Environmentally Responsible Lending and Investing Spurs Job Opportunities

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As industry makes a growing commitment to environmental responsibility, the larger U.S. and UK banks are responding in kind, adding analyst and commercial real estate appraisal spots to help with investing in and lending to green business.

Not surprisingly, the roles require consulting skills, quantitative and financial modeling skills, as well as corporate finance, accounting and valuation knowledge. But the spots also demand sector expertise to deal with and understand a wide range of businesses, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, green real estate and more.

Expansion at Wells Fargo

In an interview with eFinancialCareers, Stephanie Rico, vice president of environmental affairs at Wells Fargo, says there are certainly new jobs being created in the banking industry and at Wells Fargo in particular as a direct result of interest in investing and lending to green business.

She adds, “Since 2005, we have added a number of new teams that focus on environmental issues, including our clean technology commercial banking group, environmental affairs, environmental finance and sustainable public infrastructure group.” Wells Fargo offers commercial loans, tax equity financing, municipal loans, equipment finance, commercial asset leasing and finance, renewable energy construction financing and clean-tech insurance brokerage for a variety of “environmentally-beneficial” projects and firms.

Since 2005, Wells Fargo’s environmental financing and investments have topped $11.7 billion, including more than $3.8 billion in debt and equity commitments to U.S.-based renewable energy projects, nearly $2.1 billion to customers who develop or support environmentally beneficial products and services, and over $5.8 billion in construction and term financing for buildings that have received or are designed to receive LEED certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. By 2020, the bank plans to provide an additional $30 billion in financing to environmentally beneficial businesses. A continued increase in environmental finance will fuel demand for bankers with environmental expertise.

Evolution of Roles

The commitment to environmental responsibility and the realization of increasing environmental exposures are also impacting other job titles outside of devoted environment groups at Wells Fargo and at other banks and investment firms. Duties are growing for those in positions related to other lending initiatives and property appraisal roles, and new positions are cropping up for risk management of environmental exposures related to corporate clients and project financing. According to Rico, the evolution of job responsibilities is inevitable, given the intersection of traditional banking positions, sustainability concerns and the “green” economy. Even accountants, in-house and those operating independently, are dealing with expanding duties to assist with greenhouse gas accounting and sustainability reporting, says Rico.

Banking and Investing Make a Statement

Expectations for new positions are likely to come from other U.S. and UK institutions making very public announcements of their environmentally related investments. Bank of America recently announced a “new 10-year, $50 billion environmental business goal to help address climate change, reduce demands on natural resources and advance lower-carbon economic solutions” starting in 2013.

Lending, equipment finance, capital markets and advisory activity, carbon finance, and advice and investment solutions for clients will make up the bulk of the $50 billion, with Bank of America noting it will grow its related business worldwide.

Prominent roles are sure to be available at other leaders in the environmental lending and investing space, including RBS. Reports indicate that RBS was the largest lender to renewable energy projects in the UK in 2011. The bank has made a commitment to continue to grow lending to the sector. However, media coverage shows that venture capital may be souring to startup green tech investment.

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