Why Finance Watch?

Finance Watch believes that finance should benefit everyone by bringing capital to productive use and without causing detriment to society as a whole.

In the summer of 2010, a group of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) noticed that they were being inundated with requests to meet representatives of the financial industry. At the same time, they were dealing with increasingly technical financial legislation coming through Brussels in the wake of the financial crisis that began in 2007.

This cross-party group of 22 MEPs became concerned that an imbalance in lobbying could lead to undemocratic outcomes as reform proposals were reshaped or weakened by the industry lobby on their way to becoming law. They therefore launched a call for action in July 2010, entitled "Call for a finance watch".

Their petition found strong support in Brussels and beyond. In the next five months, nearly 200 national politicians and MEPs from a wide range of political parties and EU member states signed up to the call. The list of signatories is available here.

In December 2010, some of the initial group of MEPs funded a six-month project to investigate whether a new, independent body could be created to improve the way the interests of ordinary citizens were represented in the debate on the future of financial regulation. Over the course of more than 120 meetings with representatives of civil society and other organisations, a set of concrete proposals for Finance Watch was drawn up.

Finance Watch was registered on 28 April 2011 as an Association Internationale Sans But Lucratif (international non–profit association) under Belgian law and held its founding general assembly in Brussels on 30 June 2011, where members adopted the association’s statutes and elected the Finance Watch Board. The Board appointed Thierry Philipponnat as the organisation’s first Secretary General.

The first staff were hired in autumn 2011 and offices taken in Square de Meeus, near to the European Parliament. The team grew further in 2012 and is now 13 people strong.

In April 2014, the secretariat moved into its new offices, located Rue d'Arlon 92.

In May 2014, Thierry Philipponnat resigned as Secretary General of Finance Watch. Benoît Lallemand, then co-head of policy analysis for Finance Watch, became Acting Secretary General until the end of 2014. Christophe Nijdam became Secretary General on 1 January 2015.

What have we done in our last year? Read our Annual Report 2015.

Finance Watch's mission is summed up in our motto, "making finance serve society".

Our vision is for a sustainable financial system that serves society and is founded on investing and not betting.

We would like to see:

  • banking systems that are resilient and effective, directing credit to productive use without extracting economic rents or transferring credit risks to society, and
  • financial markets that encourage productive investment in the real economy and discourage excessive or harmful types of speculation.

Before either of these can happen, our political leaders and civil society must act together to break the dominance of the powerful financial industry lobby.

Finance Watch is working to share this vision with the public, regulators, political representatives, academics, think tanks, the media and economists, as well as the bankers and business leaders of tomorrow.

We see the following measures as essential steps towards realising our vision:

  • reduce the overall level of financialisation of society
  • reduce the costs of intermediation by the financial industry
  • build a resilient banking system that serves society and is not founded on moral hazard (including under a Banking Union)
  • raise awareness of the policy implications of credit- and money-creation by the banking sector
  • build a financial system geared towards sustainable investing
  • limit excessive speculation, such as commodity speculation and high-frequency trading
  • channel savings into sustainable long-term investments in the real economy
  • regulate the financial sector effectively
  • protect the interests of the general public
  • restore ethical behaviour to the actors of the banking and financial sectors

Finance Watch works according to the following principles from its Articles of Association:

  • The financial industry plays an important role in allocating capital, coping with risk and providing financial services and this role has strong public interest implications.
  • The essential role of the financial system is to allocate capital to productive use in a transparent and sustainable manner.
  • The purpose of finance is to serve the real economy. The situation where the economy becomes subordinated to finance must be rejected because it is destructive of economic and social structures.
  • Whilst profitability constitutes both a legitimate objective and a necessary condition for the sustainability of financial institutions, the pursuit of profitability should not be conducted to the detriment of public interest.
  • The transfer of credit risk to society at large is not acceptable.
  • The general objective of Finance Watch is an economic organisation of society where the needs of the real economy to have access to capital and to financial services are fulfilled in a sustainable, equitable and transparent manner.

Finance Watch’s staff analyse legislative proposals and produce policy positions that are communicated to policymakers and the wider public. Staff and Members work together and coordinate their advocacy through Working Groups.

We target:

  • policymakers (politicians, civil servants and supervisors) with meetings, events, position papers, consultation responses, hearings and written evidence, speeches, articles, letters and other policy communications,
  • the general public with newsletters to “Friends of Finance Watch”, social media, our website, cartoons, blogs, postcards and non-technical summaries, all produced in three languages. Popular support for our mission is essential as it helps to sustain political interest in financial reform and demonstrates Finance Watch’s legitimacy to represent the wider public interest,
  • civil society (members and other civil society organization and citizens) with publications and expertise. Helping them to join the debate is a core part of Finance Watch’s mission.

To maximize the impact we can have with limited funding, Finance Watch only works on dossiers that we believe have a special importance to the wider public interest and where we believe we can make a difference.