All too often, finance has been portrayed, or even perceived, especially by non-experts, as an obscure speculative mechanism, which has long ago abandoned its role as an instrument at the service of the real economy. 

In this sense, the sudden process of globalization and integration between financial and economic systems which, in recent decades, has conditioned and drastically changed, “for better or for worse”, the living conditions of large sections of the population has not helped. The affirmation of large emerging economies, such as China, India and Brazil, has highlighted uneven development models, generators of important social inequalities. 

Now more than ever – thanks to the achievement of the new frontiers of digital technology, including robotics, artificial intelligence, big data, and process automation, new spaces are opening up also for finance, part of which, however, acts protected by the “virtual” environment, still being non-transparent and inaccessible to information. 

An emblematic example of this process is the proliferation of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoins, real digital monetary systems “sometimes guaranteed, sometimes not”, used both as a means of exchange and as an investment, capable of defining a new reality at the service of finance. However, at this point, I wonder if it is possible to reconcile the opportunities offered by technology for the benefit of financial processes with the ethical and moral principles for safeguarding the person.

In other words, what are the advantages to be seized and the risks to be run, so that finance has a more constructive impact on life and society? 


The Holy See partially answered this question a few years ago, expressing its opinion through the document “Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones“, which explores the effects of economic and financial activities on human life and offers important considerations that promote ethical discernment. 

“…in fact, human rationality seeks, in truth and justice, that solid foundation on which to base its work, in the presentiment that, without it its own guidance, would also fail.”
Cit. doc.

Fordham’s Jesuit heritage fully marries the ideas shared in this document, from which emerges the essential need that the work of a true leader be characterized by a “heartfelt” enlightening discernment.  

The mission is to convey to its students – future leaders – who will hold important positions in the financial field, values that guide the search for performance in a socially responsible manner, i.e., by turning attention towards ethical goals. This means abandoning a purely speculative approach in the pursuit of profit to identify good investment practices without ever disregarding a real assumption of responsibility. “Ethical finance” is not just a philosophical-theoretical concept that is difficult to achieve, but rather also a tangible goal towards which everyone should strive.

I agree with the message of the Social Doctrine of the Church which refers to the ethics of finance, where the term “ethics” is considered an intrinsic component of the financial paradigm and not an appendix that simply defines a specific feature. 

“…that ethics belongs to finance as something of its own and that it arises from within it. It is not added later but emanates from an intimate need for finance itself to pursue one’s goals, given that the latter is also a human activity.
Cit. doc.

Even though, with all the difficulties of the case, in Europe, the wind of awareness in favor of a more ethical finance has already been blowing for some time in the right direction in many ways, ranging from the exclusion of some sectors (such as weapons or pornography, energy sources non-renewable, non-sustainable companies), to the selection of investments based on the ESG sustainability rating of the individual issuers. An interesting novelty is the dissemination, on the market, of funds that invest specifically on the basis of Catholic principles, as defined by the episcopal bodies, which consider, among other things, political and civil rights, corruption, and political freedom in a given country. 

Justice, solidarity, truth and inclusion should always reflect the work of finance; only in this way can progress truly be defined as such, namely, founded on a community that is ethically respectful of human dignity.

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