Liechtenstein Banking Congress 2019: International experts point the way for sustainability
The Liechtenstein Bankers Association (LBA) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The LBA took this opportunity, together with the European Banking Federation (EBF), to hold its Banking Congress under the heading "Thinking in generations, acting sustainably". About 300 attendees from Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and numerous other countries from Europe and overseas accepted the invitation.
From big picture to concrete recommendations for action
Several factors contributed to making the Banking Congress a very special occasion. In his opening speech, LBA President Hans-Werner Gassner emphasised the existential importance of sustainable action in the economy and the financial sector. The following speaker, Tycho Sneyers of LGT Capital Partners, called for faster implementation of sustainable finance. In an enthralling and visionary talk, the renowned co-moderator of the BBC Radio 4 show FutureProofing, Leo Johnson, stressed that the transformation of society and the economy will become even more pronounced. Stakeholders will ultimately have to trust their instincts more. Above all, sustainability will have to be deliberately incorporated as a strategic goal, supported and represented by top management as well. Wim Mijs, CEO of the European Banking Federation, discussed the impact of disruptive trends on the financial sector with industry colleagues and sustainability experts.
Policy as an important driver
In her first public speech since her inauguration as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Culture of Liechtenstein, Katrin Eggenberger drew attention to the guideposts being established not only at the EU level, such as the taxonomy for sustainable activities, but also at the national level, citing the example of the Liechtenstein Initiative. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals provide the central framework not only for the economy, but also for policy. The two following presentations examined the increasing importance of impact investing. While Reynir Indahl presented concrete impact investing approaches and how specifically the UN Sustainable Development Goals can be integrated into investing, Tanya Woods focused on the opportunities afforded by the increasing digitalisation in impact investing. One of the key insights is that the exchange of best practices and learning from each other can be an essential accelerator towards more sustainability in the financial industry.
Holistic approach to sustainability is key
The panel discussion with Fiona Reynolds, CEO of UN PRI, and Christian Wenaweser, Liechtenstein Ambassador to the UN in New York, impressively underscored that sustainability must not be reduced to environmental aspects alone. The panellists provided insight into the dramatic reality of modern slavery and human trafficking, highlighting the challenges and risks to the financial sector in the associated financial flows. Denisse Rudich of The Sentry drew attention to a related issue, namely that the financial industry has a key role to play in tracking down money arising from war crimes. Her clear message was: "War crimes must not pay."
Meeting the expectations of the next generation
The concluding panel discussed what the younger generations are demanding of the financial and banking sector. "Anyone failing to support the changes demanded by the young generation will become increasingly irrelevant and eventually disappear," said Christina Platiel of Zurich Insurance Group, getting to the heart of the matter. Youth delegate Valerie Nigg called for faster action. "More action, less talk" was her appeal, earning special applause.
According to Simon Tribelhorn, CEO of the Banking Association, "The response to the Congress was overwhelming. With this event, Liechtenstein was able to position itself as a forward-looking country and a responsible financial centre which, in cooperation with other countries, is determined to find concrete solutions to these problems." All the speakers agreed on one thing, namely that even small countries can play a major role. Especially for Liechtenstein as a small and agile financial centre, sustainability also creates tremendous opportunities.