Monday 16 February 2015

Starting With the Woman in the Mirror

By the end of a week in which it became increasingly difficult to maintain any faith in the possibility of integrity and banking being at all compatible, I finally took the plunge and joined the Green Party.

This wasn't an easy decision. I was born and brought up in South Yorkshire and both my father and grandfather were miners so socialism has been in my heart and soul since birth. A degree in Philosophy didn't dislodge it from either, but rather settled it deeper, as did having children. I haven't given up on the ideas, I just don't think Labour are coming up with the goods at the moment.

The Greens haven't a hope in hell of getting anywhere in my constituency, but then neither have Labour, so I'm won't be doing anything significant by shifting my vote, but it will certainly make me feel better. Whilst reading their website to double check I knew what I was getting into, I came across the moveyourmoney initiative and their current campaign "Divest" encouraging people to withdraw support from banks that invest in fossil fuels, which is pretty much all of them as far as I can see, with HSBC being the biggest offender (surprise, surprise). My own bank is up there too.

What struck me the most about all this was the fact that I simply hadn't put 2 and 2 together as regards my recent investment in oil with climate change and the importance of creating a sustainable energy policy for future generations. I suppose I'd been telling myself that the amount involved was so small that it didn't make a difference where I put it, and that I probably had money in all sorts of things I don't approve of without even knowing it, so it was pointless being sniffy about this buy. Well in this particular case I do know and it does make a difference, so this morning I've sold my BlackRock World Mining Trust shares, taken a bit of profit and set up an account with Abundance which is a crowdfunding platform that allows you to invest in renewable energy projects.

Abundance Generation. 
I'm really interested in the current project they have under offer which involves putting solar panels into social housing in Berwickshire. I just need to check that I understand the investment properly as it's something called an Income Growth Debenture with an IRR of 7.5%. Further details state:

This is the first project on Abundance to issue an Income Growth Debenture. An Income Growth Debenture is a long-term unsecured certificate that gives the holder the right to receive a defined amount of interest income each year (for Oakapple Berwickshire 3.3% for the first year - excluding the 0.4% Pioneer Bonus), which increases annually (for Oakapple Berwickshire by 3.3%) for the life of the investment. The amount paid out is not linked to the amount of energy produced and is paid in addition to repayment of your capital in the form of regular Cash Returns.

I'm not quite sure how this all fits together. If anyone can throw any light on it please do leave a comment. Although debentures are meant to be held for the long term you can sell via a bulletin board on the site and they do state that all sales so far have been "positive" - ie have made a profit. There is obviously some risk to all this but the amount I would be investing would be quite small (£1,500), in fact you have to confirm that you won't invest more than 10% of your assets on the platform when you create an account, and I really like the double whammy of sustainable energy and social housing.

The events this week also prompted me to look at where I hold my current account, and, as a result, I've decided to switch to NationWide which come out with a MoveYourMoney score of 64/100. On top of that their Flex Account pays 5% interest on up to £2,500 for a year so we'll be setting up two (one joint for our everyday banking and one in my name to manage the rental income) and closing down everything we have with Halifax. Now I just have to work out what to do with the bulk of our cash which is sitting in a Santander account.

It's been a busy weekend but I feel better for it. I've done a lot of reading that has given me back hope that despite the events of last week, there are plenty of people out there who are working hard to give us opportunities to invest, save and use our money in a positive way so that we can secure not just our own future, but the future for us all.

I hope that at some time I will feel that I can also re-invest in the Labour Party and see it as the Party of the future but at the moment this isn't the case. Time will tell..

Labour? It is in transition. It knows the socialism it used to champion no longer functions: it knows neoliberalism does not work either. It experimented with Blairism, which for all its electoral success did not address the fundamental weaknesses in the British system. It knows it is a party for the mass of Britain, with roots that must remain in the workplace and the day-to-day life of ordinary people. It is dedicated to their flourishing, and to the justice that must underpin it. The country at different times in its history has looked to its left and right traditions to do the correct thing. It now needs Labour to complete its transition, to pick up this programme, or something like it, and implement the change we need to show how good we can be. "

Will Hutton, extract from "How Good We Can Be: Ending the Mercenary Society and Building a Great Country".


  1. Snap! I too was born and raised in a small S Yorkshire coal mining village.

    Congratulations on your decision to leave Labour and join the Greens. They seems to have lots of good policies and not just on the environment - social justice, devolution, Europe etc - a good friend of mine has been active locally for many years and managed to get elected to the local council last year!

    However, as you have alluded, I think it will be difficult to maintain your holdings in mainstream investments as I guess many will not fit very well with a 'green' philosophy - as they say, you cannot have infinite growth (capitalism) on a finite planet.

    Be interested to see how your portfolio and investing evolves and whether you decide to take a more ethical route in the future.

    Good luck!

  2. Thanks diy investor, it's good to hear from someone else with Yorkshire roots. :-)

    I know that ethical investing isn't easy and that, as with a lot of things in life, it can be a matter of just doing the best that you can, even if that is a compromise. Going forward though I intend to hold myself a little more accountable as regards what I am putting my money into.

    Some things are measured by more than just profit margins.

  3. Hi Cerridwen

    I sometimes envy people like yourself who are passionate enough about things that you can throw your hat into the ring with regards to your political beliefs.

    Whilst I've always been generally interested in politics, I've never really been able to identify with any party enough to want to say wholeheartedly that that's who I would support. That said, I've voted in every General Election since I was able to vote, but my vote hasn't always been for the same party.

    Ever tried taking the Political Compass Test?

    I first took the test 10 years ago and came out bang on the middle, which proved that I had no real leanings towards any sort of radicalness in any direction.

    However, I took the test again recently and it looks like my older self has shifted a few degrees slightly to the bottom left quadrant (where Gandhi is!), so perhaps I'm mellowing a bit as I get older!

    As for ethical investing - it was something I did consider but not something that I will be practising just yet, not in my first year of proper investing. It does sound a little selfish that I just want to see my investments grown no matter what I've invested in (and I will be buying more 'sin stocks') but outside of investing, I very much do my bit by recycling, not wasting energy, food or water.

    Good to hear that Nationwide had a good score - I've been a customer of theirs for many years, had a couple of mortgages through them too, although they're not my main bank - the naughty HSBC/First Direct are...

    1. Hi weenie, thanks for the link.

      I've just done the test and come out bottom left just like yourself. If you click the "Plot your Results against UK Parties 2015 General Election" we're both slap bang in the middle of the "Greens" area (Both Labour and Tory are above the line in the more "Authoritarian" area, they also both seem to be to the Right of Hitler and only slightly lower down the Fascist scale!) So maybe you'll consider the Greens this year? :-)

      I think the most important thing about our political thinking is to make sure we keep doing it and don't just vote blindly for a certain party just because we've always done so. Issues, and the world, are changing all the time and the political parties must be able to adapt.

      Ethical investing is an extremely thorny area so I don't blame you at all for easing into the whole investment world before trying to tackle it. I'm definitely still invested into a fair number of dodgy business myself. One of the reasons things are so muddy is because so much of the financial activity goes on "below the water line" and we can't see exactly what our money is actually doing. That is one of the reasons I really like Abundance. Everything is very clear, the risks and benefits are fully explained and you know exactly what you're putting your money into.

  4. I'll be looking at all the manifestos, so I can't promise I'll be voting Green, but you never know!