8th February 2012
The company's UK loan book increased by £113m to £424m – still little more than a flea on the elephant's hide of mainstream banking but a good performance against a backdrop of falling loans to small and medium sized enterprises elsewhere. The big growth areas were in renewable energy, up a quarter, and social housing, increasing 240 per cent from a low base.
Triodos, headquartered in Holland, only lends to organisations which can show social and environmental benefits. It concentrates on organic food and farming, renewable energy, social housing, and fair trade firms and charities. The bank claims much of its gains come from the "new economy" that are emerging in sustainability.
But Triodos – and far bigger ethical counterpart the Co-operative Bank – could benefit from a very old style move planned for Friday 10th February by Move Your Money, a new website which suggests bank account holders should switch their cash away from traditional banks to those encapsulating new economy and green credentials.
Bob Diamond Bonus Day
Why Friday? It's ringed round in the diaries of banking and political spin machines, as well as the media, as the day Barclays Bank announces 2011 full year figures. And while profits will be in billions, attention will largely be focused on the millions paid in individual bonus payments to chief executive Bob Diamond and other Barclays executives.
The Move Your Money idea is that the bankers' bonuses will act as a catalyst for customers to close accounts and reopen them elsewhere. It will be labelled "Break Up with Barclays day."
This blog from tax fairness campaigners UK Uncut points out that "from civil right activists creating local banking in the US, to Barclays pulling out of apartheid South Africa – change happens when we act. The banks aren't going to change themselves."
The largely university campus campaign against Barclays' involvement in Apartheid South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s turned the bank's brand toxic for many. It's a tactic that many think can be repeated over issues such as bonuses and profits as a post on the 38 Degrees website suggests. The campaigns of 30 to 40 years ago should now be easier to mobilise – thanks to social media.
And on an unrelated issue, the bank has garnered some unwelcome publicity over its sponsorship of London's Cycle Super Highways, which have been criticised as badly planned both before and now following a number of fatalities.
Banks take their brands seriously as this Brand Finance Banking 500 shows. Only two UK-based banks are in the top 20 – HSBC is top with an AAA rating while Barclays comes in at 12 (down from 7 last year) with AA+. Royal Bank of Scotland is the next UK bank at 45 – it's rated A+ (the brand, not the credit credibility).
Move your money month
UK Uncut says: "Banks rely on the deposits of ordinary savers. When you choose where to keep your money, you are choosing between supporting business as usual, or taking a simple but powerful step towards a better banking system. By moving your money you can directly support an ethical and socially useful bank, and send a clear message about the sort of society and economy you want to see. And one you'd rather not."
Beyond Barclays, campaigners are hoping that March 2012 will be ‘Move Your Money Month', with account holders switching cash away from traditional banks to bring about change.
In the immediate term, this will have scant effect on share prices – RBS and Lloyds are so depressed anyway. But looking longer ahead, this could impact bottom lines.
The winner from this should be the Co-op Bank whose takeover of the Britannia Building Society and its proposed acquisition of 632 Lloyds Banking Group branches (due in late 2013) will have propelled it from small bank into a high street force.
It should however worry about the question whether it can remain true to its roots while overseeing a massive expansion.
And although they can't claim the same ethical credentials, Metro Bank and Virgin Money (formerly Northern Rock) could also benefit.
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