“Good for the community” is rarely used in the same sentence as banks. This is unsurprising, as the Banking Royal Commission deepened the distrust of financial services already held by many Australians.
There are a lot of problems to be dealt with here. In this article, we’re going to focus on the impact of finance on the community and the environment. This is because in Australia, banks continue to have a huge impact on the planet – unfortunately, by financing fossil fuel projects. In some ways, funding fossil fuels is one of the most self-serving things a bank can do. It brings them only short-term profit at the cost of the planet warming to unliveable temperatures, ultimately harming our global community.
But there is reason to hope. Some banks are trying to raise the bar. As a social enterprise, we’ve reviewed banks based on their mortgage rates along with their social and environmental impact. This week, we’re looking at Members Equity (ME) Bank.
In this article:
Ethics and the finance sector
According to a recent study by Swinburne University of Technology, one in three Australians think banks do nothing for the community. The same correspondents rated financial institutions as poor on transparency and accountability, and believed they needed to focus on producing positive social outcomes through their work.
Some banks have been trying to meet these standards. Bank Australia takes pride in lending to social causes, such as charities and housing for people with disabilities, and refusing to lend to casinos, the tobacco or arms industries.
Many of the big banks fund fossil fuel projects. Funding the work of coal, gas and oil corporations has been very profitable for some time. This makes it important to choose financial services, where possible, that do not hurt the planet. Financial institutions can do this in several ways:
- Divest from funding fossil fuels (although some like Bank Australia never have)
- Reduce their carbon footprint
- Finance, invest in and insure projects that benefit the planet, such as renewable energy.
By rewarding the banks that actively avoid harming the planet, we can show the big four that their business practices are no longer acceptable.
A bank that cares about people and the planet
ME Bank has supported community causes over the years. This includes raising funds for breast cancer research and sponsoring the HESTA Awards (rewarding our heroes in the health and care sector). Some may dismiss this as good public relations management. While that may be true, that does not reduce the weight of their actions. What remains important is holding financial institutions accountable, as big earners, to even bigger giving.
ME Bank has a much smaller environmental impact than any of the big four banks. A spokesperson told Market Forces:
“ME does not have any investments in the mining industry, including the coal and gas export industries, and does not intend to invest in these industries in future. Given ME is owned by 26 industry super funds, we are committed to responsible business practices. ME is particularly committed to ensuring human and labour rights are upheld with all the parties we do business with.”ME Bank, to Market Forces
This fossil-free approach is commendable. Of course, doing no harm is not the same as doing good. However, as a growing bank owned by industry super funds and linked to large unions, this decision is bound to have impact on the bank’s partners.
A mortgage with ME
As an ethical bank, ME Bank is definitely worth considering for your home loan. However, choosing a bank with a conscience should not come at a higher cost. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of their home loans.
- Attractive interest rate – advertised lowest variable rate of 2.43% (effective 26/11/20), a 0.15% drop following the Reserve Bank of Australia’s recent interest cuts.
- Redraw & extra repayments – redraw and extra repayments allowed at any time.
- 100% full offset account.
- No ongoing fees.
- Leading customer satisfaction – highest satisfaction rating from home loan customers.
- Redraw scandal – It has recently come out that ME Bank has removed funds from their customers’ redraw facilities without consent or notification. ME Bank was heavily shamed for this behaviour, especially after the parliamentary hearing. This should mean that they will hold themselves to higher standards going forward. If you’re concerned about this or not sure what it means for you, chat to us for understanding your options with ME Bank. Alternatively, check out our reviews of other ethical banks, such as Bank Australia, Suncorp and Adelaide Bank.
- Poor customer service – customers have reported poor service banking with ME. We eliminate this problem if you go through us. We manage all communications with the bank, so you don’t have to wait for call backs and support tickets.
Choosing the right bank may seem like a tough call. This is where we come in. We believe taking out a home loan shouldn’t give you grey hairs. By going through us, you can also help the community at the same time. With each home loan we process, we invest up to 50% of our upfront commission with one of our charity partners.
A mortgage doesn’t have to be a trap – it can give you more options. Talk to us about getting a better rate than the one advertised, and finding a socially conscious bank at the same time.
Disclaimer: The information provided is general in nature and does not constitute financial advice. Please speak to us for recommendations on your individual circumstance and requirements.