The Climate Custodians

(SSRN) – Abstract

Can custody banks become key players in climate change? Custody banks joining the battle against climate change will signal a significant shift in governance ideology for this highly regulated industry so critical to the global financial system. While global custody banks provide the unseen but essential support system that ensures the proper functioning of the capital markets, they have great untapped potential to become change-makers in climate change. This paper expands on our idea of the “Climate Custodians” first presented in the MIT Sloan Management Review within the governance context of the “Statement of Significant Audiences and Materiality (The Statement)” for these subsidiaries of large bank holding companies. By focusing on the Big Three global custody banks — State Street, BNY Mellon, and JPMorgan Chase — we make the case for large custody banks assuming the role of climate custodians. In this role, these banks would report, among other things, a measure of carbon embedded within their institutional clients’ assets under custody to help clients understand the climate risk in their portfolios.