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21 — 25 April 2021 | Leuven. Belgium
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    Can financial greed be beneficial for everyone?

    Can financial greed be beneficial for everyone?

    finance climate change sustainability risk management

    At and& festival, we are building an interdisciplinary space where bright minds merge, in the quest for answers to the big problems of our time. Because all good answers start with good questions, we’ve come up with 21 questions for the 21st century

    This week’s question: ‘Can financial greed be beneficial for everyone?’
    With confirmed speakers: Wim Schoutens, Paul Embrechts, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Véronique Goossens


    From “Skin in the Game” to "Sustainable Finance": a natural path to follow

    The big crisis of ‘07-’08 is not long forgotten in the financial world. It has first and foremost shown that greediness coupled with insufficient regulatory and governance frameworks can lead to risk transfers which are destabilizing for society at large.

    Though, finance can be called sustainable when it contributes importantly to sustainable societal developments. To have "skin in the game" is to have incurred risk (monetary or otherwise) by being involved in achieving a goal. The concept helps to prevent such deadly risk transfers we saw in ‘07-’08 to the extent that -under the right framework- one can prevent the transfer of risks to others. Through a scale transformation, even greedy people can produce beneficial outcomes for society. 
    ‘Skin in the game’ leads to a rethinking of the financial value chain and it offers a crucial change of paradigm. If people’s own money is at the table they often talk differently and are suddenly no longer “politically correct”. Here, financial markets can be at help to instantly quantify the true impact of the alleged sustainable decision.

    This session at and& festival discusses topics such as Sustainable Finance, the Green Deal and Climate Change, amongst others.

    "Understanding how to act under conditions of incomplete information is the highest and most urgent human pursuit.”

    - Nassim Nicholas Taleb


    Coronavirus: Surely not a Black Swan ... but what then?

    Is Covid-19 leading to a new financial crisis? At and& we feel honoured to welcome Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life and The Black Swan - The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Taleb is a former investor and a New York University distinguished professor of risk engineering, with a background in mathematics of the improbable. 

    Why do rare events happen so often? “Black Swans” refer to the random events that underlie our lives, from bestsellers to world disasters. The book shows us how to stop trying to predict everything - and take advantage of uncertainty.

    Taleb proposes “antifragility” in systems, that is, an ability to benefit and grow from a certain class of random events, errors, and volatility as well as "convex tinkering" as a method of scientific discovery, by which he means that decentralized experimentation outperforms directed research.


    He is joined by Wim Schoutens, Professor in financial engineering at the University of Leuven. Schoutens has extensive practical experience in model implementation and validation. He is well known for his consulting work for the banking industry and national and supra-national institutions. He is an independent expert advisor to the European Commission, has worked for the International Monetary Fund and is the author of several books on quantitative finance. Wim is also a founding partner of RiskConcile, a fintech company with roots within the University of Leuven.

    They will be challenged by Paul Embrechts and Véronique Goossens. Embrechts is a Risk Ambassador at ETH Risk Center Zürich and until the summer of 2018 he was Professor of Insurance Mathematics at the famous ETH Zurich, a university with a pedigree of Nobel Prize winners and Albert Einstein as an ex-student. Véronique Goossens became Chief Economist at Belfius Bank in 2018 after a career of 20 years in journalism. She also wrote a book about the role of the reliable, yet often secretive National Bank.

    This session at and& will also tackle other topics like cognitive dissonance, which is omnipresent in today's society, even if it comes to finance. How to wake up the woke?’ And is Coronavirus provoking a shift from "Individual Risk" to "Collective Risk"? 

    Stay tuned!

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