Bankers turn from vice to value

Nieuws | de redactie
5 juni 2012 | Money is power, as the saying goes. But how can banks use their power to give back to society? Financial professionals and social entrepreneurs gathered during “Bank of the Future” to answer this question. Europe’s urgent challenge: integrating talented students into the economy.

“The entire financial industry has lost the confidence of thepeople. How can we change the way we do things and gain it back?,”asked university lecturer and journalist Jeroen Smit at the openingof the “Bank of the Future” seminar. Over 300professionals and social entrepreneurs gathered in Amsterdam todiscuss with 7 Dutch bank CEOs how their industry can become moresustainable, responsible and value-adding.

In his speech, Peter Bakker, WBCSDpresident and former CEO of TNT, pointed out that “we are facingmultiple crises at a time. Some of them have an immediate impactlike the economic recession, some are long-term like climatechange. One of our greatest challenges is youth unemployment which has already reachedover 50% in crisis-ridden nations like Spain. If we do not find ananswer to this soon, we will have a revolution at our verydoorsteps in 10 years.”

Monetizing externalities

He argued that a solution will neither come top-down fromgovernment regulators nor bottom-up from private activists. “Onlybusinesses have the knowledge, innovation skills and dynamiccapacities to tackle the most pressing issues of our generation.What we need is principal-based leadership by companies that offerradical transparency while engaging with all stakeholders – alsowith the people from Occupy.”

A first step is that enterprises start internalizing the coststhey create for their environment. “Clothing retailer PUMA, forinstance, created a Profit & Loss account which includesGreenhouse Gas Emissions and Water Consumption. These are justnotional charges. Firms do not actually pay for them even thoughsociety does. That is why we have to monetize them into actualcharges,” Bakker explained.

Design thinking and co-creation

At the seminar itself, innovators had the chance to present projects that would enroot banks more intosociety to 7 CEOs of Dutch financial players like ING, Rabobank andAchmea. Common to all of them was a design thinking and co-creationapproach. Beyond finance, this has been of particular relevance ineducation innovation initiatives like the Learning Lab.

Banks investing client money face many dilemmas, one of thembeing the question of where their responsibility ends and whencustomer risk choice starts. Ruud Schuurs from “The DifferentCouncil” (Dutch: Raad van Anders) aims to empower both firms andcommunities to tackle such dilemmas.

To implement “The Different Council”, firms pose a question andinvite people from outside their organization to conduct aresearch. The business itself facilitates and accompanies thisprocess while granting access to all information necessary.

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