|COMING TO A CINEMA NEAR YOU|
Last week I got published in The Ecologist. The article was called A four-step guide to bypassing high street banks. This is my second article for the magazine (my first was on food speculation), and this time the aim was to sketch out how people might engage in financial protest, not by waving placards, but by changing debit cards.
Many people agree in principle that major high-street banks have too much power, and that they frequently abuse that power. Nevertheless, many individuals don't necessarily have the time, or inclination, to protest about it directly in the manner of the Occupy protesters. There's been a lot of discussion about how to make financial protest more inclusive (including this piece by Kenth Gustaffson on a type of ‘virtual occupy movement’), but perhaps one of the most profound (and often overlooked) forms of protest is to distance yourself from mainstream finance by withdrawing deposits and avoiding using the services.
The article is pretty straightforward. It goes through four (UK-focused) strategies:
- You can move your money to a more socially responsible bank like the Co-Operative Bank, or to building societies and credit unions
- You can invest savings in socially responsible alternatives, including certain investment funds and specialist investments with environmental or social benefits
- If you need a loan, you can bypass the mainstream loan system and engage in peer-to-peer (P2P) finance or crowdfunding
- If you want to go bold, you can try detach from the mainstream currency system and use alternative currencies
|THE ANSWER: BREAK MONOPOLY|
Bypassing mainstream finance is not necessarily easy or convenient, and it's not a solution to the deeper structural problems of the financial sector. Change though, needs to come from many different angles. Regulatory and policy changes are needed, internal cultural changes are needed, and more competition is needed. Moving your money and getting involved in alternative finance is one way to boost competition, and one way to support sustainable finance innovation. It's an act of protest, but in encouraging financial diversity, it's also an act of creativity.
Please do check out the article. Any comments are most welcome, and I’d dig to hear any other suggestions for alternative strategies that I might have missed.