The investment arm of the Church of England is considering bidding for a collection of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) branches, in the hope of creating a new ethical bank.
According to the Independent, the Church Commissioners, who manage the church’s investments, could take control of 315 RBS branches.
RBS has been forced to offload the branches by the European commission, because it was bailed out by taxpayers during the financial crisis in 2008.
Earlier in June, RBS chief executive since 2008, Stephen Hester, resigned with £1.6m payoff, with the bank looking at reprivatisation as early as 2014.
In a conversation with Hester in 2012, the archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who sits on the banking commission, questioned the role RBS plays in society– to which the then-RBS boss said it worked to serve its savers and shareholders and pay its taxes.
The archbishop replied, “That again, is motherhood and apple pie. I am really looking for a bit more of a penetrating analysis of what your duty is to society – other than just obeying the law and paying taxes.”
The Church of England already owns a small stake in Barclays, where it is engaging with directors and staff to push the bank on a more ethical path. Barclays chief executive Antony Jenkins has spoken openly about his desire to turn the organisation into a values-based bank again, since taking over from Bob Diamond in the wake of the Libor scandal in 2012. In January, Jenkins urged the bank’s employees to sign up to its new ethical values or quit.
The Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG), which support the Church Commissioner with the investment policy and is also member of the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance (UKSIF) – avoids investing in companies involved in arms, pornography, tobacco, gambling, alcoholic drinks, high interest rate lending and human embryonic cloning.
UPDATE: Speaking to Blue & Green Tomorrow, Laura Willoughby of the Move Your Money campaign said, “It would be great to see another values-led bank on the high street. It’s what customers are demanding and what British banking needs.”