Monday, 9 April 2018

Ethical banking in Spain (Part 2) - Opening an account with Triodos

Given the choice of Triodos in the Balearic I thought it would be suitable to open an ethical bank account and write about my experience as an expat. So here it goes.

I prepared my NIE and Passport and cycled to the center of Palma. The manager did not speak much English so as the words were technical in nature I struggled to interpret everything in Spanish. In the end we somehow made it work. To cut the long story short, I was told I cannot open an account with the current NIE document as it expired.

I left and called the solicitors who were dealing with my paperwork. After going backwards and forwards with questions a week later I was told the document is NOT expired and in fact it never expires. The solicitor instructed me to call and hand the phone over to the bank manager to understand the issue better.

A week later (on Friday) I made my way to the bank and this time I was directed by the bank manager to another person which speaks fluent English so it was much easier to handle more complex questions. And there were a lot. After being told the same response I called my solicitor and handed the phone who then continued to discuss the issue. In the end, this manager had to get the approval from the branch manager to at least initiate the bank account opening with my social security documentation. This documentation would be sent a day later and dated from today. Even then, the very professional manager had to go through various discussions with the legal team around the opening of the account, very long form fillings and many questions. She kindly asked if I could leave everything with her and she will attempt to process next week once everything is checked with the legal team. Having spent two hours in there I was keen to leave anyway.

By Monday I received the documentation from my solicitors who I then asked to send to the bank manager directly to avoid me going there for the 3rd time. The following day I was notified the account is now active and I am able to login online.

One other issue is that I need to call or I need to attend the branch to order a card which then arrives to my house.

After all the above, I can tell you that almost definitely you will struggle to open an account with a temporary NIE issued to all non-residents in Spain after three months of the date on the paper.

See here for a good simple guide on NIE and residency

A green card with your NIE (NĂºmero de Identidad de Extranjero) which has been extended or the green residency card. None which I have seen but this is what I am told by the staff at Triodos bank.  This was previously a green paper and its since been replaced. High difficulty opening

So here is my final bit..

Easy opening
You have a residency card (The tarjeta de residencia) which all Spanish have will simplify the opening and questions since they can trace your history.

Medium difficulty opening
A white paper with your NIE which you presented to the bank within 3 months of the date on the letter. Note that the validity of this letter or NIE never actually expires. Expect a lot of questions and forms to understand your economic situation and no guarantee you will be able to open an account.

Almost impossible opening
Same letter (on the right) only the date at the bottom of the letter has surpassed 3 months from the day you presented it to the bank.

Being Ethical and opening an account seems to come at a price. Its not convenient for expats who may resort to a simpler method and join one of the many high street banks dealing with the opening within an hour. This is the choice you need to make if you want to be ethical. I personally think this is where Triodos is losing customers given their competitors are making it far simpler. Their legal team seems to have made the process extremely complex (even for their own staff to understand) and have their own internal rules. Note that the NIE never actually expires nor does the validity of the paper. I love the fact they promote sustainability in the society but an ethical bank needs to feel modern. 

Score opening 5/10

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Ethical banking in Spain (Part 1) - Choices

As we continue our journey of being mindful and aware of our actions, the first place we should start is where we keep our money. We live in the material world so our financial choices matter. We may never see how this money is moved and this is part of the problem which feels very abstract. However, there's a big difference between Santander or ethical banks such as Triodos.

When we decide what is ethical, we should be focusing on the business decisions the company makes which carries environmental or social impacts. For example,  based on an UK report this bank which operates in Spain invests £3.5 billion into oil and gas.

We should then be considering their internal practices - racial or sexual discrimination, salaries, working hours and so forth.

These ethical banks face a tougher challenge to stay in business, competing with regular banks. Their policies and lower customer base means they often struggle. It is crucial we all join in and support them

Question is, why would you keep your account open and your money in non-ethical banks given a clear choice of ethical banks? Is it the time it takes for you to switch? Are you worried you will lose all your money if there's another global crisis? In the future articles we will attempt to answer both of these questions by applying for bank accounts and working out the time it will take to switch from my existing bank account provider to Triodos and Coop57 AND compare any government guarantees in case of another financial crisis.

These are the current known ethical banks in Spain:

For a list of Ethical banks in Europe as per WikiPedia article, click here and if you have any experience in Ethical banks within Spain, do let me know.

One final thing. I'm running a BuyCott campaign to add Ethical banks to the list. Please support the campaign to grow the list.

Link to the BuyCott campaign:

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Plant trees while you search the web

Did you know that Ecosia is responsible for planting over 5,5000,000
Ecosia is a german based B-corp organization and to understand what this means:

"B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency."

How it works:

Its super simple. Ecosia is paid by businesses to display their ads (just like Google) but instead their revenue is shared towards the greater good. Read here about their project and full information on how this process works

Can they be trusted?

Well, on their page you can find a link to their full financial reports and how they distribute their profits. Totally transparent and you only need to take a look at their team to understand they're normal human beings.

Read more about their setup here.

You can download the latest report here

Do I need to stop using my favourite browser?

No, it really makes no difference at all. You don't need to stop using Chrome, Safari or IE to use the new search. Depending on how you set it up, its a search engine page just like and the quality of the search results as well as the layout is pretty impressive, mimicking the best.

