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A Christmas message to all high street bank customers and employees



Over the last two years, Blue & Green Tomorrow has been scathing of the culture and ethics of major banks. It is bank leadership not the typical member of staff that is entirely at fault.

Payment protection mis-selling, Libor-rate fixing, bank-rolling criminals, avoiding tax, excessive rewards for failure or simply collapsing the global economy are just the tip of the iceberg of banking failure. Banks deserve constructive criticism for irresponsible and illegal behaviour.

Senior management may feel aggrieved by the distraction of ongoing investigations and significant fines, but they are genuinely getting off lightly.Criticising people for banking with, or working for, major banking groups is counter-productive. Convenience, campaigns to children and inertia in later life make the major banks the default choice for most consumers. Being above average payers makes them a good employment choice for school leavers or graduates.

Highly talented, hard-working and ethical people work for most banks. They will be as horrified as anyone at the incompetence and blatant illegality.

Sadly, they are failed by a small clique of astronomically-paid, amoral and profiteering senior mangers. Employees who point out unethical investment behaviour, dubious or aggressive selling practices, deliberate product complexity, dishonest marketing or bullying management do not rise to the top.

The banks’ objective of reducing the cost-to-serve customers, rather than providing a good service, has lead to rampant outsourcing of call centres and getting call times down. Cattle-herding is the closest analogy to major banking group’s customer service – when it comes to either customers or their employees. Rather than seeing customer calls and visits as a valued conversation, it’s seen as a costly interruption or opportunity to sell.

But most major banking organisations are committed to good corporate citizenship and claim to be listening to their customers and employees (Lloyds incl. HBOSBarclaysRBS incl. NatWestHSBC and Santander) . They claim to have embedded corporate social responsibility. Many have signed up to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment and the UK Sustainable Investment Forum (UKSIF).

The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing – Edmund Burke

So, why not put that commitment to the test?

If you are a customer of one of the major banking groups above, you should consider the alternatives or you could write to the CEO to express concern over recent irresponsible behaviour.

Here’s the name and addresses of bank CEOs:

– António Horta-Osório, CEO, Lloyds Banking Group (incl. HBOS), 25 Gresham Street, London, EC2V 7HN – taxpayer bailout

– Antony Jenkins, CEO, Barclays Bank plc, 1 Churchill Place, London, E14 5HP – Libor, PPI and tax avoidance

– Stephen Hester, CEO, Royal Bank of Scotland plc (incl. NatWest), 36 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, EH2 2YB – taxpayer bailout and Libor

– Brian Robertson, CEO, HSBC Holding plc, 8 Canada Square London E14 5HQ – money laundering

– Ana Botín, CEO, Santander UK plc, 2 Triton Square, Regent’s Place, London NW1 3AN – frequently been ranked the worst bank in the UK for customer service

See what they say in response and do let us know.

If you are an employee, why not raise concerns about recent unethical behaviour with your line manager or CSR/HR department. If you are ‘afraid’ of raising any concern at all, ask yourself if you are really working for an organisation that is listening to its employees or is socially responsible.

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Further reading:

Has your bank been naughty or nice this year?

Sustainable banks more ‘robust and resilient’ than high street institutions

Interest in ethical options surges amid UK banking melee

Ex-Goldman Sachs director: unethical banking affects everyone

Investors look to ethical options after banking instability

The Guide to Sustainable Banking