A Report from the Roundtable on Sustainable Banking

Seamus Finn, OMI

Where You Bank Matters

By Seamus Finn, OMI, of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and ICCR Board Chair

In collaboration with the Socially Responsible Investment Coalition (SRIC), ICCR sponsored an informative and engaging roundtable on sustainable banking at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio on April 6th. The idea for the roundtable was part of the vision and mission of the ICCR financial services caucus and was realized when the group found an accomplished and energetic partner in the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.

Since the near global financial meltdown of 2008, ICCR members have engaged major U.S. banks about their mission and vision in society and have been challenging them to accept responsibility for their respective and collective misdeeds. They have also convened a broader conversation around corporate culture and how they are transmitting the core values and principles that constitute that culture to their thousands of employees and representatives.

Sustainable Banking RT 2016

Founded in 2009, the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) is an independent network of banks and banking cooperatives with a shared mission to use finance to deliver sustainable economic, social and environmental development. The Global Alliance comprises 28 financial institutions operating in countries across Asia, Africa, Australia, Latin America, North America and Europe, and serves 20 million customers. It holds up to USD 100 billion of combined assets under management and is powered by a network of 30,000 co-workers.

Roundtable participants came from diverse backgrounds and brought a rich set of stories and experiences to the conversation. The diverse participants included representatives from the local banking, academic, political, investor and investment management communities. ICCR was represented by Rev. Séamus Finn OMI, ICCR board chair and Josh Zinner ICCR CEO.Conscious of the pervasiveness of the financial system into all aspects of life in communities across the globe, the participants recognized the importance of reflecting together on the vision and the quality of the services that the major institutions operating in the system  provide.

The Roundtable panel included: GABV (Global Alliance for Banking on Values) CEOs -- Vince Siciliano of New Resource Bank, a San Francisco-based bank  meeting the needs of socially and environmental responsible businesses, and Darrin Williams, of Southern Bancorp, one of the largest rural development bank holding companies in the United States. The panel was moderated by Laurie Spengler, President and CEO of Enclude, an advisory firm dedicated to building more sustainable businesses and institutions by offering integrated capacity and capital solutions.

Basic questions such as “where does your money sleep” were used to explore and unpack the theme of “where you bank matters” and thus provide all stakeholders a way into the conversation. Faith-based and socially responsible investors like ICCR members are normally interested in evaluating the reputation and mission of the banks that they hold in their portfolios.  Because of their roots in local communities, customers, depositors and borrowers often bring a different set of concerns to the table.

Siciliano and Williams were adept at demonstrating how their respective institutions have been successful in being faithful to their mission and they offered a number of stories to illustrate this success. Contrasting their banks, which are working to promote change and to support the real economy, with banks that are primarily in the business of making money for their owners, shareholders and senior managers, Siciliano and Williams provided metrics and data to support their claims.

This joint effort between the sponsors, organizers and participants was a unique opportunity for ICCR to bring their commitment to shareholder advocacy into conversation with an alliance of bank CEOs and community representatives with a shared vision about the social purpose of finance. Hopefully it will serve as  a template for other such conversations and a foundation for exploring these themes with the major U.S. banks in our portfolios.