‘Spotlight on’ Green Finance Dialogue & UK’s Growing Green Markets: A Q&A with Ian Haywood

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A Q&A with Ian Haywood, Head of Banks, UK and Ireland at ABN AMRO

Q1. Describe your role within the Financial Institutions UK team at ABN AMRO

I’m responsible for managing and building ABN AMRO’s relationships with UK and Irish Banks. These include the large global banks such as Barclays, HSBC through to the smaller Fintech Challenger Banks like Starling and Monzo.

Q2. Has there been a significant shift in your role since the pandemic began?

The major shift has been in the way we communicate with clients, physical meetings being replaced with video “Microsoft Teams” meetings now becoming the new norm. Topics of conversations have also changed to align with the challenges faces our clients and changes to their client propositions, we need to ensure that ABN AMRO remains relevant to them. ESG topics have also become more prevalent in discussions as clients continue to work through challenges relating to climate change.  

Q3. What are the current challenges and opportunities when advising banks on how to issue green bonds and social bonds?

ABN AMRO has been at the forefront of the Green Bond movement over the past few years. 
In 2015 ABN AMRO became the first European Bank to issue a large Green Bond, with the proceeds used to finance and refinance sustainable real estate. Subsequently, we have issued another three bonds and raised in total €2.5bn. We have used our experience as an issuer of Green Bonds over the past five years to develop a highly regarded and award-winning DCM franchise advising and lead managing multiple European Financial Institutes to issue their own Green and Social Bonds.
ABN AMRO can make a more significant difference in society by not only focussing on ABN AMRO’s sustainability shift but also by working with clients to help with their transition to sustainability. Helping to raise funding and capital through Green and Social bonds is a vital part of this engagement.

Q4. How do you collaborate and share expertise in sustainability, building a multi-product dialogue with banks, building societies, market infrastructure providers and challenger banks?

Sustainability is now part of ABN AMRO’s DNA, which has helped to build sustainability focussed teams across the organisation. Given that ABN AMRO is regarded as one of the market leaders, clients are happy to talk to us on related topics. 
We frequently organise group events with internal and external speakers attending.  The format has now, for apparent reasons, moved from physical events to a more sustainably friendly, online version. Topics that have been discussed over the past twelve months include the use and application of ESG Rating Agencies, Impact Reporting and how ABN AMRO disclose, report and measure our social impact.      

Q5. How does favourable regulation continue to create opportunities for investing in Green Bonds and Social Bonds?

Policymakers (both Governments and Financial Regulators) globally continue to focus on the risks of climate change, and the impact Financial Institutions can make to support a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Financing new low carbon companies and industries along with transitioning current activities, will be vital to achieving the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. 
In the UK the Bank of England has taken a proactive stance on tackling climate change and last year became the first central bank and supervisor to set out supervisory expectations for banks and insurers on the management of climate risks. It was noted by the Governor of the Bank of England this month that  “Capital markets will [therefore] need to play an important part in the transition to a resilient carbon-neutral economy.” (Andrew Bailey, October 2020) 

Q6. How can banks do more to become social ‘changemakers’?

ABN AMRO’s purpose of “Banking for better, for generations to come” underlies the strategy we have adopted. Climate change is just one area of focus and other critical areas within the ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) arena has been the promotion of Human Rights. ABN AMRO’s first Human Rights Report was published in 2016, giving us recognition as the first bank in the world to report using the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework. 
Supporting our clients transition to sustainability aligned with what we are doing ourselves will help accelerate change, in all areas of ESG, including moving towards a lower-carbon economy.  

Q7. What do you hope to see within green and sustainable finance in the next ten years?

It would be great if Green Finance over the next ten years becomes the standard financing tool for both banks, and companies finance themselves in the Capital Markets. But the focus should continue to help support both the transition of the 'old economy' along with supporting new initiatives.