Why responsible finance is the future

  • 5 February 2021
  • Blog | Young Banker of the Year | Career Development | Green Finance

Ahead of the opening of the 2021 Chartered Banker Institute Young Banker of the Year competition, we speak to recent competitors about what responsible banking means to them – and why it’s so important in a time of economic and social upheaval. 

“To paraphrase a well-worn expression, banking and finance make the world go round,” says Tippie Malgwi, Chartered Banker Young Banker of the Year 2020. 

“The economy is built on people’s access to financial support and that makes us, as bankers, not just financial custodians but, in some ways, arbiters of the economy.” 

It wasn’t, however, banking that set Malgwi – now a Commercial Banking Executive at Arbuthnot Latham and Co – on his initial career path. Having graduated with a degree in engineering, it was, he says, “a big change, pivoting from electrodynamics to balance sheets,” but one that provided a platform for his strong social conscience. 

Having taken the title for his proposition around financial solutions that support people with serious injury and severe medical conditions, Malgwi is walking the talk surrounding responsible banking. 

“It dawned on me, from the onset, that I had a vital role to play in my clients’ businesses and that I wasn’t just a banker. I was also an ally to the charities, care homes, hospitality trades, manufacturers, consultancies, construction and the other numerous businesses we support. A career in finance provides a licence to transcend sectors and serve as a valuable resource to all.” 

Cultivating consciousness 

So what exactly does responsible banking mean to the new generation of bankers? It is, according to Malgwi, about making a positive contribution to society and cultivating a societally conscious culture. 

“It’s about we bankers effectively cultivating relationships to understand what’s important to our clients and working in their best interests for the betterment of their businesses and the wider society,” he says. 

“This could take the form of funding eco-housing initiatives for our construction clients or providing targeted banking solutions for vulnerable clients, both of which are forward-thinking initiatives that we champion here at Arbuthnot Latham.” 

The whole idea of responsible banking has expanded over recent years, says Matt Jennings, 2020 Young Banker of the Year finalist.  

“It also considers the environmental impact of the commercial decisions that we make,” says Jennings, who works in Growth and Acquisition Funding at Allied Irish and is particularly interested in initiatives that move us closer to a low-carbon future. “This is a fundamental shift and will be critical in ensuring that bank funding is directed towards supporting corporate-led climate change action. 

“To me, responsible banking has always meant putting the customer at the heart of every decision that is made. Putting this into practice has meant different things when working in different areas of the bank, but the central idea remains the same.” 

From the ground up 

The idea of finance with purpose is one supported by Ana Xhemalaj, fellow 2020 Young Banker of the Year finalist. Having graduated in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Xhemalaj saw an industry undergoing a deep evaluation of its own purpose, and the place that responsible banking would play in rebuilding its legacy. 

“While I think we’ve come a long way from there and our relationships with clients, regulators, governments, and communities have improved at great lengths, there’s still the misconception that banking is predominantly driven by profit,” says Xhemalaj.  

“The latter is important because, like any other business, a bank needs to meet its shareholders’ expectations and be fully operational in order to serve clients, create jobs and serve communities.  

“However, since the credit crunch I feel we have been more driven by purpose and by the vision of the legacy we want to create than short-term outcomes. Truly, this is what responsible banking is at its core; financing with purpose, whereby the needs of our clients and the communities we serve are front and centre to what we do as an industry every day.” 

A trifold crisis  

In the 2020 Young Banker Competition 2020, Xhemalaj proposed the idea of a gender-linked lending framework designed to embed gender equality objectives into mainstream financing products and existing ESG-linked financing frameworks. She believes that, without tangible and measurable objectives, gender equality will continue to be overlooked. 

“We’re in the middle of a global health crisis, leading to one of the deepest economic crises since the Great Depression, all while dealing with the real threats coming from climate change,” she says. “A trifold crisis of this magnitude has only amplified the existing inequalities and challenges faced by already vulnerable clients and communities.” 

Society, says Charles Collis, another of the competition’s most recent finalists, is at a critical juncture. 

“Whether it be on the issue of climate change, social justice or race and gender equality, the decisions made in the next few years will have a significant impact on what the next few decades look like,” Collis says. “This is no different for banking.” 

Driving collaboration 

It has never been more important, says Xhemalaj, to use finance innovation and cross-sector collaboration to drive tangible positive change, address the pressing socio-economic issues ahead of us and ultimately ‘build back better’ what the crisis has damaged for the generations to come. 

“The recent incredible collaboration between the public sector and financial institutions in response to the COVID crisis is a clear testament to our commitment as an industry to help our clients and communities through significant adversity,” she says. “We launched new products practically overnight and adapted our internal operational environment and existing processes to help our most impacted clients keep their businesses alive.” 

According to Collis – now Global Commercial Banking Strategy Analyst at HSBC – the way the industry responds to the COVID-19 crisis will continue to be critical in building and maintaining a reputation of integrity.  

“The support and role played by the banking industry in this rebuild will define how the industry is continued to be perceived going forward,” he says. 

