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UBS announces winner of Grand Challenge competition

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  • Addressing major challenges of sustainable global development
  • The winning team, SPAVEST, developed an innovative financial approach to support low-income savers
  • SPAVEST will go on to develop their savings method to address the low-income savings and pensions challenge

Zurich/Basel, 30 June 2016 – UBS announced the winning team for its UBS Grand Challenge competition. The aim of the competition was to find innovative financial approaches to help address some of the biggest challenges facing society today.

The UBS Grand Challenge was created in response to United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call to the private sector to help raise the trillions of dollars needed to achieve the 17 Sustainable Develop-ment Goals (SDGs) agreed by 193 countries at the UN Summit in September 2015.

The competition encouraged staff across all divisions and regions of the firm to advance financial solutions to five major challenges based on the 17 SDGs of the UN Global Compact. The challenges were identified by the Center for Global Development (CGD), one of the world’s leading think tanks in international development. The five challenges identified were: climate conscious investments, low-income savings and pensions, funding disease treatments, investment in infrastructure and education.

The competition brought together more than 1,200 employees across the globe and resulted in 245 pro-posals submitted to a panel of experts for review, from which six finalist teams were selected. The winning proposal, chosen from the six finalists, is an automated savings method that will support low-income savers, and was recommended as a way to address the low-income savings and pensions challenge. The prevailing team was awarded the honor by UBS Group CEO Sergio P. Ermotti, at a ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland.

“We believe we can make a significant and lasting impact in addressing some of the most serious challenges facing society today,” said Caroline Anstey, Global Head UBS and Society. “These issues are pressing, and while we don’t profess to have all the answers, we have some of the smartest and most passionate people in the industry and we’re prepared to take the lead.”

A jury of UBS and CGD experts shortlisted six entries. The final six teams pitched their ideas to the jury at the Global Final event in Zurich.

“At the Center for Global Development we understand that to help countries build stable, prosperous socie-ties of their own requires thinking beyond aid, both to alternative policy tools that help developing countries and to designing innovative financing mechanisms that mobilize the resources and energy of the private sector,” said Owen Barder, director of CGD Europe and senior fellow. “I am excited that CGD is adding its expertise in development economics to UBS’s experience in finance to find new practical ideas that can help people around the world.”

After intensive deliberation, the jury chose the cross-divisional and transcontinental team SPAVEST for their proposal for a low-cost, automated retirement savings method for low-to middle-income groups. The innovation allows individuals to gradually build their savings by capitalizing on financial technology solutions. Each time an individual makes an electronic payment of any kind, an additional percentage of the transaction amount is allocated to a low-cost and diversified strategy investment fund. Savings would thus be automatic and sized in proportion to consumption. Commenting on the inspiration for their idea, the team said, “We want to make it as simple and convenient as possible for people at all income levels across the globe to build a financially secure future for themselves and their families.”

The other five finalists offered innovative financial solutions that included:

  • A financial instrument that invests in a diversified pool of infrastructure projects 
  • Government bonds, a new class of financial instruments issued by low- and middle-income countries to fund investment in their education sector with returns linked to improved learning outcomes
  • A fund that helps investors to reprice environmental risk in the equities markets, addressing the cli-mate change challenge
  • A fund channeling private investment into financing infrastructure in emerging markets using an in-surance mechanism to derisk the investment and increase available funding for such projects. 
  • A fixed income fund for institutional and private investors offering diversified and simplified access to the Green Bond market, addressing the climate change challenge

The winning team, SPAVEST, will now have the opportunity to take their idea to Washington DC and work together with CGD on how best to bring their proposal to market.

For more on the UBS Grand Challenge and the finalists, visit

About UBS and Society

The Grand Challenge is an initiative of UBS and Society, a cross-divisional platform covering the firm’s activi-ties and capabilities in sustainable investing and philanthropy, environmental and human rights policies that govern client and supplier relationships, managing its own environmental footprint, as well as the firm’s community interactions.

About the Sustainable Development Goals

On 25 September 2015, the 193 countries of the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Development Agenda titled Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is estimated to cost trillions of dollars over the next 15 years.

The Official Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted on 25 September 2015 has 92 paragraphs, with the main paragraph (51) outlining the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and its associated 169 targets, which focus on three dimensions – economic, social and environmental. The goals and targets are the result of over two years of intensive public consultation and engagement with civil society and other stakeholders around the world, paying special attention to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.

Speaking at a UN Forum after the SDGs were adopted, Ban Ki-moon addressed more than 350 leaders of business, government and civil society, as well as UN officials: “Governments must take the lead in living up to their pledges. At the same time, I am counting on the private sector to drive success. Now is the time to mobilize the global business community as never before. The case is clear. Realizing the Sustainable Develop-ment Goals will improve the environment for doing business and building markets. Trillions of dollars in public and private funds are to be redirected towards the SDGs, creating huge opportunities for responsible companies to deliver solutions.”

This included the following goals: The 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

UBS Group AG

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