What Makes A Bank Ethical? Mondo's Beta Ethical Thoughts

I closed my Starling account because they took on a contract with the government and got involved in Universal Credit. Most people on their forum didn’t care (fair enough), some were a bit mocking (thought it was an over the top reaction) and some actually tried to spin it to it being a good thing (they’re helping people on benefits) in what I thought was a rather bizarre way.

It was all a bit nuts and I was a bit surprised how many people just didn’t care.

I think what counts is how the people running the place actually feel about things and how/if they consider the potential impact or impression their actions give. Not just trying to give a good impression for maximum marketing range.

Or indeed if they think at all - I get the impression that it wasn’t even considered at Starling, it wasn’t a thing.

It would be good, if Monzo do start taking on jobs for government/industry, or investing - if there was a (public) set of rules and a process to kind of vet what they were getting involved in. Even if they end up taking stuff on that not everyone agrees with, it would be good to know that they know exactly what they’re getting involved with and exactly where they stand.


Starling just… It’s hard to put my finger on it. It’s more than the fact I can’t have an account. The lack of gender-neutral titles for a modern bank is bizarre… Starling just… something about everything with them irks me the wrong way. The Universal Credit thing, to me, just re-affirmed that feeling times 100.

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I hate being called ‘Mr’ on everything official. For no other reason than it’s so formal and old fashioned. I really like how Monzo just uses my name.

If places just got rid of the weird Mr/Mrs/Miss rubbish it’d be so much better.

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Yes and No. While it is good if those who do not want to be called Sir/Fr/Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms/Sr/Mx etc are free not to use a title there may be some who want it. Customer choice is the solution. Chose to have it or chose not to have it, but the customer chose not the bank!


Answer - let customers pick friendly name, like Monzo does. You could put Miss/whatever in there, I imagine?

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Monzo seem more flexible than other banks when it comes to your name on a card. With the latest Monzo cards there is a 23 character limit on them and they say that they “…can use those 23 characters to have any recognisable variation of your name…but…we don’t offer titles on our cards at present”

They also are happy to address you as you wish. Today in response to a customer enquiry they advised “if you ever want us to change how we refer to you you can just let us know through this chat and we’ll adjust it on our systems…You should have had the option to choose how your name appeared during the sign up from a few selected options”.

I had a free-text field, which was ideal.

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Cool. I upgraded so fast I must have blinked and missed it :wink: It asked for so little info I almost wanted it to ask more LOL

Ah, I didn’t upgrade. I was a new current account customer. Flow may have been different…

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True but it was the ONLY high street bank trying to bring to light a problem that almost every other company was turning a blind eye too.

What about Sterling and Universal Credit? I am a bit behind the times…

They’ve taken on a contract to verify claimants ID/bank accounts for the DWP. By putting small amounts into their accounts (think PayPal verification). I saw this as them now being involved in Universal Credit and part of it, basically saying they’re fine with it. So I closed my account.

@nickbw Co-op Bank? Yes, their MD turned out to be a coke head. But the bank as a whole didn’t break it’s ethical policy at any time (investments, lending, community involvement, etc) - while it kind of dented them a bit it’s unfair to say they’re no longer ethical.


Fact is for those of us who are not particularly politically minded but, because of our age, if nothing else, we benefit from a long-term perspective when we consider a ‘given issue’ Banks being Ethical is a Red Herring. It merely serves to illustrate how hamstrung contemporary thinking is. I have several children (they are not children actually, they are factually adult: but in terms of their experience and their perspective and attitude - from my point of view - and also because, when one is a parent (and I found myself, unexpectedly, in a position (at least practically and emotionally) where I was a single parent caring for two and worrying about their emotional and psychological development, The issue of banking is simply an ‘excuse’ for making a protest. Contemporary society in the Uk is in a new place. Nothing can be discussed in a reasonable or moderate atmosphere any more. That is why, even though I have a Monzo and a Starling account, I most of the time view the respective discussions via TOR without logging in. The one huge downside to contemporary society is the (seemingly overwhelming need to conform to whatever the contemporary social values are perceived to be) that is not me, never has been me and I reject it just as I reject both logging in via social networks or allowing the (usually USA) Global companies access to my metadata and treating it as their own. At the end of the day, not withstanding how much Monzo is a (disparate) community it is only a bank; not a religion (one might be forgiven for believing it is) and, in common with all Fintech is has yet to demonstrate it is the future, just as it has yet to prove both reliabitly, dependability and probity. If you are still reading this, please bear with me for a few moments more, I am opposed to Uber. Many of you will, no doubt be instantly anti-me. My reasoning is as follows, ‘they’ are making hailing rides cheaper (why women in general think this renders them physically safer, God knows -I don’t) but the business plan is clearly to achieve monopoly in a given territory. What happens next? What all monopolistic models predict, they destroy competition and distort the market. In the same way a bank is just a bank, that it what it should be; not a means to change or save the world. I like and applaude intelligent innovation, the moment I feel my personal data/metadata is being mistreated (to hell with ethical banking) I am out of here.

