So, where have I been then?
Oh, dealing with….stuff you wouldn’t want to know about. No, really, you don’t. But mostly just trying to put a few positive plans into action, a couple of which have started well, thank you.
But I’m not going to write about any of that. Sorry, another time perhaps.
No, I’m going to grumble about banks instead … and not even the “bad” ones. Because I’ve finally lost patience with so called ethical investment too.
The thing is, all my adult life – ever since I first had a bank account – I have chosen to bank with what used to be the only UK bank which promised not to deal with dictators, arms investors, cosmetic companies who torture bunnies and all that kind of malarkey. I have never – ever – put a penny into what we used to just think of as the big high street banks, and now know to be run by the kind of scrotes who couldn’t make it doing something more respectable. Drug dealing, illegal abortions or mugging pensioners for example.
Then a few months back, out of the blue, all of the Manx environmental groups, development charities and pressure groups which – on principle – also kept their accounts there were given notice that said caring, sharing bank was closing the accounts. In some cases this notice was less than a week. Given the background checks all banks now do on new customers before accepting accounts, plus the rank incompetence of many bank staff, this caused misery and absolute chaos.
Never mind. There is, as it happens, a newer ethical bank where many of us PC folks have savings accounts, and we knew it was about to launch current accounts. These were finally launched a month or two back, and we had notices saying they would be rolled out gradually to all interested customers.
So this week we finally got personalised messages …… saying that they would not be offering current accounts to any Manx customers.
The official explanation, as any Manx customer of a UK bank will know, is that the UK government now requires UK banks to “ring fence” normal banking from investment banking. But somehow that has turned into an excuse for UK banks to simply not accept Manx customers at all.
As the Manx Financial Services Authority have confirmed (after direct negotiations with their Brit counterpart) there is no legal reason to exclude accounts for individuals who actually live on the Isle of Man. The UK banks have just decided to do it anyway.
Well, except for a few very, very wealthy customers who, for tax reasons, maintain a Manx address which goes on their HMRC records, but do not actually live here. For those, account executives at some banks are making …well …. “special arrangements”. For a hefty fee of course. Some of which makes it into the annual bonuses of those who make them.
The real reason is quite clear. Senior staff at all of these banks have been found doing stuff they should not, such as running accounts for Colombian cartels, and are now under much closer scrutiny. In order to make it look like they are complying, they have to produce records of attempts to question an agreed percentage of customers and turn away some potential business. They simply choose to do this for certain types of customers. Innocent ones, who live in certain places, come from certain ethnic backgrounds… well, you probably get the picture.
Then, when the cartels, the gun runners, the developing world asset-strippers and vulture-funders put a big bit of business their way, it slips through without even a second glance. You kind of expect that hypocrisy and double dealing from the Big Four. No wonder the name of one of them is slang for self abuse. You know, sticky fingers?
But when the institutions we’d hoped would break the mould just meekly join in this blind postcodism without questioning either the facts or practice, what hope or reason is there for any of us to do the right thing?