On the 8th of March, Triodos Bank hosted the Annual Meeting of the Global Alliance for Banking for Values (GABV). Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands joined CEO’s and other guests for a panel discussion at Triodos Bank in Zeist about Innovation, Technology and Values-Based Banking. The theme of the conference was “It’s Banking. But not as we know it.”

Triodos Bank CEO Peter Blom opened the meeting reflecting briefly on the journey the GABV since 2009. In the seven years since the foundation, the Global Alliance has grown from 11 to 28 members. Member banks are active in 30 countries and combined assets amount to over USD 100 billion. GABV banks serve 20 million customers although its influence is felt by many more people. The combined workforce of 30,000 colleagues are at the front-line of the GABV efforts, working every day to create social, economic and environmental change using finance as a tool to improve people’s quality of life.

According to Blom the banking system today is experiencing a period of unprecedented and profound structural change. While the future is uncertain, the power of new disruptive technologies, the challenges of increasing regulation, and the convergence of social and environmental crises, mean continuing to do the same things in the same ways is no longer an option.

The role of banks will undeniably change. It is not just about technology, not just about roles, not just about regulation. They come together, at the same time and will interact. Together these developments will change banking – and the role of money - dramatically. For value-based banks, like all banks, there are challenges. Will increased regulation allow for a different approach? Is a diverse banking landscape just a theory? How can we build on our human, values-based approach? Can it prove to be our strength in changing markets where customers expect much more from their bank than providing excellent products and services? 

A panel of speakers debated the role of technology in designing the future of financial services, but also the role of people in imagining a new system, one that is inclusive and sustainable, respectful of nature and the closed system we live in here on earth.

The panel kicked off with a video message from Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Dutch Minister of Finance, who told the Global Alliance for Banking on Values they have a leading role in the debate on how to build a sustainable financial future. And shared his view that other big players can’t afford to be left behind. The minister welcomed initiatives like the Global Alliance, to lead the way.

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Frank Elderson, Executive Director of DNB, the Dutch Central Bank, gave insight into the priorities of the Dutch regulator when it comes to building a more sustainable financial sector: according to Elderson DNB’s role is to raise awareness, to be a catalyst and do research to help foster new initiatives. He then went on to say that across the entire sector sustainability should become the dominant tone at the top, thinking about the impact of financial decisions should be mainstream, unavoidable and according to Elderson, now is the time to act.

Jesse Fripp, General Manager of the Aga Khan Institute for Microfinance, talked about how he sees the role of technology help banks address the challenge of 2 billion adults not having access to financial services; but he started by asking people to think back to 1993, by showing them an old TV ad for telecom company AT&T, entitled “You Will” – where AT&T predicted the technological advances we now find very normal: like touchless toll payment and video conferencing. And he observed that being able to predict the future is not necessarily a guarantee for being able to really play a leading role in that future when it emerges. Fripp challenged the audience to not just develop theories, but also to build robust strategies that are rooted in the purpose of their company and have the customer interest at heart.

Thomas Rau, architect and thinker and the architect of the Triodos Head Office building  -which when opened 10 years ago was one of the most sustainable buildings in the Netherlands. Rau presented the audience with a different perspective on ownership, resources and scarcity. And urged delegates to think like designers of a new model for society. A society where money goes back to being a means to achieve a value exchange and not a goal in itself; and where we take into consideration the fact that people cannot create value without extracting assets from the planet. He urged people to stop extracting and to start harvesting. And you can only harvest what you sow. Humanity is functioning in a closed system, where nature has the final veto over whether or not we will survive as a species.

And last but not least Tamara Vrooman, CEO of Vancity (Canada) and board member of the Global Alliance, discussed the importance of innovation, technology and social inclusion colliding. As only when these elements are combined can true value for individuals and society be created.

When the Global Alliance for Banking was established in 2009, the founding members wanted to show the world, in a systematic way, how banking on values is a credible alternative to the banking system as we knew it, perhaps even plotting a path for other banks to follow. Their ambition was to grow the movement and to work on providing evidence for the case for a more human-centred type of banking.

The nine founding institutions of this network in 2009 represented $13 billion in funds under management and served over 7 million customers in over 20 countries. 
Fast forward 7 years and the Global Alliance now has 28 members from all continents; combined assets exceed $100 billion; Together, GABV banks are working every day to create social, economic and environmental change using finance as a tool to improve people’s quality of life. That is where the transformation in banking ultimately takes place.

Queen Máxima arrives
Queen Máxima arrives at Triodos Bank, with Peter Blom, CEO, David Carrington, Supervisory Board Member.
Peter Blom addresses the meeting
Peter Blom addresses the meeting, with panel from left: Frank Elderson, Jesse Fripp, Thomas Rau, Tamara Vrooman.
Triodos Bank Queen Maxima GABV
Photo's Friso Spoelstra.