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

It does say they do not invest at the moment. All the money sits at the Bank of England except what they’re lending out as overdrafts.
If and when Monzo get into investments i expect an update on how they go about this

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Agree with much of the sentiment here. I am frankly very surprised that Monzo is still claiming to put social objectives first (from website: “We want to make the world a better place and change people’s lives”), when they don’t have an ethical policy in place. In my opinion, a bank that claims this should be guided by their ethical policy, not retro-fit it. I am not questioning Monzo’s ethical priorities, however I don’t believe they are being guided by this. It appears they are being guided by growth and the drive for sustainability - not by the overarching mission to improve people’s lives

In my opinion, if Monzo is serious about their social and environmental objectives (in addition to their financial objectives) then they should formalise a triple bottom-line into their governance documents. And, they 100% need a water-tight ethical policy asap. I signed up to Monzo because of its social mission, and I am questioning this constantly because I am yet to see any evidence of it.

Also, in the spirit of transparency, I think Monzo should reveal it’s pay structure and details of its investors and their options schemes. Without this, they cannot claim to be fully transparent. Companies which are certified B-Corporations, for example, cannot have a pay structure where the CEO earns more than 20x the lowest paid employee. I believe in this company structure, yet I have no idea if this is the case at Monzo.

Furthermore, if Monzo wants to ‘improve people’s lives’, why not do some community finance programmes? Coaching, workshops, budgeting sessions for people struggling with universal tax credits etc. That’s improving lives.

Happy to provide more input if needed.

Thanks for being so open to feedback!

Jack

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I think if you were to spend just a couple of hours at Monzo HQ, you would change your mind on this pretty fast. I don’t think I’ve ever met a bunch of people who care so much about their customers and making a material positive impact on people’s lives. It really shows.

That being said, Monzo has to be a profitable and sustainable business in order to be able to fulfil their ambitions. They can’t make the world a better place or change people’s lives if the business is being liquidated. So, I’m hoping Monzo’s ethics and values can shine through a bit more when the company is more established. This could include a more explicit statement of ethics as alluded to above.

If you haven’t seen them already, you may be interested to read some company filings.

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Thanks Kieran, I don’t disagree that Monzo’s team are fully behind their social mission, and that’s great to see transparent records of their filings, I hadn’t seen those.

I also agree with you that sustainability is paramount in order to further the social mission, but my general concern is around Monzo’s marketing as an ethical bank, when it doesn’t have an ethical policy in place. When I think of an ethical bank, I think Unity Trust Bank, Charity Bank, Tridos Bank etc, which invest directly in projects that benefit people and the planet. These players are very much driven by their ethical investment strategy. Check out this sector report by Ethical Consumer for some more info on the ethical banking sector: http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/researchhub/ukethicalmarket.aspx

Jack

Hello all,

First post on the forum, so I hope what I have to say is relevant to this discussion.

As someone mentioned previously, ethicalconsumer.org publish rankings for financial services, and in their recent update just a few weeks ago they included “App-based banks”.

http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/buyersguides/money/app-basedbanks.aspx

You can’t see their rankings unless you subscribe, but interestingly they rated all the app-based banks they reviewed as relatively ethical choices because they don’t have the legacy lending issues of the older banks.

They also rated Monzo slightly higher than The Co-operative Bank and slightly lower than Nationwide, and Monzo is their “Best Buy May/June 2018” amongst the app-based banks. They cite Monzo’s “less risky” investors and “allowing customers to help shape its future” as factors making it their best buy.

This is a good starting point for Monzo, and I hope they can maintain this as they develop. I know there are different ideas of what “ethical” means, but all the same its interesting to see these comparisons so that we can make informed decisions about our choice of financial provider.

Dave

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Thanks for sharing this - very interesting!

It looks like an initial comparison between four app only “banks” (my inverted commas as some aren’t actually banks): Monzo, Starling, Revolut and Atom.

I’m interested in your comments about comparison to other financial institutions (The Co-operative Bank / Nationwide). Can you share anything more about this (not copy/paste though cos copyright n stuff :neutral_face:) - particularly are these three the top of chart? Where do the other digital challengers figure?

Also, do you know if the Co-operative Bank has tumbled in the ratings since they stopped being, well, a cooperative, being now owned by hedge funds?

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What most people don’t know is that The Co-operative Bank was NEVER a Co-op in the normal accepted use of the word. However it’s then parent company the Co op group was and still is.

To answer your questions you have to understand how ethicalconsumer.org do their rankings. Recognising that different people have different priorities for ethics, they provide an interactive way of weighting your interests (Environment, People, Animals, Politics and Product Sustainability) and therefore adjusting the overall scores. The default option is with all these weighted equally.

Assuming that scores across categories can be compared fairly (I think they can); Triodos is a the top of the list. Of the ones I previously mentioned Nationwide is next, then Monzo/Revolut/Tandem/Starling (equal score) and The Co-operative Bank is lower down. To be clear, there are other banks and building societies between and equal to the scores of Nationwide and The Co-operative Bank, but I don’t want to upset ethicalconsumer.org by quoting their table more fully as their service is subscription based (free trial available though). All of these fall in the top fifth of the table.

As already mentioned The Co-operative Bank was never a co-operative/mutual really, and was often marked down due to activities of The Co-operative Group. It was felt that political campaigning was a negative feature (regardless of political persuasion), and the animal farming of the Co-op was previously cited too. So it is clear activities of a parent group do figure in the scores.

However, since the Bank has been owned by hedge funds, the score has gone up somewhat (even though it is marked down because of their use of tax havens). The Bank’s ethical policy has been strengthened under their ownership. There is a comment in the best buys that The Co-operative Bank is the best of the group after Triodos (which is the recommended best buy), and a further comment that app banks are worth looking at.

I would say that Monzo is in a special position at the moment given its relationship with its customers and investors and it will be interesting to see how the business develops. I’m not pushing Monzo here particularly, I am a fan of mutuals and particularly credit unions (my local one is about to introduce a “proper” debit card linked to accounts) and I’ve only had my Monzo account 8 days. However, it does strike me that Monzo could do a lot of social good, and I hope it will.

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Thanks so much for this. Absolutely fascinating - especially the bit about the Co-operative Bank’s scores going up after the ownership changed!

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It would seem in depends what your ethical priorities are. Compare with this:
http://www.thegoodshoppingguide.com/ethical-banks-and-building-societies/

Some of the rankings there are significantly different or even at odds with the Ethical Consumer ones. However, there is broad agreement at the top and bottom of the tables, and building societies always do well.

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Great to come across this thread and read all the comments!

I’m in the process of weighing up fully going over to Monzo from Nationwide. From what I understand building societies are the best bet for those concerned about money being invested in animal agriculture and the enherent animal cruelty and environmental exploitation of the industry. It would be really good to see Monzo pioneer on this front and not invest customer money in a practice that causes so much suffering to both human and non-human animals.

It is great to have a bank taking an up front stance on this topic. I am not currently a customer. I am a currently a customer of HSBC (First Direct) and recent articles that implicate HSBC in investing in agribusiness with dubious ecological and environmental practices is pushing me to look at alternatives. @tristan do you think the time is right to update your original post - which I found on the website. Foregrounding Monzo’s ethical banking stance alongside the legacy-free tech will grab disaffecteds like me.