Changing finance: new this month – February

Our monthly round-up of news, ideas and initiatives related to transforming the UK financial system for people and planet, compiled by the Lab’s CEO, Jesse Griffiths.

It’s time for purpose-driven finance…

Why aren’t we trying to create a financial sector that works for all, asks the FT? Here’s how the UK financial sector can rediscover its social usefulness, and lead on sustainable finance post-Brexit.

Where can we go for inspiration? The Global Alliance for Banking on Values’ new website is a good start. Here’s a new resource to find ethical, sustainable banks in your area and Which?’s assessment of the best (and worst) banks for handling customer complaints. And community finance organisation, Moneyline describes its social impact.

… instead of more exclusion and inequality….

The ten years from 2008 were ‘the decade the rich won’. At the other end of the scale, the annual UK Poverty Report is a sobering dose of reality – 14.5 million people in the UK now live in poverty, including 4.3 million children.

Here’s why buy now, pay later schemes can be a ‘debt trap’ for struggling families.

“We are fighting a Sustainable Development Goals forest fire with financial water pistols” – a damning summary of the failures of the international financial system to rise to the pandemic challenge.

…climate breakdown ….

Commercial banks have channelled US$ 1.5 trillion to the coal industry since 2019. And you should never believe a bank’s net zero pledge – Europe’s biggest banks, including HSBC and Barclays, have financed companies planning fossil fuel expansion to the tune of $24 billion since signing their pledges.

Here’s what Greenpeace says financial institutions should do in the light of the International Energy Agency’s finding that there should be no more fossil fuel expansion. Meanwhile, the UK’s biggest private pension fund plans to shift £5bn away from polluters. And industry groups are pushing back against climate disclosure (sigh).

But some oil and gas bankers are retraining themselves and specialising in renewables.

So just how did the EU end up recommending some fossil gas projects be labelled as ‘green’? Here’s the story and how MEPs are fighting the move.

…. and financial crime.

The government is under pressure to live up to its promise to introduce an Economic Crime Bill after research shows it costs over 14% of UK GDP. More calls are being made for the UK to tackle its ‘dirty money’ problem (with one of the fiercest leaving speeches from a government Minister ever).

Here’s more on the UK’s ‘kleptocracy problem’ as its financial system continues to service post-Soviet elites. Credit Suisse prefers to serve ‘dictators, drug lords and criminals’ apparently.

Can regulation save us?

There’s a big pushback against the government’s new Regulatory Framework for Financial Services – nine-in-ten in the UK don’t want financial services regulations to promote ‘global competitiveness’. It could all end in disaster. Which is why campaign groups are asking the Treasury not to make regulators cheerleaders for the City. Instead they should focus on making a finance sector that works for all.

The government’s ‘Solvency II’ reforms “could expose millions of policyholders and pension savers to higher charges”.

FCA staff are contemplating striking over pay cuts. Does this imperil the FCA chief’s reform agenda?

Also….

Gargantuan banker bonuses are back.

Crypto assets pose a threat to global financial stability, according to the Financial Stability Board.

And finally…

Ian Hislop takes MPs to task for failures on lobbying and transparency. How many days does it take the average UK citizen to emit as much CO2 as an entire year’s emissions from citizens of other countries?