Recent documentaries and movies dismantled the hidden face of finance and banking sector and showed how they truly are. The wolf of Wall Street, the big short, Inside Job unveiled some complex and scary pieces of info about this “big money industry” on which we have no influence but can have so much impact. Speculation, hedge fund managers, private equity fund managers, real estate fund managers, and future and shorts… The industry is often depicted as a dehumanized world in which the only goal is to make more money.
What do I know about banking? Not so much, I hope the bank keeps my money safe but don’t try to understand what is behind this complex system. However, is it okay to know so little about what are banks doing with our money? As an individual always looking for ways to make this place on earth more pleasant and better, I believe that we SHOULD be aware and interested of what our banks are doing.
What if the bank invests in the nuclear arms industry industries or very polluting industries, as many of them do?A recent Belgium’s study revealed that our money placement, were at the top of our carbon footprint with 100 tons of CO2 per year. That is so much more than our consumption and production footprint so we should care about the banks investments. We can make a choice by choosing a bank that doesn’t do this kind of investment. Big improvements have been made in this direction, particularly by the DIVEST movement; an international movement which only goal is to put away investment from polluting and fossil energy corporations through petitions and campaigns. I believe that these kind of initiatives are necessary to build a better world. Finally, changing our behaviors, sharing our beliefs and international movements of this type have all the same common purpose to influence the settled globalized system runs by big corporations.
Luckily some “ethical banks” are emerging; these banks are working according to the same model as the usual ones but with a different guideline: transparency and trustful policies. Their first objective is not to make profit and enrich the elite but invest and support actions and companies with social and environmental purposes; letting their customers aware of the bank’s activities. Then, choosing a more responsible bank can be a way to show that we don´t agree with the current system and would like to make it change. They are more and more present and popular in Europe.
But still they are part of the financial sector and work on the same model. I would like to explore if we can do without them? So what are our possibilities?
Alternatives to the current banking system exist; new currencies are emerging with communitarian monetary systems. A good example is the district of Brixton in London which has its own “Brixton pound” with its own printed bills and coins. I see these initiatives as a clever way to break the globalized consensus settled in the world today coming with a lot of advantages but some undesirable effects too. It reconciles communities, reduces the production circuit and proves that pull ourselves away from the usual national and international bank system is possible. On top of that, they personalized their money appearance and its 10 pounds bill has the face of David Bowie printed on it; which is much more fun than the Queen! Those solutions are more sustainable as the economy doesn’t only profit to the elite but encourage local economy and small businesses, while limiting environmental impact.
But what to do with your savings? Today, interest rates are so low and economy so fragile that it´s difficult to trust banks for our savings. Savings that we want to make for our children to have an education or to save for a nice holiday. Some people would just take out their money from the bank and hide it under their mattress. But actually, our possibilities are wider today. Crowdfunding platforms and projects like ‘kickstarter’ and ‘kiss kiss bank bank’ for example are a good way to place your money in projects that you believe in. However, you will not be able to send your children to university through crowdfunding invests. So, if you keep looking, there are still other solutions to make profit from your invests… Going in this direction, new crowdfunding platforms like www.oneplanetcrowd.com allows you to invest in some startups and businesses’ projects with the possibility to get good percentage from it in return. Or, invest directly in renewable energy for example seems like a responsible option too to make profit if you’re concerned about the environment and sustainable solutions to fossil fuels and want to slow the bank industry’s power.
So, making businesses, profit, investments, savings without banks is possible; collectivity and sharing have a lot of promises.