It’s coming straight for us! It probably smelt the wallet in your pocket.

20th March 2013 by

economy s

Click the image to enlarge. More cartoons here.

Moving My Money

29th February 2012 by

With all this talk around switching up your bank, it brought me back to my experience. I had it in my mind for some time to do it (think: 2 years!) but for some reason never got around to it. Sound familiar?

The story goes, I’ve been living in the UK for almost 5 years and when I landed, the first thing on my to-do list was to open a bank account. “Luckily”, my partner had an existing account with HSBC when he was young so I could tag along with his. It did the job and I never thought twice.

Fast forward to a few years later and I found myself working with Otesha. This was the real push I needed to:

a) ring up the Co-operative Bank and book an appointment with an advisor at their branch (which was open on a Saturday)


b) have a family talk about why we should switch over, what we wanted from a bank, and the pros and cons of the Co-Operative Bank.*

I should point out that my partner was quite nervous about switching over. He’d had his account for over 20 years and was concerned about a couple of issues dealing with his credit rating (does switching affect it?), fees involved in switching (are there any?), and how difficult it would be to switch banks.

The appointment with an advisor at the Co-operative answered all of our questions and put us at ease. We even chatted about his personal finance experience, working at the Co-operative and what he likes to do in his free time.

The switch was super easy. The Co-operative bank took care of it all. I brought any paperwork I thought would help (Eg. Bank statements, credit card details, and info about our living expenses). We had also looked at the Co-operative’s account options on their website but the advisor had all the information with him as well. We signed up for a Current Account Plus, credit cards for each of us, and internet banking. The process took about 4 weeks from start to finish and as promised, was well taken care of by the Co-operative bank. Their customer service on the phone was impeccable and I quite enjoy ringing them up when I have to.

1 year on, it’s been an absolute delight to do our banking – something I never thought I’d say. They’ve just been voted Best Current Account Provider 2011 by MoneySupermarket and there’s a reason for it.

So stop putting it off, it’s much easier than you may think and you’ll walk out with an extra spring in your step because you’re supporting an ethical bank.

* The Co-Operative Bank is only 1 example of ethical banking options. There are several out there to choose from.

My burning question on bankers’ bonuses and CEOs’ salaries

10th November 2011 by

Not very often, but once in a while, a top-tier banker or CEO will appear in a broadcasting studio or broadsheet newspaper interview and be asked: Are you worth it? Do you deserve it?

It seems the answer they give is always yes, sometimes with some humility and sometimes all-guns-blazing, arguing that their know-how and talent creates wealth for the rest of society.

George Monbiot this week pointed to research showing that bankers’ performances are no better than if they had thrown dice to make investment decisions. But, as he admits, present them with this evidence and it often makes no difference to their self-belief.

For me, these TV studio encounters are frustrating. There is a burning question I want to see the financiers answer. I think it would be illuminating and help blow some fresh air through the debate, opening up an important angle that’s often not looked at.

It’s not ‘Are you worth your salary?’ It’s not ‘Isn’t the gap between the richest and poorest hurting the whole of society?’ – though these are important questions.


“Why do you want so much more money than anyone actually needs?”

Pressing them to answer this question would make for an absolutely riveting interview. Many of the honest, or even dishonest, answers I can imagine being given would confront viewers, and perhaps the interviewees, with the question of how much wealth and how much consumption is enough, and how much is moral.

What might the honest answers be? Here are a few guesses:

“I want to earn enough so that I can move only in circles of similarly rich people and so I don’t have to mix with ordinary people unless I choose to.”

“I like to know that I possess more money than I could spend because the knowledge of this abstract wealth gives me a feeling of security and self-affirmation.”

“I want to buy stuff: Rolexes, swimming-pools, multiple homes with more rooms than I can use, haute couture, yachts, limousines, racehorses and private jets.”

“I want to reach that point where my wealth is so great that I can live off the interest on my existing wealth without having to do work that is actually productive.”

“I want to live with and die with more money and material possessions than 99% of human beings.”

“I want my children to go through life knowing only ease and total material security, provided for in every way so they don’t have to learn how to make their own way in the world.”

Their claims that they deserve their remuneration seem to convince some people, even some of those who can never hope to earn such sums themselves but respect those who have been able to.

But what would it do to the debate to air this question of what we might want enormous incomes for? Many people, most likely, would still identify with these desires, still want them for themselves and still see them as legitimate and justified reward for supposedly hard work and irreplaceable talent.

Many others, though, might find themselves feeling new disgust, anger, alienation or even pity towards those who want incredible wealth.

Airing the question, though, would help bring out some deep questions for all of us, because the gap between top-flight financiers and the rest of us arguably has a parallel in the difference between most of us in rich industrialised countries and the vast majority of the world’s people who would regard our lifestyles as those of kings and emperors.

It would put on the table for all us the question of how much is enough, whether there is a gap between what we desire materially what we need to live decently, whether our desires are compatible with natural limits and others’ well-being, and what we are prepared to forego for the greater good and greater equality.

This is an increasingly important question, because if we cling to a sense of entitlement to riches and great material ease, but the economy and declining available energy make these less and less attainable, the anger that may result can take ugly political directions into scapegoating and extremism. We all need to be prompted to re-evaluate what we can collectively afford to have and afford to desire.

So come on, Paxman, give it a shot.

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