Monday 31 October 2011

I am a customer and shareholder of Barclays Bank

Does that make me a bad person?

I don’t like capitalism but, as I’m not prepared to opt out of ‘the system’ and live in a ditch, I’ve learned to live with it as best I can. As have most other people in this country I might add. Virtually every financial transaction is an act of capitalism. It’s a shit system but that’s the system, sadly. We can change it but the majority don’t seem to want to. If you have a pension, an endowment policy or some other kind of life assurance savings policy you will indirectly be investing in the stock market, and probably in Barclays Bank or some other institution that is oft held up in public as worse than the rest of them. It does often seem very random about which companies people chose to hate or hold up as examples of “the unacceptable face”. That doesn’t mean I necessarily approve of everything that Barclays do I might add.

To date my working life has been spent in the private sector, so as you can imagine I have been well and truly shafted by capitalism over the years. Early on I was a bank clerk working for Lloyds Bank as it was then. My first ever bank account was with Lloyds, although I switched from them after I left. Over the years I have been a customer of a number of banks, including the Co-operative Bank, who I still have an ‘Oxfam’ credit card with. But I have always found Barclays to offer excellent service, their branches well sited and relatively plentiful and their online banking is first class. So much better than a mutual I also deal with. I acquired the Barclays Bank shares via the Woolwich Building Society. As a member at the time that the Woolwich demutualised I was issued with some of their shares. I held on to them. When Barclays bought the Woolwich I was then issued with Barclays shares in their place. I’ve held on to them. They go up and down like the proverbial Tower Bridge, and this year those peaks and troughs, mainly troughs I have to say, have been quite extreme. I consider them as a long term investment; a little something for my retirement.

As most people who work in the private sector will know, pension arrangements these days, by and large, tend to be shit. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to retire as my pensions aren’t going to be great but I have no desire to work until I drop. I worked for a company for 16 years and paid into their pension scheme. I left about 6 months before that company finally went bust. The last owners ran it into the ground, stole employees’ pension contributions and never made their promised contributions. Because of this, a failed marriage and challenging finances through much of my life my pensions will fall short of anything decent. In an attempt to supplement the meagre pensions that I will no doubt get when I eventually retire I have invested the Barclays shares along with shares of a few other household names into an ISA. My pensions and savings will possibly only just keep me above a poverty existence. And, I am not over egging the pudding here I can assure you. Retirement, despite not arriving soon enough, is going to be a struggle for me, that’s of course if I am spared. That said I know that many millions are going to be a lot worse off than me because they will only have the state pension and other benefits to live on; pensions and benefits that become less valuable virtually by the day. A civilised society would certainly not have the inadequate pension provision that we have in this country.

That’s my excuse, what’s yours?

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