International Finance
Islamic Banking

GEFF 2017: Key focus is merging profit and purpose

The 2nd edition of Global Ethical Finance Forum will spearhead a series of discussions in Edinburgh this September focusing on mainstreaming ethical finance

Middle East Global Advisors, a leading financial intelligence platform spearheading the agenda of sustainable and inclusive finance, will convene the second edition of the much-coveted Global Ethical Finance Forum (GEFF) in Edinburgh, Scotland. Based on a strategic partnership with Islamic Finance Council UK (UKIFC), the Forum will be held under the patronage of the Scottish government, and will be hosted by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), building upon the legacy of the inaugural Forum held in September 2015.

The theme for GEFF 2017 – Ethical Finance: Merging Profit & Purpose – is in line with the Forum’s aspiration to serve as a platform of convergence and collaboration across the responsible finance universe, and to forge a vision for a more inclusive and sustainable financial system.

Historically, ethical considerations have played a major role in finance. This dates back to the anti-usury campaign of St. Francis, to Max Weber who expounded on the protestant ethics of capitalism, to the development of Islamic financial institutions based on universal values, to contemporary moral philosophers who seek to highlight the moral limits of financial markets. However, history is also dotted with undeniably unethical practices with notable incidents of infamous American fraudster Bernard Madoff who admitted that the wealth management arm of his business was an elaborate ‘Ponzi Scheme’ to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) that was the culmination of practices following the growing financialisation of the economy.

According to the latest IMF Global Finance Stability Report, the financial sector is exhibiting signs of a return to the risky behaviour that culminated in the recent financial crisis. Rising populism in the US and Europe can be seen as an expression of the lack of trust and confidence in ‘the establishment’, a sentiment that was echoed in the findings of the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer in which 53% of the respondents believe that the system is failing them with trust in both the government and business evaporating noticeably.

While the GFC sent ripples of shock and instability throughout the world, the aftermath of the crisis witnessed the resurgence of the ethical facets of finance. It was only a matter of time before which the call for a more inclusive and sustainable economy intensified.

As per the Global Sustainable Investment Review 2016, ethical finance is on track to developing its global value proposition with the global ethical finance industry having reached a significant market size, growing by 11.9% CAGR. In the UK, it is projected to add economic value of approximately worth $17 billion by 2020 while the Islamic assets are set to grow at a rate of 19.7% by 2018 as per a study by EY. The increasing demand for responsible financial services is largely driven by changing public perception and prompted by the effects of the past financial crisis. Such increased interest presents new opportunities for the industry and in order to capitalise on these opportunities and mainstreaming ethical finance requires concerted efforts to build meaningful dialogue across its three segments:

  1. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)
  2. Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)
  3. Islamic/faith-based finance

In fact, the single largest ESG research by the University of Hamburg and Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management demonstrated the strong and positive correlation between successful ESG strategy integration and corporate financial performance after assessing literature comprising more than 2,000 studies on the topic with 62.6% of the studies examined reinforcing this key finding.

While the three segments of ethical finance share the same values-based approach, they are separated by boundaries of geography, perception and methodology. There is much work to be done to bear the fruits of these nascent connections and to marry the ethical underpinnings of responsible finance with profit motivations.

GEFF 2017 is premised on this very need and aims to drive thought leadership and spearhead conversations across a wide range of topics including green bonds, financial inclusion, ethical banking, amongst others, with the vision of bringing ethics to the forefront of business.

The forum will take place on 13th and 14th of September at the Royal Bank of Scotland’s prestigious Conference Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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