The Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) was founded in 2009 on the heels of the financial crisis and consequently, as a response to the current banking practices, with the belief that finance should be used for sustainable economic development and positive social and environmental impact. Since inception, the organisation has grown to include 27 financial institutions operating in Latin America, Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, and Australia; serving 20 million customers; holding up to USD 100 billion of combined assets under management; and powered by a network of 30,000 co-workers.

In order to grow the values-based banking community and encourage the sustainable banking movement, the GABV along with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed curriculum to foster future leaders of values-based banks, and called it the Leadership Academy. Designed for collaboration and innovation, the Leadership Academy consists of 19 participants from GABV banks. Jurriën Appers, Senior Investment Officer for Triodos Organic Growth Fund represents Triodos Investment Management in the Academy.

In preparation for the GABV’s global #BankingOnValues day on Thursday, 22 October, Jurriën discusses his insights from the Leadership Academy and how he’s applied it to his current role.

Jurriën Appers, Senior Investment Officer of Triodos Organic Growth Fund
Jurriën Appers, Senior Investment Officer of Triodos Organic Growth Fund

How did the idea of the Leadership Academy develop?

The Leadership Academy was launched in March 2015, in order to empower the next generation of leaders of values-based banks. It was designed to give each of us a more international perspective about how sustainable finance (different types and forms) can contribute to a healthy financial sector combined with a focus on personal and leadership development.

Why is the Leadership Academy necessary to the impact investing or values-based banking movement?

Each of the 19 colleagues in the Leadership Academy comes from all over the world from medium-sized banks to small banks to an investment management organisation. Each of us can offer various opinions on what we can do with banking and this movement and how to make it more accepted by the public. We all come from values-based organisations, but we still need to have this dialogue on how to take it further and become leaders in our field and have this knowledge spill over to our colleagues, investors, and investees.

What has been one of your biggest takeaways from the Leadership Academy, so far?

We were recently asked to do an empathy walk. It’s essentially interviewing or meeting someone who is different from you and seeing the world through their eyes. For me, I held interviews with several players from the traditional private equity sector. It’s a very different perspective than ours at Triodos Investment Management but in the end, I learned a lot from them regarding their approach. While we (at Triodos) still look at investing quite differently because we have a long-term focus and are impact driven while also looking for a balanced return, it was still useful for me to get another viewpoint and thereby affirm why we do what we do. There is no judging involved because good leaders don’t need to just download but really need to listen and can fully understand what the other person is saying. It’s difficult to do this when we all come with pre-determined biases, but if we can remove that, then we can become a more communicative, empathetic, and understanding person, which makes us better leaders.

How has the Leadership Academy influenced your role as an Investment Officer for Triodos Organic Growth Fund?

You don’t need a title to be a leader. Within our team, we all use leadership skills to deepen our relationship with the investees.  For me, leadership is about increasing the quality of social interaction and that can be done in any role – banker, investment officer, and investor – because it’s about understanding the perspective of the other person or position. It’s also not about always having an answer, but ensuring that you surround yourself with a team that can contribute and also listen and view relationships similarly.

Something I learned from the Leadership Academy and from my interaction with entrepreneurs and investors is that we shouldn’t just tell our story but really pay attention to what they (investees and investors) find important, what they want to develop, and what could be interesting to them and in that regards, find a connection to Triodos Investment Management.

We all come with pre-determined biases, but if we can remove that, then we can become a more communicative, empathetic, and understanding person, which makes us better leaders.
Jurriën Appers

When making investment decisions or building a pipeline, how do you use your leadership skills from the Leadership Academy?

It has made me more aware about the importance of a strong management team and that the skills and knowledge of each team member leads to a more collaborative environment. In the end, when you invest in a company, you invest in its people. We (Triodos Organic Growth Fund) want to be a long-term partner, not just a financial shareholder. Therefore, the social interaction element that I’ve discussed is very important to us because it’s about interacting and essentially co-developing a company together.

With (potential) portfolio companies, we also discuss relationships and how we can help each other. Even after working over 10 years at Triodos Bank, it made me more conscious of values-based banking and the quality of social interaction and thereby more aware of what’s important for us (Triodos Organic Growth Fund) as a shareholder. It is about having an impact on the other shareholders and the management team.

The Global Alliance for Banking on Values

Founded in 2009, the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) is an independent network of banks and banking cooperatives with a shared mission to use finance to deliver sustainable economic, social and environmental development. The Global Alliance comprises 27 financial institutions operating in countries across Asia, Africa, Australia, Latin America, North America and Europe; serving 20 million customers; holding up to USD 100 billion of combined assets under management; and powered by a network of 30,000 co-workers.

To participate in the Global Alliance for Banking on Values’ #BankingonValues global awareness online campaign on October 22nd, please visit: http://www.gabv.org/bankingonvalues

#BankingOnValues is a public initiative and it invites all GABV members, partners, customers, and interested, passionate, policy makers, regulators and public, to get involved in celebrating the growing, global values-based banking movement. #BankingOnValues is creating positive change in the world’s banking system, and driving positive economic, social and environmental impact by influencing how banks and banking cooperatives serve human needs and the real economy.