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Will children save planet earth?

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After my recent blogs about Earth Day, Banking for Humanity, the FinTech Parent-Child relationship and Gen Y and Z:

I was struck by another realisation, which is the gulf between generations and focus. The people who run banks – average age fifty-something – grew up in an industry where it was a job for life, measured by shareholder returns and focused upon profit. The people starting FinTechs – average age thirty-something – grew up in the gig economy and believe wholeheartedly in doing goof for society and the planet, by and large.

The latter group are maybe typified by one young lady, Greta Thunberg. Greta is an environmental activist poster child who you probably have heard of – she’s just been on the cover of Time Magazine. She was unknown a year ago. Just nine months ago, she was a lone figure sitting outside the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm, carrying a sign emblazoned with Skolstrejk for Klimatet (School Strike for Climate). Her demonstration has snowballed and become a global movement of children leaving school for a day to protest again climate destruction.

She has real steel, is just sixteen years old, is eloquent and powerful in speech, and has made some quotations that hit the heart:

“Some decision-makers have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money.”

This one stands out for me as the parental generation didn’t really give a flying frack about climate damage. We fly and don’t care. In fact, I have no idea how anyone will get flying to be reduced. Most countries are now dependent upon foreign direct investment and global connectivity. Without it, the economy nosedives. This is why most countries have regenerated their airports, made them bigger, are building new ones and encouraging air travel. Reducing that one will be a big deal.

But there are things closer to home that can be done. For example, half of the climate damage over the past thirty years had been caused by just 25 companies; three-quarters by 100 companies. The biggest offenders are the fossil fuel firms Shell, BP, Exxon, Chevron. If we could just get these firms to be shut down, wings clipped, financing removed or fully focused on renewable energy, we might have a chance.

But the generational divide kicks in here. The people running these firms and the banks and governments that stand behind them, are of the generation before millennials and Gen Z. They are baby boomers and Gen X. They are the ones who grew up thinking these things were ok. We all needed a car; we all like to travel; we all thing climate damage will be healed by something miraculous; and we all focus upon profit.

“Some decision-makers have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money.”

As I look at the Gen Y and Z people starting up FinTech firms, I can see they have sustainability, inclusion, literacy and more high on their agenda. They want to build firms the offer financial wellness to all, not just turn a profit for the wealthiest few.

This makes our world fascinating as the kids try to save planet earth from the parents who killed it. Can they change that shareholder returns and profit focus fast enough to make it happen? I have no idea, but at least they’re giving it a try.

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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