building societies = transparency + profit

This is what happens when you choose to cooperate with a building society, not a main-street bank: you have rights to elect the Board of your building society,  agree or disagree with their propose changes to the Rules and Memorandum as set by the AGM (Annual general meeting). Building society’s customers are also asked to approve its Annual report and accounts, director’s renumeration report and appoint its auditors. Photo0177

Nationwide, is the biggest building society in the UK, its profits last year increased by 54% to 1 billion GBP and it is not the sec on largest mortgage lender in the country.

The main difference between ‘normal’ banks and building societies is that building societies do not have shareholders therefore they are not pressurised to make massive profits. This means that essentially they are able to run on lower costs and therefore offer cheaper products to their clients. Moreover, they are mutual institutions meaning – their clients make decisions on how the building society operates. They exist in UK since the 18th century. Building societies are not companies and are not listed on the stock market.

When thinking about the financial market, banking sector and the recent crisis which is still overshadowing lives of many people, it’s worth remembering that there ARE alternative ways of doing things. And, sustainable, people-friendly, fair and transparent banking can be profitable too.


money does not smell. or does it?

in case you are among those, who wonder how the London’s properties have become so unaffordable to buy and if you wonder why in developing countries governments struggle to provide the basic public services to their citizens, here is one of the answers. Apparently, 2.25 sq miles of London property or in other words – 36,342 London properties – are held by hidden companies registered in offshore havens.

Find our more here. 

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all you need to know about super-rich

This BBC documentary The Super-rich and Us (demonstrated in early January 2015) is probably the best film so far to shed some light on the ill-famous ‘1%’ and their lives. That 1% who caused global financial crisis in 2008 and who are living better than ever. UK has the highest number of millionaires per capita, yet it is also one of the most unequal developed countries, therefore this film asks – how come?

This film is about the myth of trickle-down effect, pro-rich tax regime (UK as the most important tax haven in the world and opportunities for innovative tax avoidance), corruption (HMRC helping companies to avoid or reduce tax), inequality, Thatcher’s ideological heritage, justice, and last but not least – democracy.

Watch it.


ending ‘too big to fail’ era?

“No banker likes to say it, but they get subsidies from the public. Banks worked on a ‘heads we win, tails you lose basis'”.

Mark Carney, Governor or Bank of England, head of the global Financial Stability Board.

(Evening Standard, 10 November, 2014)

Seems like there is some hope. If Carney is really serious about his campaign to end the ‘too big to fail’ era’, there is hope.

Benjamin Clementine: male ‘Nina Simone’ of 21st century

Benjamin ClementineHe comes on to the stage barefoot, somewhat shy and is almost whispering when he talks. But, when hitting the chords and starting to sing, with his authenticity, humbleness, massive voice, non-fictional and bold lyrics and life stories, – he grabs your soul, unlocks it, picks one piece after another and metaphorically strips it. Benjamin Clementine. Not for the fainthearted. Male ‘Nina Simone’. October 29, 2014 London

Festival for the mind

After hosting two TED events in 2011 and 2012 The Guardian/ Observer decided to organize this year their own (sort of) event inviting inspiring people to inspire other people to do too all sorts of amazing things. I have never attended a live TED event, but this day-long Guardian’s event of IDEAS totally exceeded my expectations and, i think, TED has a serious competitor. I did not feel bored for a minute. Such ‘world changers’ like – Chido Govera, who from an orphan girl in rural Zimbabwe has become a successful entrepreneur, activist and educator, Michael Twitty, who is questioning the conceptualization of ‘American food’ and campaigning for adequate representation of Afro-American culture in America’s food history, Jack Monroe, who is fighting against food poverty in Britain, and Emmanuel de Merode, who is working in the Eastern DRC preserving Virunga National Park from exploitation of natural resources through illegal activities – are a live evidence of what happens when a human being follows Giles Duleyhis/her passion and how changing the world starts from individuals. Individuals, who may have nothing except belief in themselves, determination and ability to dream.

Giles Duley’s story was incredible. He as a war journalist/ photographer lost his 3 limbs about 3.5 years ago and just recently has re-started working again. His greatest joy now is to be able to move from being a subject of a story (journalist who lost 3 limbs) to being again an author of stories from conflict zones.

Similarly, Edwyn Collins, a musician who has suffered several strokes and had temporarily lost memory, brought me to tears with his singing. That unimaginable desire of not giving up was very touching.

Thanks to technology (meaning, skype) audience could also have an indirect presence of Edward Snowden. When he was asked how he could leave behind all of that material wealth/ well-being and family/ girlfriend, which to so many would be a ‘paradise’, he said “it’s not about me. i’m just a mechanism of revelation.” His sense of responsibility to gain back rights of individuals supersedes his personal life interests. Courage to leave one’s comfort zone, risk his life, have no chance to return home and live in unknown – that’s truly extraordinary. Conchita Wurst

Last but not least, i was very pleased by the selection of amazing musicians – Benjamin Clementine, Conchita Wurst, Tinie Tempah, Rokia TraoreRokia Traore – who shared their own stories about dreams, challenges, fights, success, achievements. All of these talented people have gone through difficulties and challenges, each in their own way. But inner strength, hard work, patience and practice has made their dreams true. Benjamin Clementine I wish i could pack and hide somewhere half of the inspiration i gained today and could use on grey, gloom days to remind me of what’s possible and to send away doubts.