Martin Rohner joined the GABV on 1 July as our new Executive Director (ED). Former CEO of Swiss sustainable banking pioneer, Alternative Bank Schweiz (ABS), Martin brings a wealth of experience and energy to the role. We took time out of Martin’s already busy schedule to find out more about what makes our new ED tick.
What are the most important lessons you have learned in your career?
I have worked in a wide range of industries and organisations, but they all had one thing in common: strong values and a clear mission. That was the key to success – not just financially, but above all in terms of contributing to society at large. The mission and intention of an organisation was always what mattered most to me.
What impact did the GABV have on you during your time as ABS’ CEO?
As a values-based banker, you are constantly reflecting your business model, and how you can serve people and planet through banking. In the GABV I found peers with whom I could discuss such questions at eye level. Meeting my fellow CEOs was highly inspirational and added to my work. Drawing on this experience and the relationships we built in the GABV, ABS adopted an international strategy and started collaborating with other member banks. So the GABV also had a profound impact on the strategy of ABS.
What have we learned about values-based banking during the Covid 19 crisis?
Our members have been at the forefront of the recovery, supporting their clients deal with the immediate economic shock and helping them restart their businesses. The crisis prompted many people to rethink the current system and look for social and economic alternatives. Value-baseds banks provide such an alternative. It is not by chance that many GABV members report record growth over the past four months. I am convinced that our movement will come out of this crisis stronger than ever.
What makes the GABV special?
We are a movement of frontrunners in values-based banking. What makes us special is our global reach, the diversity of business models of our members and the CEO level engagement. And yet, we are all committed to the same principles, the principles of values-based banking. This provides for a unique opportunity for learning and reflection.
Yesterday, for example, I spoke with a member CEO in Bolivia who gave me a first hand account what it means to run a bank in times of COVID19 in a country where still very few people have access to digital infrastructure. Interactions like these provide a totally different perspective to one’s own work.
What do you see as the greatest challenges to values-based banking and our network?
Currently, many new initiatives in the area of sustainable finance are emerging. They often lack a certain ambition and there is a risk of greenwashing. We must make sure that we differentiate ourselves more clearly and show why values-based banking leads to better results for society and the environment.
What are our greatest opportunities?
In our 63 member banks we have an extremely rich experience in values-based and sustainable banking. We want to share our knowledge and experience with the outside world and encourage others to follow. For this, we want to strengthen our capacity to advocate and lead in the conversation on values based banking and sustainable finance.
What are your ambitions for the GABV in the coming years?
My ambition is to position our network as frontrunners in values-based banking and sustainable finance, and to support our members on this path. As a membership organisation I want to foster vibrant and engaged participation from our members and make sure that we are relevant to them. Finally, I would like to grow the network further with a special focus on Africa and Eastern Europe, and taking into account the need for greater diversity.
Martin Rohner’s career in brief
Martin has worked for over 25 years in development finance, sustainable trade and social banking. His career began in the Swiss private sector and stations include the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, Fairtrade International and the Max Havelaar Foundation (Switzerland). Before joining the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, he was CEO of Alternative Bank Schweiz AG. He holds a Master’s degree in Environment and Development from the University of Cambridge, and in Business Administration from the University of St. Gallen as well as a Diploma of Advanced Studies in Executive Banking from the University of Bern.