What are the origins and goals of the Young Leaders of Finance club?
At a meeting of financial professionals in early January, guest of honour Henri de Castries (former chairman of Axa) urged all the financial players to take action against climate inaction in France. With a number of members and supporters from the financial professions, we asked ourselves what we could do. We decided to create a new club, one that would be more oriented toward youth and would use social media to promote its ideas. We want to be both a think-tank and a do-tank. Lots of people think, but fewer people actually do! The idea is to organise events that promote financial sector initiatives. The next step is to seek out new mechanisms to employ that can bring about action by companies, national governments and the European Commission.
What kind of mechanisms?
First of all, I'd like to point out that we're not lobbyists. The club represents a range of backgrounds and companies. We want to be a source of ideas for responsible finance and financial regulations. We need a new approach to regulation because what we have today is often contrary to these objectives. The EU issues 600-page texts to regulate the financial sector. It's bold to think we can outsmart all those financial professionals sitting across the table from us, and that we won't make any mistakes. Furthermore, this legislation is not accessible to small entities. For example, banking licenses are only granted to large groups. More generally, I get the feeling that there's a lack of awareness of financial issues on the European level. The people who write the regulations impose similar approaches on different sectors. For example, the European Commission does not differentiate between bankers and traders, even though their risk management profiles are fundamentally different.
You're talking about responsible finance...
Yes. We need to shine the spotlight on innovative and responsible finance that serves humanity. Of course, we can't deny the reality of the more speculative type of finance, which is capable of the worst and creates no added value for the economy. But we have to be optimistic. We need to return to a model where finance is a tool for economic development and business growth. Today, we give finance too important a role in the preliminary stages of projects. The first step is the idea. Finance should only come afterwards. By taking the opposite approach, we blame the financial system for failing to achieve growth.
Were you troubled by the now-famous “finance is the enemy” slogan used during the most recent presidential campaign?
Yes, of course. But we were even more shocked by the placards carried by protesters during the second round [of France's presidential election] that read “Neither the banker, nor the racist!” [Ni banquier, ni raciste, referring to Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, respectively] We need to know where this lack of understanding comes from. Therefore, our aim is to bring everyone on board at the Young Leaders of Finance club, including union representatives and politicians of all stripes. In France, 370,000 people are employed in banking professions. Just like it isn't right to discriminate against people based on their origins or beliefs, there should be no discrimination on the grounds of profession. There's a lack of communication on the part of finance. For a long time, we didn't need to communicate. Suddenly, we found ourselves in the spotlight before a non-specialist audience. This happened with the Kerviel case and again with the rescue of the banks during the financial crisis. It is now up to us to communicate the need for a strong, competitive, regulated financial market.
French President Emmanuel Macron was a banker. What do you expect from him?
For the first time, we have a politician who understands the financial markets. He is intimately familiar with the European banking sector and understands how it differs from the US sector. We’ve been regulating both systems the same way despite the fact that they have different needs. Today, US banks are making inroads in Europe. I believe fundamentally in the concept of corporate nationality. After all, when faced with serious hardships, companies always fall back on their domestic market. The potential for a banking system dominated by US and UK banks poses serious questions, and Emmanuel Macron has the knowledge to answer them.
Interviews by Ludovic Dupin, @Ludovic Dupin