Skip to Content

The 2 focus points to become a front-running sustainability transition financier

Diederick Levi
02 May 2023

Sustainability is now one of the primary focus points of the financial sector. This is not without reason. By directing capital flows, the financial sector is the bloodline of sustainable initiatives. This, however, comes with a challenge. A lot more information is required to enable finance and risk decisions within the loan and coverage granting process.

Instead of having a snapshot of a client, banks and insurers suddenly need to track how a client is influencing the environment, and how the world is influencing the client. Is money well-spent? How do we decide which initiatives make the largest impact per euro?

The essence to answer these new questions is data. Data allows to steer on sustainable targets and populate sustainability reports with the right information. This is probably common knowledge. Yet, when diving one level deeper it becomes clear that it is not as clear-cut as it seems. Therefore, in this article I would like to focus on two big issues and best practices in addressing those issues.

Regulatory requirements on ESG are overwhelming, complex and sometimes conflicting

From a regulatory perspective, one needs to combine multiple reports, such as the ECB guide expectations, EBA LOM ESG or the Annual Report. Yet the necessary data to fulfill these regulatory requirements are all a bit different, resulting in a very large number of data point requirements.

For example, as the EBA LOM guidelines deep dive into sector level, one can add up with more than 200 data fields, just for one report. It is simply infeasible to ask a barrage of questions on ESG for all your clients.

This leads to two conclusions:

1. Group the questions between reports in a smart way, so there is no double ask. This should be goal oriented, whereby one can continuously ask the question “why do we need to report this data?”. If the goals align between two similar datapoints, one can be of lower importance or derived.

2. Discover alternative ways to collect client data, the main source of information for sustainability reports. For example, a lot can be found in – and digitally retrieved from- annual reports, as more clients will need to report on ESG with the introduction of CSRD in Europe.  

Existing risk frameworks are not ready for servicing a sustainable future

A prerequisite for becoming a financial institution that drives change is a strong risk framework to base its lending on. Such a framework is no longer only focused on financial returns, but now also on the sustainable impact clients can make.

Often, such an extended framework, which is often risk driven, does not exist yet. This challenge is especially visible when potential clients are innovating in the sustainability realm, but do not yet have the track record to prove their financial feasibility. In these cases, rigid, standardised and financially focused loan or insurance issuance process make it practically impossible for a willing employee to give out the loan – great business opportunity or not.

Financial institutions need to speed up, and issue services to these kinds of innovators, yet cannot do so right away. Not without upsetting their risk frameworks. Yet the implementation timeline is now.   

The fast lane towards implementing a decent sustainability risk framework

This is not an easy task. Currently there is no best practice yet on steering on sustainability risks, and if initial frameworks are made at all, they are made painstakingly slow. Comparing it to driving, one is navigating in the dark, whilst is going 40 on the highway.

Using data from the above-mentioned regulatory teams is a good first start. This means however that often information and knowledge captured in the reporting engine, will have to be transferred towards other departments. Unlocking and sharing this data is often a sizable effort. Using such data already allows for better sustainability-based client assessments compared to the traditional risk frameworks.

Another strong approach is to make step by step changes towards a sustainable banking environment. For example, with a loan or insurance granting perspective:

1. Provide an additional discount in your pricing or lower the acceptance bar for clients which are undeniably sustainable

2. Identify key risks via a questionnaire (which is useable as data!) and integrate these in first line processes

3. Integrate different sustainability risks into your credit models. In our experience with large Dutch and British banks; it is only when a wider variety of data is available, and when risk framework targets are set, that the step can be sensibly made towards credit modelling.

Whether it is regulations or risk frameworks, retrieving new data remains the key challenge to overcome. As shown above, the subsequent challenge is the usage. If a financial institution can keep the oversight of its goals for sustainability data, and therefore being able to combine datapoints for its specific goals– for example efficient sustainability reporting or creating a sustainability risk framework – makes the difference between becoming a best-in-class transition financier, and a traditional financer which will be forever struggling with the new world sustainability requirements. In order to be a front-runner, now is the time to set the strong data foundation.

At Capgemini Invent we are experienced in these change trajectories, with specialists ranging from data scientists to environmental experts. Do you want to be a leader in the financial sector? Do not hesitate to contact us.


Diederick Levi

Senior Consultant Net Zero Strategy
Diederick Levi is part of the Net Zero Strategy team since January 2022. From that capacity, he guides clients to accelerate their sustainable efforts. Working from the Dutch office, Levi has a strong focus on the financial sector, and has serviced all large banks in The Netherlands over the past 5 years.