The Co-operative Bank – the end of ethics in UK banking?

By Tony Weekes on October 22, 2013

I am sure that many people will feel devastated by today’s news that the Co-op Bank will “almost certainly lose its status as an ethical bank” (to quote Peter Marks, former CEO of the Co-op Group, reported in The Guardian online, 22.10.2013).

My purpose here is simply to draw attention to another retail bank whose ethical stance appears impeccable: the Reliance Bank.  See website, and, in particular,

I should add that I have no personal experience as a customer, but a Friend in my own meeting – having seen the way  the Co-op Bank was going – opened an account with Reliance. She tells me that the contact and formalities were straightforward and she is quite satisfied with  its services.

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  1. phil harris
    Posted October 29, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Hi Tony
    I checked Reliance policy just now. Do you have any info on whether Reliance is suitable for ‘fossil fuel dis-investment’?

  2. Tony Weekes
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Reliance Bank seems to me to offer decent retail banking services, driven by the principles which inspire the work of the Salvation Army. In the light of my posting – the opinion of Peter Marks about the future of the Coop Bank being “ethical” – I suggest that the services of RB may be worth considering. But – I must stress – what I am doing is drawing attention to these, not making a recommendation.

    What Britain and Ireland need – and need badly -is banking which recognises and is driven by issues of our time. Triodos, in my opinion, does this but does not offer a full banking service in the UK. For a view of what banking should be I recommend perusal of the website of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV)( People in Germany and the Netherlands (and, no doubt, other countries) have access to GABV banks. All we have at present is some rather limited efforts by the British Government to put the “train wreck” banks back on track. We need to be inspired to press (with confidence!) for much better.

  3. Jamie Wrench
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Before we get into a panic I hope we’ll wait and see. The Co-op Bank is not intrinsically weak; it got burnt because of its involvement with the Brittania Building Society. Its ethical policy is its Unique Selling Point (nearly unique, anyway) and it would be a risky commercial decision to abandon that. We’re sticking with them at the moment, but I agree it goes against the grain to find oneself in cahoots with hedge funds..

  4. Tony Weekes
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    I have no wish or intention to create panic. I too am sticking with the Coop Bank for the moment. But I think that the principles it espouses do need to develop further – they’re looking a bit last millennium to me! And Peter Marks (as reported) does not seem too optimistic.

  5. Symon
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I have emailed Reliance Bank to ask them some questions about their ethical policies. I will let you know what they say!

  6. VeronicaZundel
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Can I give a heads up to Triodos Bank, which has been in the UK for several years? They don’t do a cheque account but as cheques are dying out anywyay, that may not matter. They do personal accounts, savings accounts, ISAs and everything else you may need. And they’re definitely ethical!

  7. Symon
    Posted October 31, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I have a received a reply from the Reliance Bank, answering my questions about their ethics.

    They’re run by the Salvation Army (which receives 75% of the bank’s allowable profits) and they abide by the same ethical principles as the Salvation Army. They don’t have a statement of ethics as such, but are thinking of producing one now that more people are asking for it.

    However, it seems they don’t invest in companies as such and are a very small operation.

    They do say that they won’t open accounts for companies involved in alcohol, firearms, gambling, the sex industry or international money transfer. They won’t open accounts for companies registered abroad. Other than that, their accounts are open to anyone in the UK regardless of religion.

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