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The Greening of Financial Services

Gartner offers logical tips for becoming a "green" FI.

Lately we've been hearing more news about "green" banking initiatives than you can shake a stick at. Most of what has come across my desk have been either panicked warnings and dire predictions about what will happen with corporations don't become more environmentally friendly, or more concrete news, such as Sovereign Bank's efforts to move customers to e-statements or NACHA's announcement that it is forming a "green coalition."Finally, I saw something from Gartner's Richard DeLotto, principal research analyst in the financial services group. He maintains that pressure from stakeholders will drive financial services institutions to adopt green practices, especially on the IT side.

"Environmental issues will rise up on political, media, enterprise, investor and consumer agendas worldwide through 2012. The financial services industries (FSIs) will not escape this shift in stakeholder focus, and their IT departments will bear the brunt of the impact. Many consume half or more of their firms' total energy purchases, and few have been given the resources to replace older technology that, while operating adequately, operates very expensively," said DeLotto.

DeLotto does bring up some valid points that have implications beyond "good corporate citizenship." Being energy efficient saves money and ultimately has an impact on the bottom line. Just what it will take in terms of investment to reach that point, however, is up for debate. I suppose in the very long-term the upgrade would be worth it.

For now, DeLotto notes, being green is voluntary and sometimes gets shunted aside since banks have other high-priority items on their to-do lists, like compliance efforts, core system upgrades (this could actually tie into being more energy efficient) and dealing with the lending crisis. But will this change? Will there be a mandate some day? The way things are going politically and seeing how the environment is the zeitgeist of the day, I wouldn't be surprised if regulators did pass some kind of edict to make FIs greener. Look at Australia, for example. They're outlawing the use of incandescent light bulbs, even in private homes, in favor of more efficient fluorescents bulbs (We haven't heard much about how they're going to dispose of all the mercury when those fluorescents do finally burn out.).

By way of summary, DeLotto's key findings and recommendations for FIs thinking of going the green route include:

Key Findings • Green IT consists of optimizing processes to reduce total resource consumption and waste output. This makes sound business sense in itself, and should ideally form part of the core of any IT manager's activity. • Greening the IT department is only part of the pressure a bank will face to support environmentally sustainable operations. As prices rise, every aspect of the organization will be "simplified, streamlined and rationalized" to reduce its resource consumption. • The areas where the greatest overall effect can be made the fastest are at the desktop and with client devices. • Regardless of the soundness of the underlying science or economics, "greenism," environmental sustainability and skyrocketing resource costs are firmly emplaced trends that must be addressed by strategic planners. Recommendations • Understand that the single most important resource for financial services firms to conserve is their reputation. Build public relations functions into your greening programs from the start. • Do not buy from IT equipment vendors without audited take-back and disposal programs. • Start cutting costs at the desktop; however, serious rethinking about data center design and operations, as well as core processing system design based on cooling and energy use reduction issues, should begin no later than midyear 2008.Gartner offers logical tips for becoming a "green" FI.

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