New Triodos chief pledges to lead 'movement for change' among UK banks

"Our banks are not serving the needs of society," says Dr Bevis Watts, who has this week been confirmed as the first 'environmentalist' to take up a lead executive role within a UK bank.

With a background in the public, private and voluntary sectors, Dr Bevis Watts sees an opportunity for a radical new approach to banking

With a background in the public, private and voluntary sectors, Dr Bevis Watts sees an opportunity for a radical new approach to banking

As the newly-appointed chief executive of sustainable banking group Triodos UK, former Avon Wildlife Trust boss and WRAP employee Watts has pledged to introduce a “radical new approach” to the banking system; placing environmental and social wellbeing at the heart of financial transactions. (Scroll down for video).

“[Banks] undermine our long-term ability to sustain ourselves,” he said. “It is time to change the system and demonstrate a model for sustainable banking that uses the intermediary power of finance to benefit people and the planet. With the right values, I believe banks can be a force for good and affect real positive systemic change in society.”

Prior to this appointment, Watts held the role of head of business banking within Triodos from 2008-2012 after leaving to become the chief executive of the Avon Wildlife Trust, where he turned around a declining membership for the charity. At WRAP, Watts designed financial and business support schemes to stimulate growth in the UK recycling market, resulting in nearly £40m of new private finance.

Vote for values

Meanwhile, since Watts’s initial employment at Triodos in 2008, the Bank has seen a 127% increase in lending and commitment initiatives to UK sustainable businesses - from £373m to £847m. Last year, Triodos Bank’s operations across Europe provided finance to generate enough green electricity for one million European homes; produce 33.6 million meals from organically farmed land and facilitate 14.3 million visits to cultural events.

Watts wants to continue these trends, with a long-term vision for Triodos – and, hopefully, other UK banks - to invest in positive impacts for society and re-build trust between banks and the general public by committing to more transparent and prudent ways of doing business.

“Where you spend or invest your money is a vote for your values,” he added. “A bank is like pooling those votes: what your bank does with your money has an impact on the shape of society. Understood in this way, Triodos Bank isn't just a bank - we're changing the way banking is done.

Following the ambitious climate deal agreed upon in Paris last December, pressure is mounting on banks and investors to ramp up investment in green businesses, technologies and innovations. The Bank of England's governor Mark Carney recently claimed that close to $7trn will need to be spent on new green infrastructure across the globe in order to cut carbon emissions over the next 20 years.

VIDEO: 'It's time to change banking for good'

Luke Nicholls & Alex Baldwin


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