So let's start with the various setup options.

1. Make ECOSIA your default homepage in any browser

To set Ecosia as the homepage in your browser, find your browser below and follow the instructions at the corresponding link:

2. Add a permanent Chrome extension 

- Click on this link to install the extension

- Click add to Chrome

- A small world icon will now appear in the top right corner.

- You can click on the icon OR search in the main bar at the top of your browser.

- The results in your Chrome browser get displayed instantly now, no change required.

3. Add permanent Safari extension for easy browsing

- Click on this link in Safari to open the extension

- Click on 'Install now'

- That's pretty much it, you can now search in the main top bar.

4. Mobile apps

And don't stop on your desktop machines when you can tweak your existing phone to do greater good too. There are apps available for download from your usual store by searching 'ECOSIA' and installing it as any other app.

Android app
There is an app available for download so you can search on any mobile device

iOS App
There is an app available for download for your iPhones or iPADs.

So here it is. No excuse not to do greater good except laziness.

Will you pay huge corporations like Microsoft, Apple or Google to serve results or ECOSIA, a new digital movement for social good?

Thanks for reading :)


Monday, 31 October 2016

BEFORE THE FLOOD - take outs

The documentary starts with a story about Leo. In the beginning you are thinking "is he promoting himself or the climate change"? He talks about his upbringing and about the latest movie he's working on so of course, any non Hollywood fanatic would be thinking the same.

But, as the story begins to tie together you realise that without an ambassador(s) the mission of waking up the public to this reality is near to impossible. The problem is so big, so global and so abstract that together with the fossil fuel corporation propaganda and the politicians hiding the reality, we (the people) are unable to create a real empathy.

Here's the thing. We are 0.5 celsius away from reaching the limit and it is projected we are going to hit it. At this point, the corals in the oceans cannot sustain and life as we know it in the oceans will be wiped out along with the corals. No corals, no schools of fish.

There will be an increase in draughts and sea levels will rise. Spain is projected to suffer most in Europe from the oncoming draughts, and the fragile Mediterranean fauna will change with it. There will be a shortage of water in Southern Europe and as Spain's agriculture depends on water, it will affect its food production too. 

At this level, the scientists anticipate a sea level rise globally due to melting of the ice caps. A good tool  to check the impact can be found here:

Here's a view of what South of Barcelona might look like. 

Naturally, there will be an increase of climate change immigrants leaving the drought stricken countries for a better life in Europe. Suffering, fighting and nationalism will increase with further conflicts in those regions. 

It all sounds bleak but with 195 countries, actors and spiritual leaders rallying behind the World's biggest cause, there could be hope.

For hope, we need to change our habits and we need to change the system. The human species as we know it must evolve beyond into higher collective consciousness. The public (you) needs to understand you all stand to lose and its not USA vs Russia you should be worried about but this real big global issue. 

Fossil fuels are the enemy. 
We need to shift our reliance from fossil fuels and the only way is through you. Demand = Supply is the first thing they teach you in Economics. Ride your bicycles, walk and finally get an Electric car. 
Switch to energy providers that are investing into renewable energy. It might be expensive now but it will pay off for the planet, for your family's future and finally for your own pocket in the long run.

Stop eating beef
I know its pretty hard to believe that cows make an impact. But when you imagine 60 billion cows causing huge deforestations, incredible use of water and huge amounts of crops to feed which release nitrogen into our Oceans, you realise that this is a big problem. Even if you reduce your eating habits from beef to chicken you're already making a difference. Ideally, we would shift from consuming beef entirely or even better for those that can, stop eating meat altogether. 

Vote for politicians or parties that believe in climate change
The actions our politicians make now will determine the fate of this planet. Don't give your votes to politicians that are bought by Corporations. Instead give your vote to politicians that are genuinely trying to make a difference and you will see how quickly they will all fall in line. The only thing they understand is the will of the people which will affect whether they get elected or not. Without the hope of election, their purpose is lost. 

Take on the corporations
Firstly, we need to understand that demand = supply applies to everything we buy. Stop eating foods which use Palm Oil. If this vegetable oil is causing such a huge level of deforestation then just stop, yes you! Do not buy products from companies that are not playing ball. They only adapt when there's a fall in their revenue. They have no feelings, no real bosses and no mission to change the world for the better. They see projections and profit vs loss and by affecting one of those, we can change their agenda. And we need to hold them liable for destruction and for paying back to society for their carbon emission through the carbon tax. I hate the word as much as you but the reality is they only understand money. Paying tax is losing money so they will offset their carbon emissions faster if they need to cough up. 

Go green
New batteries, new roof look alike solar panels, 3D printed panels and wind turbines are allowing people to power their homes. In Germany, 30% of households have solar panels on their roof. That's Germany with far less daily sunlight. They're all giving power back to the grid which means power plants that depend on coal/gas need to power less. Countries like Spain will be decades behind the Nordic countries which are bringing free energy to their people. Economically they will all be better off. If the government isn't giving you the mechanisms to easily and affordably Go Green then we all need to fight to change these laws. 

If you think for any reason you'll be able to survive in a mad max style apocalypse then wake up!
Will you close the laptop and think "others will solve this" or will you be part of the movement?