While global annual asset management stocks are valued at $100 trillion, philanthropy-related flows (in the broad sense) amount to $500 billion. With the new generations, a paradigm shift is taking place today but remains insufficient. How to steer finance towards more impact, more responsibility and a change of scale? How to put an end to a two-tier finance system: the business as usual finance on one side and sustainable finance on the other side? This debate took place during the 11th Convergences World Forum.
Introduction: Holding finance accountable
Finance as we know it today is based on two axes: return and risk. High returns on investment are associated with significant risk, and any safe investment is associated with low profitability. This binary system creates a gap between wealthy populations and those who are struggling, leading the rich to be ever richer and the poor, always poorer. Today we witness the emergence of a desire to change paradigms by integrating a third axis: the social utility of finance. The current debate on the role of the company vis-à-vis the general interest also offers a favorable environment to the emergence of this third axis. Since the risk-profitability tandem is a key dimension in finance, it is now necessary to associate the notion of risk with that of impact, and to end the absence of constraints regarding purpose and modalities of the finance system. Stakeholders of the financial realm, and banks in particular, have to face their contradictions – while they integrate perfectly social utility measures within their CSR strategy as a company, they struggle to do so vis-à-vis their investments.
When you control wealth, you control everything
If there are banks for the poor when you speak about microfinance, it means that other banks are for the wealthy.
Changing the rules of the financial system
Until now, these inherited trends of the past century have been maintained due to lack of tools and financial interest. Large investment funds, favoring short-term and low-risk investments, have been reluctant to change their economic behavior. But the investments with social and environmental impact, still risky yesterday, are today more and more profitable.
Thus, finance should no longer be seen as an end in itself, but as a mean, which should allow entrepreneurs to create a business designed to change things. And this is where the key to the SDG transition lies: since investment is one of the main drivers of the economy, the rules around it must change so that impact moves from being the exception to the norm.
In India, for the last 5 years, companies with a turnover of 75M€ or more have the obligation to donate 2% of their profits to charities
A two-fold boost
For a paradigm shift to emerge and social utility to be integrated into the functioning and mechanisms of finance, it is important to create impulses, or rather a dual impetus both internally and externally. For financial players, the long-term vision of the 2030 Agenda is difficult to measure and apprehend, and therefore to achieve. To overcome this difficulty, there should be on the one hand a regulation favorable to social utility and on the other hand fiscal incentives. In addition, true leadership must exist within the financial and economic world, such as Larry Fink, the now famous CEO of BlackRock, to lead by example and embody this model change.
All lights are green today. France has recently announced its will issue green public debt to finance green projects; the European Commission has recently adopted a Roadmap presented by the High Level Expert Group chaired by WWF CEO Pascal Canfin, with 28 ambitious recommendations to incentivize and motivate pro-environmental funding; the World Bank has launched its own green bonds. Such initiatives make it more profitable, and therefore less risky to invest in the economy of social and economic transition than in the previous era economy.
Thus, the state must not only be providential, it must also become a partner, by guaranteeing, through green public debt and green bonds, that private investments will be less risky because shared.
Change will come first through education and training,…
The education and training of financial professionals in social, societal and environmental issues are fundamental elements in order to promote a paradigm shift. For this, a pedagogical effort will be essential to explain and convince that integrating social utility into investment criteria does not lead to a loss of profitability in the long run. Beyond pedagogy, it will be useful to review the training curricula for finance and banking to integrate this issue. In addition, the demands of the new generations for a “meaningful” job can drive actors to change their practices. This will include an incentive to integrate these aspects into staff assessment and to value initiatives in this regard.
.. through a local approach,…
Clearly then, a paradigm shift is needed for sustainable finance to move from being the exception to becoming the norm. However, if we want to move towards a 3Zero world, empowering finance is only one of the key elements. These resources must also be used to respond to the real problems the target populations are facing. For this, a local approach, based on people’s needs and local skills, is necessary. This is for example the approach advocated by the French NGO ACTED, which decentralizes a large part of its activities so that they can be in line with the needs of the field.
Catalyzing this funding to actors in the field can also be done by supporting local actions, including the financing of incubators. This solution makes it possible for example to support entrepreneurship.
… And the opening of a transparent dialogue
Finance stakeholders have to establish a dialogue with all the stakeholders: companies, investors, banks, States and citizens. For this dialogue to be possible, it is necessary to measure the externalities of companies in order to inform these stakeholders. Nevertheless, measuring the social impact should not become a tool for comparing social utility with the risk of creating a perverse effect of this tool. The consumer must also be informed of his/her power to change as a “daily private investor” and of the externalities resulting from the banks’ investment decisions. The arduous task of establishing an objective definition of the social footprint is necessary, although it is more complex to measure and take into account than the carbon footprint because of its universal, evolutionary and contextual nature. Finally, we must standardize a common vocabulary around social utility. This won’t be an easy task, but fortune favours the bold… In any case, the social and solidarity world must be inspired by the financial world and vice versa in order to set up this essential dialogue whose key will be transparency and whose outcome will be inclusive finance.
It is through financial education that we will succeed in creating a citizen’s finance
To achieve this, what are the tools and levers to build on?
