History as ethical finance sets up in Edinburgh

Scottish Ethical Finance Hub (SEFH) will open at the Riccarton Campus of Heriot-Watt University. Picture: Bill Henry/TSPL
Scottish Ethical Finance Hub (SEFH) will open at the Riccarton Campus of Heriot-Watt University. Picture: Bill Henry/TSPL
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A new home for smaller firms specialising in ethical finance is due to open following the launch of a centre dedicated to bringing the sector into the mainstream investment market.

The Scottish Ethical Finance Hub (SEFH) will formally open tonight at the Riccarton Campus of Heriot-Watt University, home of the Edinburgh Business School. It will be the first of its kind in Europe, with the aim of establishing Scotland as a leader in this growing field.

SEFH has emerged after five years of round-table discussions led by the Islamic Finance Council UK (UKIFC), and follows on from the inaugural Global Ethical Finance Forum held in September in Edinburgh. Graham Burnside, who has chaired the SEFH steering group for the past 18 months, said a key element will be the creation of an “incubator” for small firms such as IFAs working in ethical finance.

“What we would like to see ideally is a mixture of existing small businesses already working ion this area, while also bringing in start-ups” said Burnside, a consultant at law firm Shepherd and Wedderburn.

Tonight’s speakers will include Omar Shaikh of UKIFC, Robbie Mochrie, associate professor of economics at Heriot-Watt, and Ryan Smith, head of corporate governance at investment group Kames Capital.

Mochrie said SEFH will help meet growing demand for socially responsible and stable forms of banking and finance. It will work towards developing rules that organisations can sign up to, as well as principles and behaviours that are considered ethical.

“In hosting the hub’s initial development, Heriot-Watt University can be a critical friend of the financial services sector,” Mochrie said.

“Our academics have expert knowledge of how the various markets and practices work, but don’t directly work in them. We’re able to question and hopefully point the way towards more ethical practice.”

With backing of up to £50,000 from the Scottish Government, SEFH’s first priority will be to hire a couple of staff members. They will then spend about six months in what Burnside described as “set-up phase”, with the establishment of the incubator to follow.

“In the coming months we’ll be focusing on what ethical finance in Scotland can and should involve, and how we can link in with international markets,” he said.