Questions To Ask Your Bank

Banks may seem like remote institutions but they are made up of people. You – and your faith community – have as much right as anyone else to question them about your ethical concerns.

One approach to banking is to organise with others in your faith community to engage with a bank and raise ethical concerns. You might do this alongside other individuals who keep their money in the same bank as you, or your church could raise ethical issues with the bank that holds the church’s money.

If you’re choosing a bank – as a church, a group or an individual – it may also be helpful to think about the ethical questions to ask.  Remember that there are alternatives to banks, such as building societies and credit unions, to which you may choose to switch your money. For some, engaging can be an alternative to switching.

We have suggested some possible questions, as well as some possible sources of answers for major banks. Feel free to use some of our questions or select your own. You may prefer to go more deeply into some areas than others.

Question 1 – Does the bank have an overall policy statement on its ethics and/or corporate social responsibility?

Question 2 – Who owns the bank?

Question 3 – Is the bank a retail bank only, or is it a “universal bank” (including both a retail bank and an investment bank)?

Question 4 – Does the bank make loans to, invest in or maintain accounts for arms companies? If so, does it place any restrictions on this (for example, companies involved with cluster munitions, or exporting arms to oppressive regimes)?

Question 5 – Does the bank make loans to, invest in or hold accounts for fossil fuel companies or other businesses involved in environmental destruction? What support does the bank provide for renewable energy and other environmentally beneficial enterprises?

Question 6 – Is the bank involved in speculation on food prices?

Question 7 – What is the highest rate of interest that the bank charges on any of its loans? What bank charges (for example, for overdrafts) does the bank charge? Are these likely to cause particular harm to people in poverty?

Question 8 – Does the bank provide “basic bank accounts” and other services that can be used by people who are financially excluded?

Question 9 – Does the bank avoid tax? How much tax did the bank pay in the UK last year in proportion to its profits?

Question 10 – Does the bank pay a living wage to all staff? What are the workers’ pay and conditions like more generally?

Question 11 – What pay and bonuses did the highest paid staff receive last year? What is the ratio between the pay (including bonuses) of the highest paid and lowest paid staff member?