An ethical finance hub will be announced tonight at Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh campus, establishing Scotland as a leader in this field. The Scottish Ethical Finance Hub (SEFH), which has received backing from the Scottish Government as well as leaders in the financial sector, will be based at Heriot-Watt University and become a centre for the promotion and development of ethical finance practice.
The SEFH concept has emerged from a series of roundtables held over five years, initiated by the Islamic Finance Council UK (UKIFC). Participants have represented a broad range of sectors including banking, asset management, faith groups, academia, government and the third sector.
Dr Robbie Mochrie, Associate Professor of Economics at Heriot-Watt University and a member of the SEFH steering group, added: “Since the crash in 2008, there has been a growing international demand for more ethical financial practices, whether that’s developing rules that people can sign up to, or principles and behaviours that are considered ethical.
“In hosting the Hub’s initial development, Heriot-Watt University can be a critical friend of the financial services sector. Our academics have expert knowledge of how the various markets and practices work, but don’t directly work in them. We’re able to question and hopefully point the way towards more ethical practice.”
Graham Burnside, consultant at Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP and Chairman of the SEFH steering group said: “In the coming months we’ll be focusing on what ethical finance in Scotland can and should involve, and how we can link in with international markets.
“Ethical finance is a rapidly growing segment of the financial services sector and there’s huge opportunity for Scotland to build on its distinguished heritage. The Hub can be an excellent channel to further this agenda and promote Scotland as a key global centre in this developing field.”
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and the Economy John Swinney MSP said
“The Scottish Ethical Finance Hub will see the Islamic Finance Council work with Heriot Watt University to develop a model that has the potential to make a real impact internationally.
“I’m pleased to say the Scottish Government is supporting this project with up to £50,000 of funding, which will allow Scotland to capitalise on the increased global profile of ethical finance and progress towards becoming a worldwide industry leader in the field.”
The SEFH will begin its residency at Heriot-Watt University on Thursday 29 October with a discussion on how businesses can build a more sustainable world through ethical finance, focusing on existing challenges and potential solutions. As well as Dr Robbie Mochrie speakers will include Omar Shaikh, advisory board member of the UKIFC and Ryan Smith, head of corporate governance and SRI at Kames Capital, an investment management firm.
Scotland’s reputation within the ethical finance sector has had a series of recent boons. In September 2015, over 250 finance and investment professionals from across the globe came to Edinburgh for the inaugural Global Ethical Finance Forum. This was quickly followed by the UKIFC winning the prestigious Industry Development Award at the Ethical Finance Challenge and Innovation Awards in Dubai.
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Notes to editor
The SEFH concept can be framed in the context of a rapidly developing and varied global ethical finance industry, including:
- Retail finance – UK retail banks are currently exploring how to embrace ethical practice to restore their reputations; speciality banks, such as Triodos and Charity Bank, are developing their niche; and credit unions offer a path to community-based retail banking.
- Funds management – asset managers responding to client demand for investment activities under labels such as ethical, responsible, or sustainable. UK government policy seems likely to increase the role of social investment vehicles in the provision of public goods.
- Islamic finance – an area in which London has played a prominent global role, and which might be a source of foreign direct investment, infrastructure finance, funds for asset management and new entry into retail markets.
- Academia – working in partnership with Scottish HEIs, the Hub will bring together research capacity and the provision of executive training in the ethical finance sector including contemporary trends in SRI, ESG and social impact investing.