On 6 July, Save Our Bank, Amnesty International UK and the Fund for Global Human Rights organised a discussion meeting on the impact of bank account closures on charities and campaign groups.
The highly-productive all-day meeting was attended by representatives from some of the best-known organisations affected by account closures, smaller affected groups, and experts from more than one country on the issues of bank regulation and its effect on civil society.
The morning session focused on account closures at the Co-op Bank and elsewhere, and what we can do about it.
Some of the groups that had their accounts closed by the Co-op Bank at the end of last year spoke powerfully about the impact this had. Commonly standing orders were lost in the move to a new bank, sometimes never to be re-started. This resulted in reduced income. Dealing with the impact has meant diverting scarce staff and volunteer time away from vital work. It's incredibly disruptive, and can put organisations' futures at risk.
The afternoon session focused on regulations and the banks' 'de-risking' in response. This includes the impact of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and also the particular influence that US regulators have outside the US.
The meeting showed that the problem of charities and campaign groups having their account closed goes well beyond the Co-op Bank, although the impact of de-risking at the Co-op is particularly significant because it has so many charity and non-profit customers. Under pressure from regulators and eager to avoid massive fines, it's easier for banks to cut and run than to stick with groups that look like they might be a risk. But it creates havoc for the groups affected. The meeting helped us build knowledge - and alliances - for holding the Co-op Bank to its ethical policy commitments, in particular to act with honesty and transparency and to treat customers fairly when it comes to account closures.
You can find out more about our account closures campaign here.