Dominique Goursolle-Nouhaud
President of the European Savings and Retail Banking Group

One year after her election as the President of the European Savings and Retail Banking Group (ESBG), Dominique Goursolle-Nouhaud reflects on the main projects undertaken so far and tells us about the values guiding her mandate.

What is your assessment of this first year as the President of the European Savings and Retail Banking Group?

This first year in office came about in a difficult context, marked by multiple crises at the European and international level. These crises highlighted the need to come together and work collectively. To face this situation, savings banks have demonstrated their effectiveness and resilience. At the end of a year of commitment where the social approach has been decisive, not to say fundamental, I am very satisfied to see that we have been able to form a common front to build an approach based on the general interest and social values that carry me in the exercise of my tenure. In addition to my function within the ESBG, I am also the President of the National Federation of Savings Banks (la Fédération nationale des Caisses d’Epargne). Representing the interests of the French savings banks through its cooperative model of regional insurance banks, being the pioneers in social transitions, and belonging to its member-clients, has been feeding my discussions led with my European counterparts. Focussing on the positive impact of each of our decisions, I am supporting certain values, such as financial inclusion particularly in these difficult times where inequality is spreading. These are the values I have been defending for so many years and which reinforce my action. And I must say that there is still so much to do!

Does representing the savings banks help you defend its values?

Absolutely! When we represent the French Savings Banks, we carry their values and their convictions. We are proud to exemplify a unique model concerned about people, which contributes to the economic and social development of the territories and strives to be at the forefront of major transformations of society. The challenge is to explain our distinction to other countries and regulatory bodies, such as the European Central Bank (ECB), whose interests can sometimes diverge. I strongly believe in fair banking. In my opinion, the savings bank model is the model of the future. We have been coming through many crises by protecting and supporting the most vulnerable. Therefore, when I am around a table with my European counterparts, I need no lessons from anyone because I know that we are the pioneers!

In the performance of your duties, is being a woman a game-changer?

Yes, I have the impression that there is less of a power relationship. My male colleagues take more precautions with me (laughs)! And that creates a certain consensus.
On the other hand, my relatively positive experience as a female executive in a man’s world does not change the fact that in the banking sector, we tend to overvalue masculine leadership traits like charisma, confidence and decisiveness, and we undervalue more feminine traits like empathy, humility and high emotional intelligence. People might have biases towards what they believe are “good” behaviours, which tends to undervalue what women bring to the table. But I would like to remind a quote from Christine Lagarde who said back in 2010 “if Lehman Brothers had been ‘Lehman Sisters’ today’s economic crisis clearly would look quite different.” It was a quip, of course, but it summaries the situation very well and I think it is still applicable today.
Moreover, as a woman, I make it my mission to raise the subject of the “place of woman” in the financial world. I am very proud to have contributed to the organization of the conference “My world, my knowledge, my future: a female approach to financial education”, the first of its kind to highlight the importance of the role of banking institutions in the financial education for women…because without financial independence, there is no freedom.
But of course the prerequisite of financial independence is to have access to education, and also to financial education. I do believe that ensuring all women to have access to quality education is essential in respecting their rights and accelerating the construction of a just and sustainable world which we all need. In this respect, I must say that I am very proud to take the lead of an institution who attaches priority to financial education.

What has been your greatest pride so far?

I think it is to have succeeded, with the members of the ESBG, in finding a common and urgent European solution in the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis. In one weekend, members showed their support by committing to waive transaction fees on bank transfers to Ukraine. It was not an easy task, because this country is not a part of the European Union and it was necessary to carry out all the operations manually. We, the European Savings and Retail Banks, reacted in consultation and made a strong and united commitment.
Apart from this humanitarian initiative, as one of our most prominent endeavours in the past year, ESBG has sharpened its advocacy strategy by defining priorities and key policy dossiers on a bi-annual basis in consultation with members of each ESBG committee. As a result of our renewed advocacy strategy, 67% of ESBG amendments to key files of EU legislation have been retained by the policy makers. As proven, the fact that we are stronger together does not only make our voices heard; it also ensures that our messages are taken into account by the top legislators. Hence, it is our continuous aim to make the voice of retail and savings banks heard both at the European and global level.

What are your future challenges?

I would like to strengthen our cooperation at the European level, particularly with CaixaBank, with whom I believe it is important to share best practices in terms of inclusive innovations. We need to work hand in hand to develop microcredit, so that the poorest households can benefit from appropriate support and financing. I would also like to take up the challenge of restoring the image of the banker and the bank. In order to do this, we need to make an additional effort in communication and cultural adaptation with the general public who are still too often unaware of our model. We must make it known to as many people as possible!

About the Fédération nationale des Caisses d’Epargne

The “National Federation of Savings Banks” is the representative and expression body for 15 Savings banks, regional cooperative banks, 4.4 million members and 2,600 elected representatives. Its main missions are to coordinate and lead the relations between the members and the Savings Bank, represent their common interests, in particular with the public authorities, to support and train members’ elected representatives, to define, coordinate and promote the social and environmental actions of the Savings Banks.

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