It may seem surprising to make a special point of extending holiday wishes to an industry as rich and powerful as the financial services sector. Then again, few among us has suffered as many public humiliations in 2016. The list is as varied as it is depressing:
- Wells Fargo was found guilty of opening new, false accounts for customers in order to meet their sales targets.
- JPMorgan Chase has been fined for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by hiring interns and full-time employees at the request of government officials in China and Asia.
- Deutsche Bank is facing the prospect of a $14 billion dollar fine related to charges of how it packaged and sold residential mortgage-backed securities prior to the financial crises.
- HSBC, JPMorgan and Crédit Agricole fined €485 million for rigging financial benchmarks linked to the euro.
- The Agricultural Bank of China, one of the largest in the country, was fined for violating money-laundering rules rules as a result of its practice of falsifying transaction receipts.
Now, let’s not confuse holiday wishes with forgiveness. We can’t excuse the improprieties of big banks. But there is another side to all of this. Behind the scandalous headlines are promising stories that aren’t being told, stories of the genuinely good and important deeds of the financial services sector.
We know a thing or two about these stories. At the Aspen Institute, we’ve spent the past eight years running the First Movers Fellowship Program, a professional development program that equips corporate social intrapreneurs with the skills to advance change within large institutions. And we have just released a report to highlight the incredible achievements of those working in the financial sector to address issues of financial inclusion.
In our new report, Tackling the Challenge of Financial Inclusion: Social Intrapreneurs Step Up, we profile 12 Aspen First Mover Fellows who are working to help make the financial industry more inclusive. These innovators are devising solutions to serve the hundreds of millions of individuals, families and small businesses who do not have access to the financial services they need to improve their lives.
In the report you can read, for example, that Credit Suisse runs an employee engagement program to strengthen the capacity of microfinance institutions around the world, Visa Inc. works with the Government of Egypt to digitize subsidy payments to 22 million families, and PayPal is scaling a program to expedite loans to thousands of small businesses in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg.
We are heartened by the tenacious leaders in financial institutions who are pushing the boundaries of financial services to create new products, services, and practices that increase business value and deliver positive outcomes for the world.
Their stories remind the world that there is incredible potential for positive social and environmental impact within large companies – even financial institutions! – and that the right combination of courage and capability can make a world of difference. Our goal for the report is to invite other professionals to step up, to use their talents and their corporate platforms to lead these changes.
So join me in wishing for a better year for financial institutions in 2017. May the headlines of 2017 be ones that feature the proud achievements of their most talented innovators.
We invite you to join the conversation on social media! Follow us @AspenBizSociety and use #AIFirstMovers and #FinancialInclusion to share on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.