The banks, which have assets of over $10 billion and serve over seven million customers in 20 countries, came together for the first time at a special meeting in the Netherlands at the beginning of March.
The Global Alliance for Banking on Values was launched at an event which included speeches from Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima of The Netherlands, a former banker and former member of the United Nations Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors, and Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.
The banks in the Alliance range from BRAC Bank - part of the BRAC Group, the world’s largest microfinance institution - to ShoreBank, a community bank based in Chicago, and Triodos Bank, Europe’s leading sustainable bank.
Speaking at the launch, Peter Blom, CEO of Triodos Bank, said: “Unlike their enormous mainstream contemporaries, these banks are profitable, growing and crisis resistant. When it was unfashionable to do so they stuck to simple, core banking services that balance people, planet and profit. There’s no one single answer to the global financial crisis. There are many. But the leaders of these organizations, acting on an international stage, hold many of them. Together they are an extraordinary force for change”.
The new partnership plans to develop new ways of working, build organizations better suited to long-term sustainable thinking, and new forms of ownership and economic cooperation. And, given the financial crisis, and its profound and lasting influence, the new Alliance believes its timing is crucial.
Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairperson of BRAC said: “We are increasingly dependent on each other economically, wherever we live in the world. If we are to tackle the global problems we face, we are going to need international action to do it. We believe these banks have the potential to change the architecture of the financial world, and start delivering lasting solutions for unserved and underserved communities and sectors.”
Founded by BRAC bank in Bangladesh, ShoreBank in the US, and Triodos Bank in The Netherlands, the Alliance’s members are senior bankers, seven of whom are founders of the institutions themselves.
“We will promote responsible finance - supporting existing banks and helping to develop new ones,” says Mary Houghton, President of the ShoreBank Corporation. “We will lead the debate on the banking models we think could inspire profound changes in the mainstream financial industry. We won’t just talk about change, we will work together to deliver it. Given the need for a healthier, more sustainable economy - and the current failure of the mainstream to provide it - establishing the Global Alliance for Banking on Values could hardly be more important.”
To qualify for membership, each institution has to be an independent and licensed bank with a focus on retail customers. It has to have a minimum balance sheet of $100 million, and most significantly, it has to be committed to responsible financing and the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.
The banks involved include:
Alternative Bank ABS, Switzerland
Banca Popolare Etica, Italy
Banex, Banco del Exito, Nicaragua
BRAC Microfinance Programme Bangladesh
GLS Bank, Germany
Merkur Bank, Denmark
Mibanco, Banco de la Microempresa, Peru
New Resource Bank, United States
ShoreBank Corporation, United States
Triodos Bank, The Netherlands