “ethical policy” (to give it the double quotes people like wrapping it in) is pretty much like a mission statement - in fact it could be part of a mission statement. But then I think that people will have the same resistance to “mission statements” lol.

Personally and probably due to my natural skepticism, and my long adherence to ethical consumerism, I would be inclined to wonder why a company doesn’t have an ethical policy, and to think that actually maybe the people in control of the organisation think it might best to do without one in case at some point it proves to be a little too “ethical” for a nice earner that landed on their desk.

I became aware of Monzo through the Ethical Consumer review and was disappointed to discover that there is no policy. It wasn’t the article I just read now - maybe it was shortened or not the one that appeared in the printed magazine.


(Matt) #17

Really? Do you check ethical policies for each company you consume from? We’ve (my work) have been asked for one before and our CEO says it’s not worth paper its written on. If a firm decides to do something that is against an ethical policy/charter - they’ll just tear up the old one and put a new one out. I’m interested as to why you think an ethical policy is so important?

Have a look at Tesco’s ethical policy… did that stop the accounting scandal?


(Dave) #18

Having an ethical policy guarantees nothing at all. However, having one is a statement of intent, and you have more to lose in terms of your reputation (and possibly customers) if you then fail to live up to it.

When The Co-operative Bank was taken over by hedge funds the concern was that ethics would go out of the window. In fact, they have recognised that there are a substantial number of customers who are with the bank for the ethical stance they take, and they have strengthened the ethical policy after consulting customers. They also have internal mechanisms to help ensure that the policy is followed.

This is possibly/probably just a case of enlightened self-interest for the new owners of the bank, but it goes to show that ethics can sell a product. There’s nothing wrong with that as far as I can see. My problem with The Co-operative Bank is that the products generally don’t hold any interest (financial or otherwise) for me.

Monzo is a simple bank, but by partnering with Investec for savings has made it more complex. I’m not knocking Investec as I don’t know much about them, but that may be a problem for some people and I understand that (it’s already been raised elsewhere a number of times). We know Monzo, but we might not know as much about their marketplace partners.

Some companies also apply their ethics policies to their supply chain, others do not. It may not be in Monzo’s best financial interests to vet suppliers against an ethical policy. However, as a new simple bank that will become more complex and diverse, people will be watching to see what directions they take.


(Matt) #19

Indeed, but they tend to do this by looking at their supplier’s ethics policy. What I’m challenging is whether a written policy actually means anything. Or whether it really is worth the paper it’s written on.

Fifa’s written code of ethics says “Persons bound by this Code shall not accept, give, offer, promise, receive, request or solicit any personal or undue pecuniary or other advantage in order to obtain or retain business or any other improper advantage to or from anyone within or outside FIFA.” (FIFA, 2018).

So I guess because it’s written in a policy it makes it 100% true. (See also 2015 FIFA corruption case)


(Dave) #20

Of course it means something as it is a statement of intent.

An ethics policy should ideally be backed up by a mechanism that is checking that it is being followed, but it is not a guarantee as I said, and as is shown by your FIFA example. Anyone breaking a policy they have agreed to should expect to be answerable for their actions. However, if there is no policy to agree to you only have the law and what you might pick up from the ethos of your business as to what is acceptable.