Environmental, Social, and Governance

The Sustainability Opportunity for Banks

Don’t Break the Bank Podcast | Episode 7

Sustainability in banking has been around, in some form or other, for a very long time. I can remember being involved in drafting green IT plans almost twenty years ago – huge documents which could effectively be summarised as “print less, switch off monitors, use more conference calls and fewer flights”.

Time has moved on. Now, banks and other financial service providers are putting more focus on Environment, Social Responsibility, and Governance (ESG) initiatives and products. This has been driven by customers asking about banks’ commitment to sustainability. In fact, there are early indications that the coronavirus pandemic is driving a surge in ESG-related investing, with a JPMorgan note quoted by CNBC as saying “The rebound in civil society has been impressive, with an increase in volunteering, social cohesion, community support and focus on public good vs. private freedoms. We see the Covid-19 crisis accelerating the trend to ESG investment.”

So, is sustainability shaking off its CSR/tick box origins and taking its place as a true differentiator? To find out, Brian and I had Nicola Acutt, VMware Vice President for Sustainability Strategy, on the latest episode of Don’t Break the Bank. Nicola has some fascinating insights and relates them to VMware’s own route to sustainability – extremely pertinent when more financial service providers are aspiring to be technology companies with banking licenses.

With a self-described ‘non-traditional’ career path into sustainability leadership, Nicola took Brian and me through what she’s seeing as banks strive for sustainability, how it relates to innovation, and importantly, resilience. This is so critical in the current era, and something we’re constantly talking to customers and industry peers about – how enterprises inject resilience into their operations, and it was fascinating to discuss this with Nicola and hear her take on it.

As Brian rightly puts it, we came away learning so much, and I hope you will too. I invite you to listen to this episode, even if you think sustainability isn’t something you need to concern yourself with – you might be surprised.

We’ve also included a number of additional links and reports Nicola mentions during the podcast for further reading, so try not to print them, but take a look and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode, any of the issues we’ve discussed over the series, or anything you’d like looking at in the future, so please do give us feedback.

Listen to episode 7 of the ‘Don’t Break The Bank’ podcast and subscribe here:


About Don’t Break the Bank Podcast

This podcast is for curious minds in the financial services industry. Working in IT in the banking sector, it is easy to focus on keeping the lights on. In this podcast, host and Financial Services Industry Managing Director at VMware, Matthew O’Neill along with fellow VMware colleagues will explore the challenges and different facets of life in banking keeping CIOs awake at night. The goal is to transform the way banks and other financial service providers work and to provide the hose to put out the fires!

If you want to know more about the themes discussed in this episode, Nicola shared a great list of resources you can access:

Matthew O’Neill is the Industry Managing Director within the Advanced Technology Group inside VMware’s Office of the CTO (OCTO). He works with customers, account teams, R&D teams, and the industry at large to tackle the strategic business issues of COO, CIO, CTO, CISO and IT Leadership with an eye on the 0-3 year time horizon. Before joining VMware, Matthew spent 30 years in Banking and Banking IT at one of the world’s largest banks. Having ‘changed sides’, he brings fresh insight into how customers can transform and recalibrate their Run vs Change activities to improve service, agility, and innovation.