Banking – A question of ethics verses convenience?

Banking – A question of ethics verses convenience?
Triodos Bank
17.06.10

With confidence in the banking sector at an all time low, there’s never been a better time to review your banking arrangements. And social enterprises would be wise to consider a specialist social banking partner which understands the specific needs of the sector. But a recent survey from Triodos Bank and SENSCOT suggests that while ethical awareness is  high, accessibility, services and costs remain barriers to switching banks for many social enterprises.

Three quarters of respondents said that the recent banking crisis had changed the way they felt about banks in general. Respondents were looking for banks to have a more socially aware approach, not just based on profit, and for a more personal service. David Cousland of Triodos says “this result doesn’t really surprise me. If an organisation is based on a desire to make a difference, it may very well be looking for its bank to be doing the same”.

Only one in four was happy with the banking service they currently receive. Banks’ understanding of the social enterprise sector and the standard of customer service were common themes in the comments from respondents. One respondent summed their feelings up with “they just don’t seem to get the social enterprise/voluntary model”. Other issues voiced were not having a dedicated relationship manager, account charges and the difficulty in obtaining some products and services, overdraft and credit card facilities specifically. Another respondent commented “we have a ‘relationship manager’ who is the antithesis of the term.”

Six out of ten respondents thought that the employment of  more sector specialists and dedicated account managers by banks would help address their dissatisfaction. One in particular suggested that is would be useful for banks to have “a proper customer service charter that is available and transparent, and a committment to follow through”.

Despite this general disatisfaction, more than half said that they hadn’t considered moving their bank. “What keeps us with our bank is the sheer effort of changing, the friendliness of the local branch staff and the convenience of the branch location” said one respondent.

Accessibility to a bank branch was the reason 32% said they had chosen their bank. Encouragingly a bank’s ethics or ethical stance was important to 22%. Over half of those who responded indicated that to them, ethical banking means a sustainable banking model, a full understanding of a bank’s lending philosophy and transparency of how savings are used.

The good news is that more than 62% feel that their bank understands their sector and six out of ten of those surveyed said they would recommend their bank to a friend, colleague of organisation.

“An encouraging response for us” says David ”is that 100% of those Triodos customers who participated in the survey said that they would recommend us. For me, that demonstrates that Triodos Bank understands the social enterprise sector and  is able to meet an organisation’s financial requirements without the risk of compromising its principals.”