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.
Who we are
Making finance serve society
WHAT DO WE WANT TO CHANGE
We aim at making the financial system safer:
The last financial crisis ruined some families, businesses and governments; such catastrophe should never be allowed to happen again
We want a better regulation of financial services in banking, insurances or pensions
Every consumer should have access to suitable, simple, and transparent financial products
We must redirect financial flows away from short-term betting and unproductive activities
Financial markets and banking would be better employed on collective emergencies such as fighting climate change or rising inequalities
Finance Watch is a European NGO founded in reaction to the last financial crisis, when policymakers realised that there was no counter-power to the lobby of finance.
We are an organisation of non-profit members from Europe and beyond. Our strength is our team, partly composed of ex-finance professionals which allows us to challenge the financial lobby’s fallacious technical arguments. We defend the public interest in the making of financial regulations.
We are an organisation of non-profit members from Europe and beyond. Our members include organisations and expert individuals from a dozen different countries, as listed below. They meet regularly to coordinate actions on financial reform.
In some countries, such as France or Italy, Finance Watch's members have structured their activities as a national network. In Germany, we work with our partner organisation Finanzwende / Finance Watch Germany.
Governance & funding
Finance Watch is committed to transparency, independence and good governance. The governance structure – described in detail in our Articles of Association has been designed with these values in mind and allows for a clear separation of responsibilities.
Participation in expert groups
We represent the public interest in a number of the stakeholder groups that policymakers and supervisors set up for technical advice. Currently, we are member of the following European expert groups:
How do we work
Policy & Regulation
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 positions 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,
Helping civil society (members and other civil society organization and citizens) to join the debate is a core part of Finance Watch’s mission. We convene discussions about finance and financial regulation through publications, expertise and events. We also participate in several civil society working groups at EU level.
Finance & Society
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. We aim at explaining the links between finance and society through cartoons, webinars and other materials. Finance is actually much easier to understand than we imagine.
A massive mobilisation of people and the civil society is a necessity to weigh at regulatory level. Among other mobilisations, we convene the #ChangeFinance campaign. More at www.changefinance.org
Twelve years after its creation, the association is thriving. As Finance Watch consolidates its policy leadership and impact, membership has grown to 111 members across 21 EU countries.
Finance Watch advocated for financial protections for poor households; pushed back on the myth that Member States cannot afford to invest in the future; called for upgrading the prudential rulebook to integrate climate risk; and pushed for the redirection of bank and insurance capital away from investments in environmentally-damaging projects.
Finance Watch deployed fierce advocacy on policy proposals calling for a post-Covid-lockdown recovery.
Finance Watch spearheaded a coalition of NGOs, trade unions, and think tanks for the “Rethink the Recovery” campaign and co-hosted “Fiscal Matters,” a week of online debates with over 800 participants.
Publications this year included highlighting consumer credit malpractices and the financial barriers faced by pensioners in the EU, as well as exposing the link between financial instability and the insurance sector.
Finance Watch reached its 10-year milestone this year, just in time to confront the emerging coronavirus pandemic.
Throughout the coronavirus lockdown and restrictions on travel, Finance Watch never wavered from its mission to deliver urgently-needed reforms to the financial system. Despite the pandemic, Finance Watch strengthened its national networks while growing its membership and secretariat.
Finance Watch recruited new communications experts and policy research analysts specialising in insurance, sustainable finance, prudential and fiscal rules.
Finance Watch’s Annual Report 2019 describes among others the continuous expansion of the Finance Watch membership, our involvement in decisive legislative European processes such as the European Sustainable Finance Strategy and the return of Thierry Philipponnat in the Finance Watch family as our new Head of Research and Advocacy.
Finance Watch’s Annual Report 2018 describes how the organisation has succeeded in broadening its civil society network to gain more and more support for its demands for more fundamental reforms of the financial sector.
This activity report also gives an overview about Finance Watch’s key positions and publications linked to the EU’s legislative agenda such as Sustainable Finance, FinTech, Non-performing loans, the Pan-European Personal Pension Product, and Brexit.
The ten-year anniversary of the global financial crisis in September 2018 was a good moment to alert the media and citizens to how little has fundamentally changed in the financial system; Finance Watch’s report, “Ten Years After: Back to Business as Usual”, contained a critical assessment of post-crisis financial regulation in Europe and gained EU wide media coverage.
EFIN joins Finance Watch
The European Financial Inclusion Network activities were transferred to Finance Watch on the 13th of June 2018. EFIN’s publications can be found in the Financial Inclusion section of our Policy & Regulation portal, including elements of a bibliography on financial inclusion.
For reference, EFIN’s official documentation can be downloaded here:
EFIN members as of last day of activity: Download list
The report 2017 describes Finance Watch’s activities in the last year and plans for 2018 to promote public interest outcomes in financial reform, including a commentary on ongoing policy debates around bank regulation, pension reform, consumer protection and sustainable finance, among others.
Finance Watch is made up of 48 civil society Members from 12 European countries and has more than 30,000 supporters from the general public. It was created after the financial crisis to work on financial reform and regulation, acting as a citizens’ counterweight to the powerful financial lobby.
In 2016, our team attended 131 meetings with policymakers, prepared 18 consultation responses, public hearings and reports, organised two public conferences, and were cited on social media and in the press on a wide variety of issues. Download our 2016 annual report
Finance Watch has published its annual report for 2015. The report sets out Finance Watch’s achievements in 2015 and challenges for 2016, including work on MiFID II, Capital Markets Union, Better Regulation, bank bail-in, climate finance, fundraising, expanding the civil society network working on European financial reform, and the changing political climate for financial reform, among other things. Read the press release or download the 2015 Annual Report
Finance Watch has published its annual report for 2014. The report includes a detailed description of our public interest advocacy on a variety of EU legislative and non-legislative dossiers in 2014, as well as updates on our governance, funding and operational activities during the year.
Prerequisites to making finance serve society
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.
2010: the decisive "Call for a finance watch"
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 and resigned in December 2016.
Benoît Lallemand, then head of strategic development for Finance Watch, became Secretary General in January 2017.
In April 2018, the secretariat moved into its new offices, located Rue Ducale 67, 1000 Brussels.