Digitalization vs Environment? Do we have to choose

The benefits of digitalization are manifold for humans, and this is especially true when it comes to investment and daily banking services. Performing operations such as buying your favorite share, opening an account, or discussing with your investment counselor from your couch is certainly better than having to commute to your local banking branch and stand in a queue. But what about the planet? Is going digital greener or are we creating debt for the environment?

We are Alpian, a start-up that aims to leverage technology to change banking, and this is the question that is on our minds.

When Opengeneva, a non-profit association whose mission is to promote and stimulate open innovation in Greater Geneva, launched its third edition of the Sustainable Finance Hackathon, we jumped at the chance and submitted our question as a challenge to the collective intelligence of bright students and academics.

Our goal was simple: Understand if digital banking is better than traditional banking from an environmental point of view. And of course, prepare ourselves to take action if the answer turned out to be negative.

During 24 hours, we brainstormed with participants with expertise from various fields and cultures to try to come up with practical solutions to assess and measure the impact of digitalization in terms of CO2 emissions. The enthusiasm was palpable, even late in the evening. A few hours is too short to come up with a rigorous framework, especially for such a challenge, but we laid out a roadmap. And on the basis of these encouraging results, we know in which direction we need to dig further.

Here are some interesting preliminary findings:

  • It is possible to measure concretely how much using a banking app or making a call with an advisor costs in terms of CO2 emissions and compare that with what it costs for someone to go to a local branch in Geneva to perform the same actions.
  • We can leverage established protocols (such as the Greenhouse gas protocol) to assess if the digital model has any benefit when compared to traditional models.
  • There are gaps in the existing methodology for determining carbon footprints in the banking industry and we could come up with solutions.

For us, this hackathon was a success. We laid out the first stone for an ambitious project and we got the chance to work with talented individuals in an incredible setup (Campus biotech). Time will tell if a 24-hour sprint is the beginning of a fruitful collaboration, but one thing is for sure: If we are going to work for a better future, it surely starts with understanding what is our remit.

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Disclaimer:
Alpian has submitted an application for a full banking license to Switzerland’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA). Content of this publication is for informational purposes only, you should not construe any such information as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

Victor has more than 13 years of experience in wealth management. He has assisted many individuals, families, and institutions in their financial journey throughout his career, either by providing tailored advice on their investments or by managing assets on their behalf. He occupied a number of key positions within the investment divisions of CA Indosuez, Lombard Odier, and Citi Private Bank. He holds an Engineer’s degree in Bioinformatics and Modeling from the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées of Lyon, and he is a certified FRM. In his free time, Victor loves scientific readings and collecting rare books.

Originally published at https://www.i-vest.ch.

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