A reflection on the TradeTech EMEA panel on ESG progress in trading processes

A couple of months ago I had the privilege of moderating a panel at the annual Trade Tech Europe event (once again in Paris), and to discuss some important industry trends with a panel of experts from Sustainable Trading member firms.   


Joining me on the panel were Clarissa De’Giorgio, Head of Business Development & Marketing – Technology Solutions, Euronext, Jenner Sheldrake, Head of Business Development, Liquidnet, Oriane Cochard, Equity Trader, T. Rowe Price and Philip Bille, Head of Buy Side Dealing & Market Structure, Degroof Petercam. 


In a fascinating discussion, a couple of key areas stood out as being particularly relevant to the global trading environment. The first is the employee experience of the trading workplace itself – one known traditionally for long and non-standard working hours in a fast-paced and often stressful environment. The second is the high levels of power consumption of trading technology, inextricably linked with maintaining high performance, low latency, trading connectivity and capabilities.  


The discussion around employee wellbeing was particularly interesting given the changing attitudes and expectations of younger generations with respect to the types of businesses they want to work in. These expectations increasingly extend beyond their own personal wellbeing to a desire to work in companies that have demonstrable and impactful sustainability and ESG strategies, policies and practices. For one panellist, this meant losing a top intern candidate to a tech-native company more aligned with their beliefs and expectations around work/life balance and culture of sustainability.  


There can be fierce competition for talent in the financial services sector, particularly with respect to recruitment of people with the right technology skills into an industry that may not any longer hold the same cachet – or excitement – from a career perspective as other technology-led industry segments. One panellist observed that talent will flock to other tech sectors if the financial services industry doesn’t catch up on ESG, stressing the importance of effecting cultural change, even in small increments, and igniting a mindset shift that embeds sustainability at the heart of an organisation’s activities and people. 


There is an opportunity for sustainable practices related to trading technology to contribute to this cultural shift. With respect to power consumption challenges, panellists concurred that market participants should be looking at the opportunities that exist to reduce trading technology power usage. One panellist mentioned their firm’s move to a more sustainable Data Centre location. Trading employees could also be considering efficient use of IT with respect to procurement processes, user practices in Data Centres, and reduction of use outside of market hours. 


Regardless of the views of some industry participants and jurisdictions about the relative priority and value of  ESG and sustainability policies compared to profitability and returns, there is consensus that trading businesses and firms would benefit from embracing practices that make trading operations more sustainable – not only in anticipation of increasing client, employee and broader stakeholder expectations, but to ensure a more sustainable planet for future generations. Looking ahead, it is suggested that this commitment to change will be underpinned and influenced by evolving standards of industry best practice that will enable stakeholders to benchmark and compare sustainability efforts and progress when selecting the companies they want to work for and with.