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Keeping on course for Responsible Banking

Editorial by François Villeroy de Galhau

“OUR SOCIAL UTILITY BEGINS WITH OUR ECONOMIC RESPONSIBILITY”

Photo : FRANÇOIS VILLEROY DE GALHAU.

FRANÇOIS VILLEROY DE GALHAU, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, WITH RESPONSIBILITY FOR DOMESTIC MARKETS AND CSR AT BNP PARIBAS

Eight years after the start of the financial crisis, there are still doubts about banks’ ethics. However, we are convinced that our commitment to responsible banking is more indispensable than ever. And we can talk about it in a credible way: we owe it to our employees and our clients, and to public opinion.

It is not about giving a moral lesson. But, for a bank, that starts with a simple definition of its mission, of its social utility. The service of a bank lies in providing finance for the projects of some by managing the savings of others. This is not a detached or speculative type of finance: it is about projects, savings and those ‘some’ and ‘others’. A bank is an intermediary which is there to serve households as well as corporate clients. This is our economic responsibility. Contrary to all the rumours that continue to circulate, loans to households and companies in France have grown by almost 20% since 2008: it’s much more than economic growth.

The responsibility commitment of BNP Paribas now means two things. First, transforming the bank in terms of even more compliance, clear rules, and effectiveness of internal controls. It’s a very large internal job. BNP Paribas is the first French bank to set up an Ethics Committee with leading independent experts to monitor this effort.

At the same time, the bank is extending its CSR policy, structured since 2012 around four responsibilities: economic, social, civic and environmental. We are particularly happy in 2014 to have reached €227 million in terms of support for microfinance and social entrepreneurship. This is an increase of 35% in only a year. The results are visible in the various areas where we are involved, both in Europe and further afield. In 2015, the year that Paris will be hosting the International Climate Conference, BNP Paribas will be making an even greater commitment to financing the energy transition by mobilising all resources available to it. And in this way we will continue to make progress as a responsible bank.