Day 3 - Seminar in Switzerland

Corporate Culture, Sustainable Banking, and Underwater Stewardship

Our day started with a thoughtful session on “The Power of Corporate Culture” by Christian Gmür of Leonteq AG, setting the tone for a day of deep insights. The afternoon discussions turned into a critical exploration of sustainable banking, led by Rico Travella of Alternative Bank Switzerland, who challenged us to rethink the foundations of our financial systems.

After a break, we dove back into the depths of sustainability, this time focusing on the literal depths of Switzerland’s waters with Matthias Ardizzon of Abfalltaucher Schweiz. His session on ‘Swiss Underwater Clean-Ups’ highlighted the importance of preserving our aquatic environments and illustrated the power of action and activism.

Corporate Culture – The heart of the company identity 

In today’s rapid and competitive business world, Corporate Culture plays a crucial role in the long-term success of a company. But what exactly makes Corporate Culture so powerful? In this blog post, we’ll write about how Corporate Culture shapes a company’s identity, with insights from Christian Gmür, Chairperson of the Corporate Culture Committee of Leonteq AG. 

There is no “Right” or “Wrong” Corporate Culture 

Corporate Culture is of great significance, yet it’s not a question of “right” or “wrong”. 
It defines the shared values, norms, behaviors, and practices within a company or outside of the business interaction. It acts as the collective personality of the organization, guiding employees by decision-making and work processes. A positive Corporate Culture can boost employee engagement and motivation, leading to higher retention rates and improved performance. Together, vision, mission, values, and principles form the foundation of Corporate Culture. 

Shaping the challenges of modern Corporate Culture 

Understanding and remaining adaptable to the needs of different generations is crucial in maintaining a dynamic Corporate Culture. Additionally, Corporate Culture is shaped by individuals based on factors such as gender, religion, nationality, and education. This poses an increasingly complex challenge for management. Previous approaches like “management by fear” are no longer effective in today’s context; while they may yield short-term results, they would ultimately lead to long-term detrimental effects. Changing Corporate Culture in a company is a gradual process, often taking 5-6 years based on Gmürs’ experience. 

Culture-Driven Hiring: Selecting for Success 

Christian Gmür also shared a valuable message, “Hire great people & give them the freedom to be awesome.” To hire the right people, it’s essential to ask the right questions. We don’t want to hire people that doesn’t match the culture – those are like “bad apples”. Instead, we should hire people that aligns with the company’s culture. Suitability with the Corporate Culture of the company is just as important as the intelligence & smartness when it comes to hiring. Once you have the right people, it’s essential to retain them. 

People-Centric Excellence: The Heart of Success 

Within the framework of the 3 P-Approach, it becomes apparent that Corporate Culture predominantly falls under the “People” pillar, aligning seamlessly with this year’s connectUS theme of “Inspiring People.”, among others. Corporate Culture has the power to inspire people by providing a sense of purpose, empowerment, innovation, and inclusivity that motivates individuals to bring their best selves to work. Corporate Culture serves as the heartbeat of organizational success, as it has the profound ability to inspire individuals to unleash their full potential. A strong Corporate Culture not only attracts top talent but also retains them, as employees are more likely to remain loyal and engaged when they feel supported and appreciated. 

The Journey’s Takeaways 

Our session with Christian Gmür highlighted that living Corporate Culture is important for fostering a positive corporate environment rather than simply implementing it. It’s about creating an environment where trust is earned rather than requested. Furthermore, we also learned that adaption to a good corporate culture requires a clear goal, must be progressed in small steps and requires a lot of time and trust. Only then a transformation & implementation of a positive Corporate Culture is possible. 

Overall, our session offered valuable insights about the power of Corporate Culture. Exploring Leonteq AGs Corporate Culture has provided us with examples of how a well-defined culture can lead to organizational success.  

Let us carry forward these insights and continue to invest in positive Corporate Cultures that foster growth, collaboration, and lasting impact. 

Written by Sophie Weber, Jenanithaa Paramanathan

Sustainable Banking at Alternative Bank

The afternoon of the third seminar day started with a presentation by Rico Travella, a member of the executive board from the Alternative Bank. Rico shared invaluable insights into the bank’s vision, mission, and business model. In their business model and self-concept, the Alternative Bank offers an alternative to today’s conventional banks, prioritizing ethical principles over profit and demonstrating a distinct approach to economic practices. Emphasizing societal well-being and environmental impact instead of profit maximization. The bank follows to clear principles and action guidelines, aiming for profit sufficiency. They avoid speculation, focusing on real-world economic contributions, and steer clear of risks and rewards associated with proprietary trading and investment banking, with a commitment to enabling socio-ecological products and services through their banking resources. 

Visionary Approach to Banking

The Alternative Bank stands out with its visionary approach to banking, envisioning a world where financial institutions prioritize the common good. Their mission is firmly rooted in fair trade, ethical principles, and a commitment to fostering a positive impact on both society and the environment. Rico highlighted the impact money can have on global issues such as war, climate change, and societal well-being, emphasizing the need for conscious financial decisions. 

