Leader of Global Ethical Banks Alliance Calls For ‘Courage’ in Melbourne

The head of a global collective of sustainable banks has called on financial institutions to demonstrate bravery by pursuing the triple bottom line.

Peter Blom, Chair of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) said courage on the part of banks was key to advance the ethical finance movement worldwide at a recent luncheon in Melbourne.

“What it all comes back to I feel, it’s one: how do we deal with fear and two: how do we find the courage.”

“We [sustainable banks] want to grow, we see the time needs us, the market needs us.”

The luncheon was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the GABV, an international organisation made up of 25 of the world’s leading sustainable banks, from six continents and with collective assets of over $70 billion.

Their goal is to touch the lives of one billion people through sustainable banking by 2020.

Blom said the group’s non-financial achievements were significant.

“Every entrepreneur has the ambition to become big, to become successful.”

“I don’t think numbers say so much. If we hear the story of Brac Bank and what they did in Afghanistan, that was all about courage,” he said.

Brac Bank, a member of the alliance, was founded to reach the large number of unbanked people who were not covered by traditional banks, contributing to Afghanistan’s SME sector through $35 million worth of loans.

bankmecu became the only Australian member of the alliance in May 2012.

The luncheon, hosted by bankmecu and held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the GABV, brought together business leaders and GABV CEOs to hear panellists in a discussion led by Jon Faine, presenter of Mornings on 774 ABC Melbourne. 

Redefining capitalism – financing our future prosperity featured:

Pavan Sukdev, founder of consulting firm GIST Advisory, which helps governments and corporations measure their impacts on natural and human capital.

Durreen Shahnaz, founder and Chairwoman of the Impact Investment Stock Exchange and founder of social enterprise Not for Profit Shujog.

Glen Saunders, investment banker, company director, financial and strategic consultant, chartered accountant and Chair of Social Enterprise Finance Australia and UN-supported Principles of Responsible Investment.

Rumee Ali, Director of BRAC Bank (Bangladesh) and Board Member of GABV.

Helga Birgden, Partner and Head of Responsible Investments for Asia Pacific at Mercer.

Key points of discussion included:

The importance of early movers

  • Panellists suggested the movement was continued by new thinking and innovation and the notion that even if 100 people say no, two people will say yes.
  • The biggest challenge for the sustainable banking sector was going from margins to the mainstream and tapping into the $55 trillion worth of global assets. Current assets of the GABV, at $70 billion, are minute by comparison.
  • There was communicated intent to not necessarily change the world but to create a transparent, sustainable alternative.

Fast action is key

  • Panellists indicated that finite resources and planetary boundaries meant that timelines could not be omitted from discussions around sustainable finance.
  • Addressing the mainstream at speed was critical.
  • Leadership had to come from all sectors but the weight of responsibility rested with corporates and the people.

Risk and responsible investment

  • Panellists spotlighted the strong performance of impact investments during the Global Financial Crisis compared to traditional investments.
  • Responsible investment was increasingly seen as important for risk mitigation purposes.
  • Many impact investments were non-correlating assets, the equivalent of a “free lunch” for an investor.
  • While impact investments may not be suitable for those wanting to maximising financial return straight away, they could offer blended returns combining social wants and financial needs.

The Melbourne meeting marked the fifth anniversary of the GABV and the sixth time an annual meeting has been held.

Requirements for inclusion in the GABV include:

  • Being an independent bank with a focus on retail customers
  • Having minimum on balance sheet assets of $50 million; and,
  • Being committed to social banking and the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.

A public forum for 500 people, Banking on a more sustainable world, was also held at Federation Square as part of the meeting, which concluded last week.

 
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