While banks are turning their gaze inwards in order to explore their most effective responses to a time of unprecedented challenges, Jennings references the UNEP Finance Initiative’s Principles for Responsible Banking as an essential anchor for the wider industry. 

“The UN’s principles provide a framework through which we can navigate these uncertain times to deliver a sustainable banking system, as well as positive outcomes for our economy, society and the environment,” he says. 

Empathetic innovation 

One of the answers to the current challenges, says Malgwi, who is also a trustee for Manchester charity Disabled Living, lies in an empathetic approach to innovation that puts society’s most vulnerable at the forefront.  

“COVID-19 has laid bare the fact that certain sectors of society are more vulnerable than others,” he says. “As a trustee for Disabled Living, we see first-hand the importance of providing practical solutions for people in this space.  

“It was this thought process that informed my decision to design a conceptual banking solution for people living with serious injury or severe medical conditions under the Court of Protection umbrella called the Serious Injury Life Care (SILC) account.” 

A sustainable future 

More than a decade of resetting its priorities has, Xhemalaj says, left the financial sector significantly better capitalised, enabling it to support the rise in financing needs from its clients. But the economic climate has created a need to drive forward sustainability, a movement that must be led by the wider industry. 

“Some of the pre-COVID challenges, such as the low interest rate environment, regulatory changes or competition from new digital entrants, may test the financial institutions’ resilience and profitability,” Xhemalaj adds. “This is especially true with the enhanced credit risk among corporate and retail clients due to the contraction in their economic activity.  

“This is where fostering sustainability – particularly via the promotion of green and sustainable financial products – can help in the longer term. Research shows that companies with a better ESG [environmental, social and governance] rating outperform the rest in the medium to long term and, in addition, more sustainable companies make more resilient businesses which then feeds into a lower credit risk profile in the longer term.  

“As financial institutions, we have a unique opportunity to really help our clients appreciate how sustainability overall – including climate change and social impact – can really help them build stronger businesses capable of weathering crises of this magnitude.” 

Positive change  

Even in trying times, there is hope, and many reasons to be proud of the direction in which the industry is headed. Collis says he himself has noticed a considerable shift. 

“Increasingly I’m seeing emphasis being placed on the strategic decisions and commitments institutions make, and wider scrutiny being applied to them from every corner of society,” he says. “Realistically, this is not a bad thing. 

“Responsible banking cannot be a long, drawn-out commitment to something that will happen in 10 yearsʼ time. It needs to start now, and it is starting now.” 

The Winner

Tippie Malgwi

Tippie Malgwi

Arbuthnot Latham & Co |


I am a Commercial Banker for a Private Bank servicing High net worth individuals, owner managed businesses and charities & trusts with turnover of £1m - £50m. I have a specialism in providing Banking and Investment services for Court of Protection Professional Firms catering for Serious Injury & Vulnerable Persons. I have previously worked in Invoice finance, retail banking & banking operations in the UK and abroad.

Outside of work, I am a Trustee for the North West Charity, Disabled Living Manchester; the charity provides information and advice about products, equipment and services for disabled people and has done this for over 120 years.

Socially, I am a keen Obstacle Course runner and many weekends you can find me participating in a Tough Mudder or Rough Runner cross country race. In quieter and saner times, I am daddy to a one-year-old Princess who I think the World of.

Executive Sponsor Statement

Since joining Arbuthnot Latham & Co., Ltd as a Commercial Banking Executive in September 2018 Tippie has quickly established himself as a pivotal member of the Commercial Banking division - not only in the Manchester office, where he is based, but across the wider AL business, where he frequently volunteers to help develop and test new systems, products and operating platforms.

Enthusiasm, energy, commitment, drive and a sheer determination to make a positive impact - these are all impressive qualities but in almost 40 years in banking, I have rarely witnessed an individual capable of demonstrating such qualities so consistently, day in and day out.  Tippie is one such individual and this is what makes him an outstanding young banker and worthy candidate for this prestigious award.

His conceptual proposal for developing a ‘one stop’ solution for legal practices operating in the serious injury/Court of Protection arena is a highly credible and potentially viable idea, bringing together as it does, many of the highly specialised, bespoke services and functional solutions already offered in part by specialist banks such as AL.  Furthermore, the concept further demonstrates Tippie’s passion for making banking matter to real people, facing real challenges in these times.

I am happy to commend Tippie for this award, which would be a richly deserved mark of the positive contribution he has already made as well as his potential as a banking leader of the future.

Andrew Broughton, Director & Head of Private & Commercial Banking, North of England

The Finalists

Ana Xhemalaj

Ana Xhemalaj

Barclays |


Ana is a multi-lingual and high-achieving Business Manager with six years of Corporate Banking experience. She works closely with the various Corporate Lending and Portfolio teams and senior management across Europe, Middle East and Asia to ensure implementation of strategic goals, operational and commercial effectiveness of the wider business.  Aside of her day-to-day job, she is an active member of the Barclays Citizenship and Sustainability Working Group having owned and maintained the Sustainability linked Debt products such as Green Loan and Sustainable Revolver Credit Facility to International Corporate banking clients.

