Sustainable finance relies on the creativity of hackathons

The competition. The third edition of the sustainable finance hackathon was held the night of Friday to Saturday, November 27 at the Campus Biotech in Geneva.

It brought together 65 students, international organizations and private sector companies divided into nine teams to develop solutions to the problems of sustainable finance.

By taking attendees out of their day-to-day role and asking them to interact with people from different backgrounds, the event aimed to create unexpected and potentially game-changing results. According to Thomas Maillart, lecturer at the University of Geneva and president of Open Geneva:

“Sustainable finance faces huge innovation challenges, many of which require a shift in perspective on the purpose of finance, on how financial institutions need to adapt.”

Student in a master’s degree in responsible management at Unige and “hack manager” of the event, Cristian Santana adds:

“The financial sector is moving towards innovation, either through digitization or going green. But it is moving more slowly than the other sectors while we have no time to lose to deal with the objectives of the United Nations Agenda 2030. We need hackathons because we need innovative solutions in a short time to save the planet.”

The winners. The three winning projects, which respond to challenges launched by financial companies, illustrate this potential.

  • Asset manager RAM Investments was proposing to develop a way to predict carbon emissions levels in real time from companies’ annual reports or data provided the previous year. Within 24 hours, the winning team developed a digital tool capable of interpreting the text of the reports as well as a machine learning algorithm to predict the amount of CO2 emitted.

  • CA Indosuez Wealth Management wanted to find a way to help women manage their wealth. The challenge drew UBS employees to the winning team, with a digital financial coach project.

  • The third winning initiative was a proposal to create a blockchain-based decentralized fund, using artificial intelligence to measure and reward sustainable management of nature, in particular for the protection of coral reefs.

Businesses. One of the main goals of this year’s event was to demonstrate to businesses the value of hackathons in nurturing ideas by breaking down the usual hierarchies that employees may face in the workplace. Thomas Maillart:

“The existence of a free space, without judgment, is really essential for the emergence and development of disruptive innovations.”

The following. To ensure that the work of developing solutions from the hackathon continues beyond the event, the organizations involved — including Lombard Odier, Carbon 4 Finance and Unctad — have been invited to take ownership of the projects. Thomais Maillart:

“Several of these organizations have expressed interest in hiring the students they meet specifically to pursue these projects.”

Asia. Open Geneva has extended its hackathons to other countries. The organization works with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), in collaboration with Tsinghua University in China and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (Unitar), to create hackathons impact in Asia-Pacific.

The latest initiative, SDG Open Hack!, organized by Tsinghua University, was held in Beijing and Shenzhen in November and attracted around 2,000 participants across 17 hackathons. The next hackathon will take place in Singapore in June 2022.


Translated and adapted from the original article by Geneva Solutions

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