How to choose the right bank for you – one you can trust

It was recently announced that more than eight million current accounts have been switched since the Current Account Switch Service launched in 2013 to take the hassle out of moving providers.

If you are thinking about switching from a bank that has lost your love, it’s important to look carefully and find the best provider for you. For most people, you are about to enter into a long-term relationship.

While the most obvious route could be to pick the provider that promises the most financially, there are other crucial factors to consider before opening an account. Much like choosing a property or car, it’s important to take your time and properly consider what you are signing up for.

To encourage people to switch their accounts, some banks offer switching bonuses. These incentives, while attractive financially, often divert our focus away from factors like ethics, sustainability and customer service. Through one-time bonuses, many banks hope people won’t look any deeper.

Do you care about how the bank you are entrusting your money to behaves? Typically we tend to stick with the same bank account for a long period of time.

This means that it is even more important to make sure you’re taking your time and picking the right bank and whether it supports a future you want to live in.

As the guardian of your money, you might feel your bank needs to align with where you want your money to be invested; and how you want to be treated. I think we could talk more about the non-financial aspects of the current accounts on offer.

Unfortunately, comparison sites often focus on the short-term financial offering, even though the non-financial aspects of a bank are important given many of us can end up holding these accounts for decades.

Over this time, the money you place in your bank account isn’t just kept safe (although that is an important function of a bank); it is leveraged to make investments.

However, unless you’ve chosen a provider that offers complete transparency in every loan and investment they make, it can be difficult to know how it is being used. They might have sustainability policies on their websites, but can you trust them to follow through?

A lack of transparency around lending and investments from many banks hides the fact that they could invest in arms, tobacco, new fossil fuel extraction and all manner of dirty sectors that many of us would not want to actively support.

For those who are in the fortunate position to take factors beyond the financial into account, it can be hard to cut through the noise. Luckily independent consumer choice organisations such as Which? and Ethical Consumer closely research the financial products on offer and give impartial recommendations, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time researching.

The best comparison sites recognise the importance of non-financial factors and will often include rankings or ‘Best Buy’ recommendations for the likes of customer service and sustainability.

Crucially, if you’re in a position to do so, it is worth looking further than each bank’s green claims and using independent comparison sites to get a rounded picture of what’s on offer. If you feel strongly about the climate emergency, for example, look at specialist sites such as bank.green or switchit.green.

Only then will you end up getting the full picture, and hopefully entering into a relationship with a bank that you can trust to do the right thing.

Bevis Watts is CEO of Triodos Bank UK.

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