Understanding the Implications of Sustainability Inclusion : A Case Study of the Role of the Financial Advisor and Sustainability
Abstract: The role of the financial advisor is subject to fiduciary duty, which means that the advisor always should act in the best interest of the client and has traditionally referred to the financial aspects. Finance is now experiencing a revolution, where the concept of sustainable finance is on the agenda of many actors when the sustainability amendments to MiFID II entered into force, as part of the EU Action Plan on Sustainable Finance. The new regulations will add to the already intensified information load characterizing the financial advisory landscape. Moreover, this new dimension of sustainability is very different from the strictly financial one, which in itself is subject to both conceptually and operational complexity. This study aims to investigate what difficulties and complexities are arising from the growing amount of sustainability demands and information and how these affect the financial advisor and its role. This was done as a qualitative case study where nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with financial advisors working in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden, together with two interviews with employees working with sustainability at a central level in a Nordic bank. The analysis is based on the interviews combined with current literature and together lays the foundation for the findings. The key findings of the study are that there are five identified difficulties stemming from different areas that are seen as important for understanding what the inclusion of sustainability preferences into financial advisory might mean going forward, and what effects that it will have on the financial advisor: (i) regulatory changes and compliance, (ii) sustainability preferences, (iii) the information-intensive landscape, (iv) advisors’ required awareness and knowledge, and (v) the perceived advisor’s role. When adding these identified difficulties together, the conclusion is that the concept of sustainable finance is not as uncomplicated as perhaps portrayed, and this holds extra true for the studied inclusion of sustainability in the advisory process.
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