Peter Blom, CEO of Triodos Bank
"Profit is not an objective in itself"
Paradigm shift in Banking; a radical departure for conventional financial institutions
Stay close to the real economy; hold a direct relation to what you invest in
Triodos Bank, a sustainable bank founded in 1980, illustrates what’s possible. It consciously chooses to stay close to the real economy. As a result the bank, which now has offices in the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium, Spain and Germany, was not involved in the sub-prime mortgage crisis and has continued to grow at similar levels despite the financial crisis of 2008. The bank invests its saver’s deposits directly in sustainable companies and stays in direct contact with the entrepreneurs who run them. The bank chooses not to invest in loan packages when the individual loans have been granted by another bank - an approach that also promotes sustainability.
Profit is not an objective in itself
In essence, Triodos Bank aims to maximise sustainability, embracing the need to be profitable but only as a means to a sustainable end. Profit is a yardstick. It shows an organisation is working efficiently, but says nothing about the content of what its doing. We, on the other hand, start with the content of an activity and focus on its sustainability. The first thing we consider is ‘How can this contribute to sustainability?’ Then, as bankers, we ask ourselves ‘Is it viable?’ If our professional assessment is correct, profit should follow almost automatically.
Reappraise the role of money and its place in the economy
This approach represents a radical departure for conventional financial institutions. It means re-appraising the role of our money and its place in the economy. And it goes further, because thinking like this means looking inwardly to assess what’s truly valuable. There are a number of positive trends we have seen in this respect. There’s growing awareness that we only have one earth to live on, and need to work together to secure our long term future on it. If we don’t, we will fail to solve our sustainability problems. Positive solutions also require authenticity - not in a vague, introspective way, but in a meaningful sense that’s linked directly to our actions. In practise, Triodos Bank uses money to help to transform abstract ideas into grounded activity. The Triodos Bank portfolio consists of tangible commodities such as food, real estate and energy. We aim to work in a way that will still be going strong in a hundred years’ time.
Views have changed on what used to be criticised as old-fashioned
Triodos Bank is living proof that people do have the power to make change happen. The Bank’s oversubscribed depository receipt issue in 2009 – an opportunity to invest in Triodos Bank much as a share issue would for a conventional bank - was the largest in our history. At year end 2015 the number of depository receipt holders increased to 35,735 (2009: 14.778).
Peter Blom's expertise
Peter Blom (1956) has been statutory Member of the Executive Board of Triodos Bank N.V. since 1989 and is Chair of this Board. Triodos Bank is a leading European social bank providing financial services for a diverse range of sectors, from financing organic farming and renewable energy - both wind and solar - to cultural projects and micro credit. Triodos Bank only lends to enterprises and projects that benefit people and the environment.
Triodos Bank’s mission is to make money work for positive change, providing a more human, transparent form of banking where social profit is as much part of decision making as the more traditional risk and return.
In addition to his role at Triodos Bank, Peter Blom is, among others, Chair of the Board of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (www.gabv.org ), Member of the Board of the Dutch Banking Association and Member of the Board of the Sustainable Finance Lab.