The Church of England is backing a bid for hundreds of branches being offloaded by Royal Bank of Scotland, raising the prospect of a new, ethical bank on the high street.
The Church Commissioners, who manage the Church's investments, are helping to fund a consortium led by the former banker and trade minister Lord Davies looking to take control of 315 RBS branches.
With investment decisions by the Church Commissioners taking into account the advice of the Church of England's Ethical Investment Advisory Group, this would suggest consumers will have a new, ethical banking option if the consortium is successful.
Well, maybe. The report adds:
As well as the Church Commissioners, the consortium contains the private-equity firms Corsair – of which Lord Davies is a partner and vice-chairman – and Centerbridge, plus Standard Life, and the City veteran Lord Rothschild's investment trust, RIT Capital.
And note the CoE's ethical standards are:
No pornography, arms or booze are some of the guidelines by which the Church Commissioners' investment decisions are made.
That's fine but we all now know the big ethical issue is tax. Where is the CoE on that? Before we shout about an ethical bank we'd need an answer on that one, and I'm not holding my breath.