This blog entry has been written by Aqeel Kapasi of SOS, Students Organising for Sustainability.
We can all agree that teaching about money in schools is really important.
But it’s also important who does it and why.
Big banks have been going into schools, developing name recognition and building a rapport with a whole generation of young people – or future customers. 
The problem is we can bet these banks aren’t talking about their role in climate breakdown or other social injustices.
From funding fossil fuels to weapons companies, students aren’t often getting the full picture.
We, at the student-led educational charity SOS-UK, have been tackling this head-on with our Banking with Who? campaign, raising awareness of the big banks’ destructive role and encouraging young people to consider sustainability before opening their first bank account.
We believe it’s not about telling students who to bank with but to give them the tools to critically think for themselves and present the reality in the face of many banks’ clever PR campaigns and empty commitments.
So, what have we been doing?
Since the start of year, we’ve been working with colleges and sixth-forms to pilot free ethical banking workshops for students.
As well as going through the dodgy industries big banks often fund, we explore better alternatives and practices that students (and wider society) can support.
Despite the pandemic, we’ve managed to partner with colleges and sixth forms across the UK. We’ve even been into some community groups and universities.
The response from students and young people has been brilliant: most attendees said they would now be considering ethics before opening their first account, and many left determined to go home and convince friends and family of the important role banking plays in building towards a better society and planet!
Teachers who observed were often equally impacted, with one starkly commenting: “I am really glad I attended. Hoped to have an argument for leaving HSBC and you have provided that!”
Over the summer holidays we’re working with young campaigners and activists to get the word out on social media. Again, this is a space where young people are often barraged by commercial advertisers – including banks – trying to portray themselves as socially responsible. We want to challenge that!
We’ll then be back doing workshops with students in their new autumn term. From integration within PSHE lessons to business courses and e-learning, we’ve got plenty lined up! The support from students and staff alike has been promising and we hope this is just the start of conversations like this within schools and colleges.
Of course, there are structural issues with the financial system that need to change too. But thinking about who we bank with can still make a difference.
And young people can lead the charge.
#BadBanksBeware… students are banking with who?
Check out our free ethical banking resources here.
Colleges and sixth-forms can book our free workshops here.
 Resources offered by the “Big Five” UK banks:
- Barclays – https://barclayslifeskills.com/young-people/
- HSBC – https://www.hsbc.co.uk/financial-education/
- Lloyds – https://www.lloydsbankacademy.co.uk/financial-skills/
- NatWest – https://natwest.mymoneysense.com/home/
- Santander – https://www.santander.com/en/our-approach/inclusive-and-sustainable-growth/financial-education