The ‘ethical finance’ industry is all about cash careers with a conscience. The idea is that financial investment should be sustainable and responsible – with the industry keeping a weather eye out for potential negative impact on issues like governance, the environment and the economy. Responsible finance may sound like an impossible holy grail, but the ethical finance industry is growing – and it’s looking for graduates.
“Where can I find an ‘ethical’ job in finance?”
Traditionally, finance work for charities has been the popular ethical choice for finance graduates. However, current economic conditions haven’t favoured the graduates with an eye on the third sector, as charity finance departments reorganise duties among current staff to avoid taking on new recruits.
While competition may be on the up within the charity sector, it doesn’t mean there are no
jobs on offer. What it does mean is that there are alternatives in the world of ethical finance. ‘Ethical’ banks such as the Co-operative Bank and Triodos operate like conventional banks, but have strict rules about where their money comes from and where their profits go. Neville Richardson, Chief Executive of The Co-operative Financial
Services, explains, “The Co-operative Bank is different from other banks as it has no shareholders. Any profit is re-invested in to the business for the benefit of its members.”
Triodos’s ethical credentials, on the other hand, mean investing solely in projects that are socially responsible, and making sure their customers know exactly which companies they lend money to.
Both Triodos and the Co-operative Bank have retail, corporate and finance divisions offering insurance, pensions, investment banking and everything in between. So whichever side of finance grabs you, there’s an ethical alternative.
There are ethical jobs beyond banking too. UKSIF, the Sustainable Investment and Finance Association represent ethical finance companies in everything from pension funds to investment consultants and Think Tanks like the New Economics Foundation work with businesses and the government to find new ways to make finance ethical.
“What’s in it for me?”
Salary expectations within charity finance are “somewhat lower” than in the private sector says Tracey George, “although superior benefits and a better work-life balance do help to make up the shortfall”. Those benefits include flexible working hours, generous holiday allowance and great opportunities to train.
Working ethically doesn’t always mean ‘Compared to the private sector, charity finance careers can offer superior benefits and a better work-life balance ’ losing out financially. Employees in the Co-operative Bank’s high street branches are paid at the same rates as they would be in other banks. The difference is that when the company does well, its employees get a slice of the pie.
Some ethical banks can offer increased job security too. Neither Triodos nor the Co-operative Bank was hit very hard by the recession because of the way they borrow money. With careers in cash being so uncertain, one big plus is that the ethical banks aren’t going anywhere.“It’s very much a growing area”, says Penny Shepheard at UKSIF. “Ten years ago it was very much a niche field, now it is very much part of the mainstream. Within the next ten years it will become a normal requirement for providers of services that they can demonstrate they integrate environmental and social issues.” With such a promising future, ethical finance can be a great way to make a difference to the world, advance your career and be a banker without the abuse. You don’t