This upheaval in the codes of finance must be based on concrete tools and mechanisms. To avoid a two-tier finance, several levers can be mobilized: integrating the impact measurement in the performance indicators and in the calculation of the return on investment, penalizing the excessive negative externalities of the companies, improving the transparency of the financial operations, or fostering international cooperation, against protectionism. In this sense, the legislator and the political sphere have a clear role to play, which must be reinforced today. So why not make systematic consideration of ESG criteria in exchanges between investors and investment funds, between investment funds and companies, but also between consumers and businesses? Or set up a “social tax” as the carbon tax was, because the standardization of social commitment in accounting form will strengthen both its application and its effect?
Convergences thanks the organizations that helped to prepare this document: 1001fontaines, Action Contre la Faim, Admical, AMP Avocat, Amundi, Ashoka, AVISE, B&L Evolution, Crédit Agricole, Crédit coopératif, e-MFP, FADEV, FAMOCO, Finansol, Fondation Grameen Crédit Agricole, GDC, Green Innovation, HAATCH, Hystra, Indépendante, KIMSO, LGI consulting, LITA.CO, Make it Real, Orange, Réseau Cocagne, Vigeo Eiris, Yunus Center.
Zoom on Microfinance, a key tool for financial inclusion
The number of banked adults worldwide increased from 62% in 2014 to 69% in 2017, thanks in part to the rise of microfinance. In 2017 this sector saw a portfolio increase of + 15.6% and a customer increase of + 5.6%. The paradox of this growth is the following: while the global outstanding portfolio increases year by year, the increase in the number of customers has slowed down. This paradox reveals that microfinance clients are becoming more loyal and borrowing more from these institutions, year after year.
Another key element of microfinance in the world: the vast majority of clients are women. In 2017, they were 83% of clients: this effort of MFIs towards the financial inclusion of women contribute very strongly to closing the gap in access to financial services between men and women in the world.
In addition, by facilitating access to credit for businesses, microfinance makes it possible to provide the necessary tool for the development of entrepreneurial activity in developing countries in particular and thus contributes not only to SDG 5 (reduction of inequalities) but also to SDG 8 (economic growth and employment).
Finally, it should be noted that new technologies, through their ability to reduce social and geographical boundaries, allow for the possibility of a significant reduction in financial exclusion. It is interesting to note that 61% of MFIs currently use fintech and mobile banking to improve their offer and better reach new customers.
Focus on green fintech
In full swing in recent years, fintech startups are starting to put their financial products at the service of sustainable finance. This is evidenced by Finance for Tomorrow, a network of some sixty organizations wishing to mobilize public and private investors to demonstrate that green fintech is a promising sector. These actors not only bring new solutions to environmental challenges, but they also claim to reduce administrative costs, and make it financially attractive.
However, despite these encouraging elements, caution is required. As several speakers pointed out during Convergences World Forum, it is not enough to have a good solution and a real motivation to have an impact. For that, you need a method. The one that seems most appropriate is to create products that respect the 5 following principles: 1) to propose new and relevant products, 2) these products must be financially affordable, 3) they must be targeted to reach the most affected populations, 4) the organization must be able to measure and prove the impact of their products, and 5) all stakeholders (shareholders, etc.) must be able to value the action of fintech.
Zoom on payment starts up, tool against exclusion
Within the fintech ecosystem, some structures specialize in payment. From online payment management, to inter-personal refund applications, online pools and even time swapping, these fintech revolutionize the online payment market.
Open Money, an online trading platform promises, for example, to exchange services and goods between individuals in return for a certain amount of time. This token measured in the form of time then allows them to receive in return a service or a good. Tagpay, on its side, offers an open source online payment solution and thereby encourages banks to connect with local economic players and create an ecosystem to facilitate all financial exchanges.
These fintechs present in the online payment market and innovating for the common good are more and more numerous and they rival each other in inventiveness, as evidenced by Pledg which allows its users to buy goods together, and IzyPay which offers the possibility to use contactless payment during events.
THEY WERE AT THE FORUM TO TALK ABOUT IT
- Lionel Baraban, FAMOCO
- Martijn Blom, Hivos Impact Investments
- Royston Braganza, Grameen Capital India
- Eric Campos, Crédit Agricole SA & Fondation Grameen Crédit Agricole
- Christoffer Dahlberg, Symbiotics
- François Debiesse, ADMICAL & Fondation de l’Orangerie
- Frédéric Dubois, IzyPay
- Yves Eonnet, TagPay
- Gabriela Erice, European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP)
- Philippe Guichandut, Fondation Grameen Crédit Agricole
- Andre Krummacher, ACTED
- Cécile Lapenue, CERISE
- Caroline Lentz, Réseau Européen de Microfinance (REM)
- Dominique Lesaffre, SIDI
- Alexandre Mars, Epic
- Laurence Mehaignerie, Citizen Capital
- Jean-Marc Nourel, MangoPay
- Selvan Pajaniradja, Agence Française de Développement (AFD)
- Nicolas Pelletier, Pledg
- Jean-Luc Perron, Yunus Centre & Convergences
- Sylvain Pestourie, Open Money
- Antonia Potter Prentice, Alliance2015
- Simon Quiret, AkuoCoop
- Anne-Claire Roux, Finance for Tomorrow
- Jérôme Saddier, Crédit coopératif
- Eva Sadoun, LITA.co
- Blaine Stephens, MIX
- Caroline Vateau, Neutreo
- Stéphane Voisin, Institut Louis Bachelier
- Jean-Yves Wilmotte, Carbone 4
- Emmanuelle Yannakis, Blue like an Orange Sustainable Capital
- Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank