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Conference theme

Financial services play a critical role in modern society, serving the needs of individuals and households, businesses, and (semi-) public institutions. Such services enable saving and investment, provide protection from risks, and support the creation of new jobs and enterprises. Recent large-scale mis-sellings of financial products to consumers and SMEs across the EU have revealed, however, that financial services have not always met society’s needs. The interest rate swaps scandals in the UK and the Netherlands are just the latest examples. Particularly in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the social purpose of the financial services sector has come under scrutiny. It has been increasingly recognized that financial services must be sustainable in that they serve the best interests of their recipients and support the stability of the financial system as a whole. In this context, the post-crisis era has witnessed, inter alia, the growing regulatory attention to culture within financial institutions and the qualities of their senior management; the adoption of a more paternalistic approach to financial consumer/client protection; the rise of civil litigation and a greater involvement of financial regulators in mass damage cases.  

The need for sustainable financial services for consumers and SMEs in the EU reflecting a closer link between the European financial services sector and society appears to be undisputed in the post-crisis era. However, at present, it is not entirely clear what sustainable financial services actually are. In addition, many questions exist as to the role of state and law in ensuring the sustainability of financial services in the EU. In particular, what societal needs should be fulfilled by financial services? At what point do financial services become unsustainable or ‘socially useless’? What are the regulatory goals that are or should be pursued in order to ensure the sustainability of financial services, by whom, and at what level? And how can law and regulators contribute thereto? By ‘managing’ culture within financial institutions? By intervening into financial product development processes and the products themselves? Or, more generally, by establishing new modes of interplay between public regulators and the financial services industry within principles-based regulation and that between public and private enforcement of financial regulation? Moreover, different stakeholders continue to operate within different frames of reference, talking past each other about such issues.  

This conference aims to contribute to developing an overarching vision on sustainable financial services post-crisis and designing a legal framework that would enable financial institutions to provide such services. For this purpose it will create a platform for the debate on this topic from the theoretical and practical perspective by bringing together leading academics, financial supervisors, legal practitioners and representatives of the industry, and fostering mutual dialogue.
Last modified:21 August 2017 1.19 p.m.