Gender equality has been an area of passionate focus for her inspired by the inequality witnessed in her home country, Albania. She is committed to use her platform, network and knowledge of the Finance Industry to incentivise more product innovation and cross-collaboration between the private and public sector in order to enhance gender equity through Lending. She is an aspiring free-lance journalist regularly contributing thoughts on diversity, inclusion and equality across various online platforms such as The Hustle is Female, Thrive Global and LinkedIn.

Executive Sponsor Statement

Ana is passionate about the broad topic of sustainability, and has actively engaged in a range of initiatives during her career.  She is highly motivated to support sustained improvements across the ESG spectrum, and has demonstrated her proactive approach to this through her involvement and leadership in Barclays sustainability-linked networks.  Ana brings new perspectives and a confidence to challenge the norms.  She has a strong desire to drive change, including preparation of high quality thought leadership pieces for her wider network.  Ana’s proposal for a Gender Equality Linked financing structure brings together her knowledge of the financing markets, with her personal commitment to progress the gender equality conversation.  Her proposal fits well with recent market developments around sustainable financing; with growing demand for ESG linked financing, Ana’s proposal sets out a framework for companies and lenders to use when structuring their loans.

Dave Davies, Senior Director, Head of Credit Analysis, Barclays Corporate, One of the founding members of The Barclays Green and Sustainability Working Group

Matt Jennings

Matt Jennings



My career has always been intrinsically tied to AIB. After joining for work experience in 2008, I went on to graduate from Durham University, before gaining my first role in 2011.

I am now Associate Director on the Commercial Growth and Acquisition Funding team. The businesses we support are typically UK based, high-growth, lower-mid market corporates. Although my role is multifaceted, my primary focus is on deal origination and execution in the Private Equity market.

I am immensely proud of reaching the semi-finals. This competition has given me a platform to explore how I can support businesses in achieving their goals whilst also shaping AIB’s response to sustainability and climate change. These are topics that I am passionate about and I am excited to take part in bringing them to the forefront of the banking agenda.

Outside of work, I recently got married and we are now expecting our first child. I am hopeful that I will still find time to support Fulham FC in between nappy changing duties!

Executive Sponsor Statement

Matt is certainly one of our rising stars. His track record with us actually dates back to a work experience placement, so it’s heartening to see he returned to us after studying at university and shows that he took his work and future career very seriously even at that early stage. Having been with us almost 10 years now, Matt has gained good experience across a number of customer facing roles. We always consider that variety and what is learned from dealing directly with customers and managing relationships are critical elements of our staff development strategies. Matt has proved to be a great example of that, performing well consistently as he has progressed. He has identified that Sustainability is a key strategic pillar for the bank, so from that perspective I am particularly pleased with his proposal and the way it’s developing. He’s clearly very passionate and engaged on the subject, but has undertaken a significant level of research internally and externally which was evident when he first shared his proposal. He has added further depth as it’s developed, to the extent that we are now assessing what we can gradually start to implement from what he has already produced. Matt is thoughtful, articulate and confident as he has shared his thinking internally, casting a wide net to consult and gather a range of views, but keeping a relatively narrow focus on the specific areas he is bringing forward in a very practical way. In doing so, he is showing high degrees of persistence, motivation and collaboration, which we recognise as key attributes of our future senior leaders.

Steven Cochran, Chartered Banker, Head of Products & Customer Advocacy, AIB UK

Charles Collis

Charles Collis



Charles Collis is a Global Commercial Banking Strategy Graduate working at HSBC, London, where he is also co-chair of the UK Graduate Committee. Born in Sydney, Australia, it was during high-school that he first developed a keen interest in financial markets and sustainability. This consolidated his determination to pursue a world class education at The University of Warwick in the UK, where he achieved a First-Class Bachelor’s Degree in MORSE (Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics). During university, he attended various internships at trade finance funds and commercial banks, and in his final year took on the role of Finance Editor for the university’s Student Newspaper, ‘The Boar’, which in the same year went on to win the BBC’s Student Publication of the Year Award. These cross-cultural experiences, education and extensive travel, have given Charles a unique perspective of the nuances that exist across global financial markets. Charles is also a Level 2 CSIA qualified ski instructor and loves to visit the British Museum, where he is an active member.

Executive Sponsor Statement

I would like to endorse Charles Collis application for Chartered Banker of the Year 2020. Charles’ proposal is interesting as it could help small and medium businesses address the challenges of transitioning to a more sustainable future using a digital platform, leveraging data which HSBC is able to access and therefore not requiring a detailed assessment of each business. Charles is also proposing that the scoring methodology could help businesses more readily access sustainable finance which is attractive given the increasing focus of financial institutions, including HSBC, in this area. Charles has correctly identified that, to date, much of the emphasis on decarbonisation has been on large, multinational corporates, however it will require concerted effort from all of us to address climate change and this proposal could help our smaller customers face these challenges.

Robert King, Head of Sustainable Finance, HSBC UK