Banking and microbusiness: the ethical bind

Anthony Haynes writes: With my wife, Karen, I own and run a microbusiness – Frontinus Ltd: frontinus.org.uk. Since we don’t possess a widely recognised brand, we have, in order to develop business, to find ways to demonstrate that we are trustworthy.

One way we do that is by assuring our prospective clients of the credentials of our suppliers. The quality of suppliers can tell you a lot about the quality of a business.

I like to be able to say, ‘We use only trustworthy suppliers’.

Only I can’t say that truthfully. Why? Because we bank with Barclays. You know — the bank once rooted in the principles of Quakerism but, in our own era, focused on mis-selling insurance and rigging the LIBOR market. Not to mention the tax avoidance, facilitating money laundering, and failure to disclose conflicts of interest. We bank with crooks.

So we decided to do something about it. We decided to research the alternatives.

We compiled a list of all the banks that offer business current accounts. We then deleted those that:

  • had been heavily fined by regulators or courts for illegal practice;
  • had a branch somewhere vaguely near;
  • didn’t offer a business current account
  • didn’t offer a business US $ account
  • did offer a business US $ account, but only with punitive charges

What were we left with? Handelsbanken. Unfortunately, Handelsbanken don’t deal with businesses below a certain size, so that ruled them (or, rather, us) out.

The outcome, therefore, is that we continue to bank with crooks.

It’s frustrating how many banks fell by the wayside by failing to offer (decent) US $ accounts. Much has changed since the days of Jules Verne’s Around the world in eighty days – except, it seems, in banking.

I wish one of the challenger banks that sound so promising would come forward and offer micro-businesses a decent foreign currency deal. We want to cleanse our business of the stains of organised crime.

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2 Responses to “Banking and microbusiness: the ethical bind”

  1. Mind you, Anthony, you could be part of a university that operates with only one bank account (and that certainly not a foreign one). Quite challenging.

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