Rahel Wendelspiess has been in UBS’s environmental and social risk team for almost seven years. They oversee UBS’s climate change strategy and monitor emerging risks in this area. The team members are based in offices in Asia, Europe and North America, so that client requests can be met around the clock. She enjoys the broad mandate of the team: “We identify and manage the risks related to environmental and human rights issues and we make sure that UBS complies with standards of responsible banking.” The mandate also resonates with her values. “I am interested in environmental and societal issues and believe that, in this job, I can contribute to relevant ethical considerations when doing business.”
Many of the world’s key environmental and social challenges – such as population growth, energy security, loss of biodiversity, and access to drinking water and food – are closely intertwined with climate change. UBS’s comprehensive climate change strategy thus focuses on the many ways we can support the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Reducing investment in coal…
For example, we limit our engagement in the coal sector. Coal-fired power plants are no longer financed in some countries and in the others, they are subject to restrictions aimed at reducing emissions and overall a strategy to reduce coal dependency. Also, capital raising and lending to the coal mining sector is severely restricted and mountaintop removal operations are not supported at all.
We will also not engage in certain activities that contribute to deforestation, which is second only to the energy sector as a source of global greenhouse gas emissions. Nor will we do business if there is a risk of hindering the protection of wetlands or the conservation of forests, nor if forest clearing by fire or illegal logging is involved.
I am interested in environmental and societal issues and believe that, in this job, I can contribute to relevant ethical considerations when doing business.Rahel Wendelspiess
…and our own ecological footprint
Besides managing these risks, we also offer innovative products and services that make a positive contribution to climate change mitigation or adaption. Our portfolio managers can show the carbon footprint of portfolios. We provide our clients with research capacity on climate change issues and an innovative, climate-aware, rules-based fund. And we support renewable energy and clean tech transactions worldwide. We also launched an engagement strategy around climaterelated topics.
Also, by providing capital-raising and strategic advisory services to companies whose products make a positive contribution to climate change mitigation or adaption, we mobilize capital for the transition to a low-carbon world economy. Finally, UBS continues to reduce its own environmental impact and will increase the firm’s share in renewable energy to 100% by 2020. This is a reduction of our greenhouse gas footprint by 75%, compared to 2004 levels.
Rahel Wendelspiess is part of the environmental and social risk team, which is based in offices in Asia, Europe and North America, so that client requests can be met around the clock.
Risk-taking today and in the future
Christian Bluhm, Group Chief Risk Officer, foresees more investments in cyber and financial crime prevention.
What major risks does UBS currently face?
As a bank, risk-taking is a fundamental part of what we do, but of course there are always risks that have the potential to harm our business. The ones that continue to keep us busy are cyber and financial crime risks.
How do you manage these risks?
As you’d expect, we have a solid framework with multiple layers of independent controls in place. This covers the entire client relationship lifecycle and factors in external events and evolving regulations. And we continue to invest substantial resources in data protection and infrastructure security. We believe that effective cyber security as well as managing risks arising in the area of financial crime relies on people, process and technology controls – that’s why we’re committed to providing education to both our employees and current and potential clients. To further develop our intelligence and capabilities, we liaise with our peers, the broader industry and law enforcement agencies.
What future risks do you anticipate and how do you plan to tackle these?
Cyber and financial crime risks will continue to be a reality in our business, so continued commitment to make further investments in these areas is required. And we’ll further develop our partnership with regulatory and enforcement authorities and other banks to continuously improve our detection and monitoring capabilities to protect UBS against those risks.