TSB is back – but is it an ethical banking option?



A familiar name returned to the fray last year following the collapse of a deal that would have seen the Co-operative Bank acquire 631 branches owned by Lloyds Banking Group. TSB is back – but is it a sustainable and ethical option for people seeking an alternative?

TSB boldly claims it “isn’t like other banks”. It says that it is the only big bank to ensure it helps its customers across the UK. It is also about to launch a TV campaign, saying that it will introduce people in Britain to ethical banking.

The campaign will ask people to think about the way in which their bank operates – and TSB has devised a list of five questions for them to pose to their current providers:

– Does your bank operate right across Britain and nowhere else?
– Does your bank serve only local people and local businesses, not big corporations?
– Does your bank refuse to gamble your money in overseas speculation?
– Does your bank say no to using its customers’ money to fund investment banking?
– Does your bank use every penny its customers deposit to help other customers, and nothing else?

TSB is the only major bank to operate differently”, the bank adds, highlighting a number of its initiatives that are designed to help customers out. These include paying stamp duty for those taking out mortgages and making space available in branches for business customers to use.

The bank’s chief executive Paul Pester said, “In the aftermath of the banking crisis, the majority of consumers still distrust banks. Is it any wonder when other banks just will not explain where and how they use their customers’ money? At TSB, we are open and transparent about how we work and the fact that we use our customers’ money only for loans and mortgages for other customers.

He added, “We want consumers to ask their bank to explain how they operate and how they use their customers’ money as we believe people have a right to know.”

Despite a clear emphasis on putting customers first, there is much scepticism as to whether TSB can return to its roots as an institution based on democratic and philanthropic values. Move Your Money, the campaign for better banking, scores TSB 21 out of a possible 100 on its scorecard.

Whether it can put its customers first remains to be seen, but with a parent company like the Lloyds Banking Group, it is not a good place to move your money”, the scorecard argues.

Charlotte Webster, campaign director at Move Your Money, spoke to Blue & Green Tomorrow and questioned whether TSB’s bold claims will be matched with similarly bold action. Its relationship with Lloyds was again a point of concern.

She said, “In summary, we’ve been quite unimpressed that Lloyds has spent millions on IT systems, but they have failed. We saw that last month with the IT meltdown, and TSB customers were also affected. This is just one single example of the way in which TSB is still dependent on Lloyds.

“When you look at our scorecard, they ranked really badly. We want to see the substance of these claims; they’re simply telling us what we already know. Customers want a bank that focuses on customers.”

TSB, in its current form, is still in its infancy, having only launched in September 2013. But there are many banks and building societies out there that score high on anyone’s cards – for sustainability, ethics, responsibility and culture.

On the Move Your Money scorecard, building societies feature heavily among the highest rankers. There are plenty of others including Triodos, which assures savers that their money will only be invested in initiatives that bring about positive social or cultural changes; Handelsbanken, with its clear focus on personal relationships; and Charity Bank, which lends solely to charities and other organisations that enrich society.

The fact remains that there are hundreds of building societies and smaller banks out there that really care about the customers they provide services to, and have provided a good level of service for years. Whether TSB can step up to the mark remains to be seen – but with some encouraging rhetoric and its welcome focus on society, it is clear that it aims to distance itself from those with dubious ethical credentials.

Further reading:

TSB returns to the high street with renewed focus on local communities

Switching your current account just got easier – but what now?

‘We need a radical shake-up of the banking system’

It’s time to believe in banking again

The Guide to Sustainable Banking 2013


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