Sustainable Banking Practices

Operating within a framework of ethical principles, the Alternative Bank follows a comprehensive handbook with clear guidelines. These guidelines determine which areas to support and which to avoid, ensuring a focus on communal living, fairness, and social well-being. The bank operates based on three pillars: environment, society, and transparency. Transparency is a key feature, with the publication of almost everything, including annual earnings, investments, and mortgage details. Notably, the Alternative Bank was among the first to publish a sustainability report, showcasing their commitment to transparency and accountability. The flat hierarchy and external, independent ethics control body further point out the bank’s commitment to ethical standards. 

Maximizing Impact Over Profit

A distinctive feature of the Alternative Bank is its commitment to mainly maximizing positive impact over profit growth. Rejecting bonus payments, the bank reinvests everything to further its mission. The sustainability scorecard, aligned with the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), assesses resilience, a real economy focus, and social and environmental impact. The bank’s main goal is to inspire others to do the same. With a purpose-driven mindset, they aim to be a model for sustainable banking, encouraging replication and widespread impact. 

Working Session with Students

Following Rico Travella’s presentation, a working session engaged the delegation team in discussing practical aspects of sustainable banking. Participants explored common pitfalls in detecting greenwashing, such as misleading information and intransparency of CO2 emission fees. Proposed solutions included robust reporting, source disclosure, standardization, independent auditing, and a solid commitment to transparency. 

Impact on Society

The presence of business models like the one presented by the Alternative Bank holds significant implications for society. It offers individuals the opportunity to align their financial choices with ethical and sustainable values. This shift in perspective empowers people to make a positive impact on environmental and societal well-being through their banking decisions. The Alternative Bank’s commitment to transparency and ethical standards sets a commendable example, encouraging a broader shift towards a more sustainable and responsible financial industry. 

In conclusion, the Alternative Bank, presented within the context of FHNW connectUS, serves as an example of inspiration for the financial industry. It provides a blueprint for a banking system prioritizing people, nature, and long-term well-being over short-term profits. Embracing this model means not just banking differently but fostering positive change for the planet and its people. 

Written by Ajeti Vjolla, Dilara Durmaz

Out Of Sight Out Of Mind – The Forgotten Underwater World 

Abfalltaucher And Who They Are 

At the end of the day (Wednesday, February 14, 2024), Matthias Ardizzon presented the Abfalltaucher Association in an engaging manner. He brought along his entire diving equipment, adding an authentic touch to the presentation. The Abfalltaucher Association is a nonprofit organization supported by partnerships. The members of the organization consist of passionate divers who combine their hobby with environmental protection, as well as land helpers who support the waste divers from the shore. The organization addresses the widespread issue that many people believe the lake swallows everything and that it is therefore acceptable to simply discard trash into the waters. To counteract this, the Abfalltaucher Association organizes clean-ups throughout Switzerland to remove waste from the waters. Additionally, the organization is involved in educational efforts through lectures and school projects. 

Waste And Its Impact 

Did you know that it takes about 450 years for a plastic bottle to decompose? Or that a used cigarette filter requires the same amount of water as a person’s daily intake and can take up to 15 years to decompose, and up to 100 years in salt water? These are just two of the many interesting and shocking facts that Matthias shared with us. 

All sorts of waste is dumped into Swiss waters every day. The problem is that organisms in the water ingest this waste, which then enters the food chain and ultimately affects us. Many animals ingest plastic debris, leading to tragic consequences that are also a reality in Swiss lakes. Matthias presented a list of reasons (which is not complete) why waste ends up in the water. One reason is that people dispose of their waste improperly, such as bulky waste or car tires. Furthermore, in the summer, parties often take place on lake and river banks, where trash is not thrown into designated bins but carelessly onto the ground or directly into the water. Another reason is recklessness or vandalism, resulting in bicycles or e-scooters ending up on the bottom of waters. Agriculture also contributes to pollution by using fertilizers. Additionally, many people dispose of their medications in the toilet. 

Insight A Clean-up Action 

The main activity of the Abfalltaucher Association is the clean-up actionss. These actions are well planned and structured. Everyone knows what they have to do and what their job is for the day. This organization is only possible with a structured process. 

The Abfalltaucher Association receives a notification, for example from private persons, that a clean-up action is necessary at a certain location or in a certain Swiss lake or river. This is followed by an initial exploratory dive by the association members to define the location and extent. After this dive, a call goes out to the association members to carry out the clean-up action on a specific day. This call is used to check the availability of the members in order to plan the next steps. 

On the day of the clean-up, there is a briefing at the site with all the members and preparation for the two dives that will be made that day. This is followed by the actual clean-up operation. There are two teams, the land team and the divers or underwater team. These two teams work closely together.

The clean-up consists of two dives of 60 minutes each at a depth of between 5 and a maximum of 30 meters. The primary objective of the action is to collect as much waste as possible, but the divers always have to think “safety first”. Several tons of waste can be collected in one day. 

3 P Model 

Within the framework of the 3 P model, clean-up actions make a significant contribution to the Planet dimension. However, we also see these actions as a social and collective endeavor, and therefore believe that they also contribute to the People dimension. 

Written by Sharon Rueger, Fabienne Hoebenstreit

Impressions of the Day