Eco careers - ethical banking

As part of our series looking at eco-careers, we spoke to Tom Owen about working at ethical bank Triodos.

What do you do?

As the Business Development Manager at Triodos Bank I’m responsible for generating new business – with savers, businesses and charities.

How did you get to your current position?

I started off as a police officer in Bristol. Eventually I decided I wanted something different, so I sent my CV to Triodos on spec. It so happened they were about to advertise the job I’m doing – so here I am.

What motivated you to work in this area?

A powerful desire to do good. I see banking as ensuring money flows as efficiently as possible from saver to entrepreneurs doing good in the world.

Do you need qualifications?

Not always. Everyone who works with financial products, from directors to traders to call centre operators, needs to pass a basic anti-money laundering course.

I’ve had to develop an understanding of banking as a whole - as well as Triodos’ own financial products and more about the sectors we lend to like organics and renewable energy.

What skills are useful?

A broad spectrum of marketing, networking and communications skills are vital for my role.

Can you earn as much in the ethical sector as in the wider banking world?

It’s fair to say that money isn’t the key motivation for most people working in sustainable banking.

Nobody at Triodos is paid a contractual bonus. We ensure that top earning salaries do not excessively exceed those in the more junior roles. This ratio is tracked across the Triodos Group to ensure that everyone earns a decent, fair salary.

Triodos UK’s customer facing roles are also based here in the UK, with no outsourcing of customer services abroad.

What challenges currently face the industry?

The number one issue is transparency. We at Triodos are open about what we do. We make our loan book – essentially every organisation we finance - available for anyone to look at.

If you could look at every bank’s loan book, there would be nowhere to hide things – like investing in repressive regimes or environmentally damaging practices.

It’s like choosing to buy a Fairtrade product. A supermarket can make it available, but you decide if you feel strongly enough to buy it. Similarly, you can decide whether you want to use your savings to fund the things we support.

Triodos Bank only lends to companies, charities and other organisations that provide a positive social and environmental benefit.

Triodos doesn’t make loans to individuals, but you can open a savings account with them. Open an account with Triodos Bank, deposit £100 or more and they'll donate £40 to Friends of the Earth*.

*Terms and conditions apply, see here for details.

Interview by Kate Plowman, Publishing and New Media team