We enjoyed a particularly good year for our bank. Customer numbers increased by 15%, our lending to sustainable enterprises and institutions increased by 13% across our European activities, our profit was up considerably. All great indicators of the positive momentum we are experiencing for our values based approach to banking.
But what is that value beyond the numbers we have delivered? What has been the impact of our activities in the real economy, in communities near you?
By now we have financed the equivalent of:
• Green electricity for 1 million European homes
• 33.6 million meals from organically farmed land
• cultural experiences for 18.7 million visitors
• 100 microfinance institutions reaching 10.2 million savers and 15.5 million borrowers
This is where our increased size and impact are starting to feel even more meaningful – with every new customer, we are able to contribute more to the sectors we have built our expertise in. And looking ahead to 2016, this is where we expect growth to come from. We want to be the trusted bank for entrepreneurs working in the sectors who are close to our heart, where their and our mission can be realised.
The economic recovery, although encouraging in places, will still not be equally felt across all European countries. Even so, we expect our growth to be between 10-15% over the next three years.
Across the different sustainability sectors there are trends emerging that fit very well with our approach and business model.
In the market for property, for instance, where we have built expertise to make the sector more sustainable over recent years. We are helping and encouraging customers to play their part in the energy transition our economy needs. We offer customers mortgages with better rates if the energy label on their house is more efficient. And by financing urban regeneration and improving the sustainability of existing real estate properties in our clients’ portfolio we can help customers make their property work for them, instead of just being a cost generator.
In the energy sector we see a shift away from projects solely focused on energy generation. We’re also increasingly involved in financing network solutions, benefiting from increasingly decentralised sources of renewable energy – after all, everybody’s house could be a net contributor to the grid – and ensuring they all contribute to reducing our fossil fuel dependency.
We recently announced a 15% stake in a Dutch crowdfunding platform aimed at retail consumers who want to invest in these energy initiatives. This is not traditional banking, but could very well be the banking of the future. Or at the very least an important addition. It’s an approach that is very similar to how Triodos Bank started in 1980, with circles of guarantors, providing security for loans that otherwise wouldn’t happen.
We are in a good position to build on these trends. It is about sustainable sectors replacing non-sustainable activities. A complete transformation of our economy. That is where Triodos Bank can and should play its front-running role.
In the wider financial sector we see a lot of developments that look like they could disrupt the traditional financial sector –technology companies are developing payment modules and entrepreneurs often rely on funding from outside the banking world.
“All the while being true to our original ambition: to be a financial institution rooted in the real economy and with human dignity at its core.”
I often get asked the question: are you worried about what these changes mean for Triodos Bank? Quite the opposite is true. When we were established 35 years ago, it was with an ambition to change finance; to reappraise the role of money in society and encourage people to make more conscious choices about the role their money plays in the economy around them.
Now we are seeing exactly this happening: finance is changing and we have the opportunity to finance that change: to propel these initiatives to a larger scale; to embrace the efficiencies technology brings us, allowing us more time and resources to deepen our understanding of the sectors we service and the clients we finance and support. All the while being true to our original ambition: to be a financial institution rooted in the real economy and with human dignity at its core.
People make society into what it is, and money is a means to making it better for more people. We consider money not as debt but we look at its potential when we finance an entrepreneur. And this is what we will continue to do, with your help, in the years to come.
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