Finance can be a force for good

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It’s right to adopt a stance of scepticism over banks’ commitments to environmental, social and governance standards, but it’s people, not corporations, who pilot changes in course, and Euromoney is in a privileged position to witness such changes first-hand.


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They can be seen when sitting down with the chief executive of one of the world’s biggest banks, whose passion shines through as he discusses the merits of financial inclusion, or the commitment of thousands of his employees to out-of-work charitable efforts, much more than when he walks you through a 4% rise in revenues at his corporate and investment bank.

Millennial

More evidence is there over dinner with the head of one of the world’s leading investment banks, talking about the latest round of summer interns. He shows genuine pride when he mentions one of the interns he met in the US – the child of barely-literate immigrants, who set up an online apparel trading company at the age of 16 to finance his own education and that of his younger brother, and who is now set to graduate from a leading university. This is the sort of millennial for whom banking is supposed to hold little attraction, yet there is little doubt that he is the sort of individual this investment banker, and no doubt many others, want to hire.

Or spend time with a usually cynical banker who has just returned from a week in sub-Saharan Africa, where he and other bank volunteers have helped advise small businesses – key to the country’s economic development – on how to manage their finances and grow. This was no corporate jolly, but telling the story of it certainly brings a smile to his perennially world-weary face.

These are small examples, and they certainly don’t help to address the biggest challenge the world faces today – the effects of climate change. It’s going to require the commitment, effort, thought-leadership and innovation of every sector of the financial markets, not just the goodwill of a few bankers, for finance to play the pivotal role that it should in combatting global warming, and helping the countries, and more importantly the people, who are vulnerable to it

Over the past three months, Euromoney has committed a lot of editorial resources to visiting the places most desperately in need of help. Our journalists have been to the frontline of climate change, including the tiny Pacific island nation of Kiribati – average height above sea level of two metres – and the refugee camps of Jordan, where many of the 5 million refugees displaced by conflict in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East are having to make new lives in the most difficult of circumstances. 

Humanitarian

It is immensely encouraging to see the desire of people on the ground to find solutions to what are fundamental humanitarian crises. But a desire to solve them must go hand-in-hand with cold, hard cash – and so far, despite the best intentions of many, that money is not yet forthcoming.

As we write: “Getting the money where it needs to go, with private capital alongside, will require a level of global coordination rarely seen.”

The time to do this is now. It hasn’t escaped Euromoney’s attention that it is exactly 10 years since we devoted our IMF/World Bank issue cover to the need to develop green finance. Of course, there have been some successes – notably the green bond market. But it’s an inconvenient truth that much of what was hoped for a decade ago has not come to pass.

It’s worth remembering former US vice president Al Gore’s words to Euromoney a decade ago: “[Financial markets] are the key to the change we need. Governments of course must establish the rules of the road and enact new policies. But the market allocates more money in a single day than all of the governments put together allocate in a year.”

Now, in 2017, Rachel Kyte, special representative of the UN secretary general for Sustainable Energy for All, and previously World Bank special envoy for climate change, tells us: “There are no big mysteries. There’s plenty of money in the world. If you were going to start baking, you’ve got all the ingredients on the table in front of you. What we haven’t been able to do yet is get the ingredient mix right.”

Let’s hope that if Euromoney revisits this theme in 2027, we’ll be quoting achievements, rather than aspirations.