The WSBI World Congress is a policy-focused event held on a triennial basis. Partici​pants include association members, policymakers and stakeholders.


26th WSBI World Congress illustrated the global key role of savings & retail banks

WSBI members and other financial stakeholders from all over the globe got together for the first time since 2018 on 7-8 July in Paris. The central topic was sustainability with a usual focus on social responsibility and financial education that the savings and retail banks share as core values.

Feeling and acting socially responsible is inextricably linked to our identity. The fact is we were born that way, it forms part of our DNA, and it is our vocation. All of this translates into our way of doing banking that is fundamentally different from other players in the sector, and furthermore, it is profitable, efficient and fair.”

WSBI President, Isidro Fainé, as he welcomed some 280 participants to the 26th WSBI World Congress on 7 July in Paris.

The two-day event was entitled ‘Regionally rooted, globally responsible’. Sustainability was the key topic at the centre of the discussions and panels, as savings and retails banks seek the most effective ways to move forward on the topic and contribute to address the pressing environmental needs. Notably, it was the topic of two very different keynote speakers: environmentalist and mountaineer, Reinhold Messner; and European Banking Authority’s Chairperson, José Manuel Campa. ESBG President, Dominique Goursolle-Nouhaud, also gave a welcome message.

Sustainability considerations are becoming a key element of the ways banks operate”, said Campa during his intervention entitled ‘The role of banking in transitioning to a sustainable economy’.

Sustainability was also the central topic of the panel ‘Can Green & Innovative drive Recovery?’, a discussion among speakers from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Roger Federer Foundation, the European Commission, the Centre for Finance, Technology & Entrepreneurship, and a video intervention by the Secretary of State for Digitisation and Artificial Intelligence of the Government of Spain, Carmen Artigas.

The panel ‘Sustainability Developments in Policy and Regulation – Favourable for Locally Focused Banks?’ also covered the topic with a fruitful discussion among speakers form the Bank of Uganda, CaixaBank, Swedbank and Saudi Arabia’s Social Development Bank. An ‘on the couch’ chat among speakers from UNESCO and ASN Bank moderated by Groupe BPCE gave an interesting account about ‘Banking and environmental challenges’ with the definition of biodiversity and the methodology to measure environmental impact at its core.

European Commissioner for financial services, financial stability and Capital Markets Union delivered the video keynote speech ‘Priorities in financial services regulation’.

The key topics of social responsibility and financial inclusion and education were covered from a variety of angles during the 26th WSBI World Congress on the panels: Global pandemic recovery plans, The importance of financial literacy, social responsibility – Turning mission into act, and ‘Bridging the knowledge gap for job creation: the role of financial inclusion, education and skillset building for a strong MSME sector’.

‘Introductory remarks: the role of ACRI in supporting education and skillset building for a more inclusive society. A boost for a strong MSME sector in Italy’ was the speech kindly delivered by Guiseppe Ghisolfi, Chairman of the International Relations Committee at ACRI Italy, an authority on financial inclusion among our WSBI-ESBG members.

Another pressing topic for the banking industry, which has been speeding up changes in the sector in the last few years is digitalisation. This was the topic of two extremely interesting panels. ‘Between bricks and clicks: the role of the banking branch in the digital era’, presented a variety of realities, from bank branches as the main channel in Tajikistan to a full ecosystem of solutions for the customer based on 25 years of mobile banking development in Zambia. The panel ‘Future-proof banking: How do savings and retail banks support customers in the times of digitalisation and innovation?’ presented the outlook from the perspectives of WSBI-ESBG members Laurent Mignon, CEO of Groupe BPCE; Helmut Schleweis, President of the German Savings Banks Association (DSGV for its initials in German); and Sabasaba Moshingi, CEO at Tanzania Postal Bank.

A gala dinner, with the Eiffel Tower as the protagonist of a breath-taking view, was kindly hosted by WSBI-ESBG member Groupe BPCE and the CEO of BPCE, Laurent Mignon warmly welcomed the participants in his speech delivered at the beginning of the gala dinner.

The Paris Declaration

At the end of the WSBI World Congress, the association’s members approved the Paris Declaration, a joint the call to policy makers to develop a set of principles for designing taxonomies that are centred on pragmatic and science-based targets.

As WSBI members are present in remote areas, close to the people, and focus on SMEs and private households, they are aware of the necessity of having ambitious, yet pragmatic, progressive and proportional, targets”, says the document.

The Declaration called for taxonomy design principles that encourage interoperability and mutual recognition to promote cross-border sustainable finance and to reduce compliance costs. It points out the need for a common language to ease comparability while preventing duplication of efforts and points to the EU-China Common Ground Taxonomy (CGT) as a promising first step in the right direction.

The WSBI President, Isidro Fainé, closed the World Congress with a message of optimism despite the short-term turbulent context the world is living.

The WSBI community of banks is facing the future with hope and optimism. An optimism that translates into specific actions for social progress. This is evidenced by our impeccable track record in the way we do banking, where financial inclusion is our flag and with our philanthropic actions, where our priority is to help those most in need through a wide range of social and educational programmes”, said Mr Fainé.

The Chairman also emphasised that “the determination of our community to contribute to a better world, as our DNA dictates. Our WSBI members on five continents believe that a better world is possible”.

WSBI-ESBG is looking forward to marking its 100th anniversary with an event to take place in Milan in 2024.


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