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I don’t think of it as making a protest - I genuinely don’t want my money going to companies that support or use it for unethical aims (unethical is kind of subjective - but generally, arms, tobacco, gambling, oil, stuff that’s bad for the environment, tax evasion/avoidance, human rights, damaging government policies).

This isn’t a protest, it’s not something I go on about or declare to people - unless it comes up in general discussion, it’s a specific discussion about ethics or I’m asking the question.

I’m not perfect and don’t claim to be (just bought a charger off Amazon Prime Now because it was 2 hour delivery on a Sunday and I’m lazy - and they’re massive bastards in a lot of ways), but I try.

There is a direct link to what I do, how much I work, and how much I earn. I feel very very strongly about where my money goes/is kept.

I hate seeing people being called out as hypocrites on this or the ‘nothing I do will make a difference so sod it’ attitude. Sometimes it’s just low hanging easy ethical fruit people take.

But everyone who takes the various bits, of even low hanging fruit, does add up and does make a difference. If everyone thought it was pointles then nothing would have ever changed and not very many big corporations would give even the tiniest of lip-service to any ethical matter.


It’s good to see that other customers have the same questions as me about Monzo’s ethics. Like others on this thread, I’m only willing to consider using Monzo as my primary bank account if I have ongoing reassurance about this aspect of the service.

Unlike traditional/established banks, Monzo is highly likely to be currently operating at a substantial loss (perhaps losing as much as £50 per customer per year) and so ongoing development is investor-funded.

Along with customers who have participated in crowdfunding, there are major venture capital shareholders, especially following the recent huge investment round.

I have faith that customer shareholders will continue steering Monzo in the right ethical direction, but what the VC investors want is likely to have a large impact on ethics (VCs hardly have the greatest reputation for putting ethics first).

This thread and this thread talk about Monzo’s likely revenue streams, with the most viable route to profitability being overdraft fees, depending on how well the (so far unproven) plans for affiliate partnerships develop (earning a share of “interchange” merchant card fees may also be a viable route to profitability at high volumes, though it’s unclear whether this is a current revenue stream or not).

Nothing above seems incompatible with a broadly ethical banking proposition (charging overdraft fees to individuals is way better than profiting from investment banking in the arms trade).

I hope that the ethics and values page can be updated soon because it is currently very short and lacking in detail. I would love it if it could cover the following:

  • No oil and gas investments (including fracking) because of climate change and the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground
  • No arms trade investment (because war is bad)
  • Something about payday lending given the potential for a Wonga-style scandal

Given how much of a voice the customer community has at Monzo, and how refreshing this is compared to other banks, I’m quite close to switching to Monzo as my primary account. But I do need some reassurance about the above points, especially because I am suspicious of the motives of the VCs and the potential for their desire for a financial return to trump ethical commitments.


The prepaid scheme loses around £50 per active customer per year. Simply by moving to current accounts powered by our own technology, we plan to significantly reduce this amount.

Monzo – Annual report 2017

Correct, we were losing around that much late last year. There is a lot of focus internally this year on making Monzo sustainable in a responsible way. Upgrading to current accounts gets us a lot of the way there along with foreign ATM usage fees. The next major step is reducing costs of top ups by debit card by implementing some of the most commonly requested features and encouraging people to either switch to us or use bank transfers to move money in to Monzo (these cost us effectively nothing compared with debit card top ups). :slightly_smiling_face:

As for the ethics and values page, I think that’s one for @tristan!


It’s unlikely in the short term we’ll have the capacity to set in place rules like this — it takes quite a bit of work on our end. However, the whole point of that page is that you can see exactly what we are doing and so you can see we aren’t and aren’t planning to invest in any of those things you mention. Obviously medium/long term it’d be great to have a very detailed policy!


Thanks for the quick reply!

Correct, we were losing around that much late last year. There is a lot of focus internally this year on making Monzo sustainable in a responsible way.

How transparent is Monzo willing to be in terms of its own finances in this respect? Can you tell us what your target is for this number this year? For a potential crowdfunding investor it would be interesting to know so that we can work out how reliant you are likely to be on VCs in future.

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Do you have an idea of when you’ll be able to set the policy? Are we talking 6 months or more than that? Also, is the reason purely timing or one of internal governance? If the intention is to simply clarify that you aren’t intending to invest in oil and gas (for example) then it doesn’t seem like it would be big amount of work to get such a statement approved internally and then update the page (particularly if you can see clear demand from customers for such a statement).


Good. Concentrate on running the bank rather than getting side tracked wasting time on playing politics. Surely a concise statement of principles is sufficient and we don’t need Monzo to start listing individual industries, countries, companies, etc one by one!