(As usual the post is humor in satire with no offences to anyone cited. And the story is not real)
Last week, YES Bank organized a Symposium on Opportunities in Green Finance in Mumbai in partnership with FMO, Proparco, KfW and DeG.
There was a lot of crowd as the Seminar was free and the venue was Grand Hyatt which has reputation to serve good food.
Mr. Rana Kapoor gave an awsome welcome speech that was more than the welcome as it narrated the pioneering work of the YES Bank in green financing, especially on the green bonds. He reeled off numbers that indicated the need for green investments in trillions of dollars for the attainment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). From FMO, Linda Broekhuizen, Chief Investment Officer, echoed the need stressing the importance of partnerships and partnerships and partnerships.
“We must all come together and unleash innovative financial instruments/products to leverage and create desired impact” most speakers and delegates said this while standing in the queues. Even the waiters who were serving tea/coffee (and cookies) during the break said this.
I was at the registration counter to pick up the environmentally friendly cloth delegate bag and was astonished to see Lord Kubera standing in the queue.
Those who don’t know Lord Kubera
Kubera is the Lord of Wealth and the god-king of the semi-divine Yakshas in Hindu mythology. It is a misconception that Lakshmi is Goddess of wealth. Actually, Kubera is God of wealth while Lakhsmi is Goddess of fortune. As fortune is usually associated with wealth, a misconception has arisen. Kubera watches over the earth’s storehouse of gold, silver, jewels, pearls and nine NIDHIS (i.e. special treasures). He is the head of the treasury.
“Kubera” means “deformed or monstrous” or “ill-shaped one”; indicating his deformities. He is supposed to have three legs, only eight teeth and one eye. Lord Kubera was therefore in a disguise. He chose a plump body and was dressed like a businessman, with gold and diamond rings in all ten fingers, a thick gold chain around the neck. He was carrying an expensive leather briefcase (presumably consisting gold coins)
I went close to him and tapped on his shoulder “Lord Kubera, how come you are here for this Symposium”. Lord Kubera was shocked that I recognized him – “Shh Dr Modak, don’t say this so loudly. I am here to seek opportunities for green finance. It seems that the human race is looking for trillions of dollars for investments that are green. As I manage the treasury department of the Gods, I thought of coming over, network and look for potential opportunities. But Dr Modak, what is a green investment by the way? – is this something different than something everyone does?”
“Oh yes, it is different” I said this while ushering Lord Kubera to the round tables that had placards saying Reserved. “Green investments mean investments in renewable energy, low carbon transportation, sustainable waste management, climate smart agriculture etc. something that will combat our threats to the security of resources and improve our resilience to climate change”
“I don’t understand a bit of your jargon Dr Modak. Common sense is that we should invest in projects and programs that have a promise of good outcomes and importantly to the benefit of all. All investments we make, must be environmentally as well as socially green by default – isn’t it?. Will you call the “other types” of investments as brown or red?” Lord Kubera said this while picking up a lemon candy from the bowl.
I told the Lord that common sense is uncommon and he should speak to President Trump. Perhaps Trump’s idea of building a wall between United States and Mexico with solar panels may give him another perspective of so called Green but irrelevant investment. Lord Kuber asked whether President Trump will apply for grants from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) for this solar powered wall. I kept shut.
After the opening ceremony, my good friend Mr. Santosh Jayaram from KPMG was moderating the panel speaking on Green Investments – Experience and Expectations. When Lord Kubera heard the expectations, he whispered to me – Oh the requirements are pretty large and I am quite excited to offer cheap finance – but why don’t the governments and businesses simply “re-appropriate” and “re-prioritize” the existing program of investments so as to free up the finance for a better cause. It will be foolish to continue the dumb, irrelevant and damaging investments and look for a special finance for green investments. Has this perspective been studied?”.
I thought Lord Kubera made a valid point. Such studies are perhaps not yet done and should be carried out. I decided to let Santosh Jayaram know so that he could perhaps bag a consultancy assignment from Lord Kubera. This could be an important takeaway for KPMG from the Symposium.
There was a lunch break post the panels. The speakers and organizers were taken to a separate room so that they could eat in peace and network amongst each other. I decided to take Lord Kubera to this special lunch room.
I introduced Lord Kubera to respected Mr. Rana Kapoor.
“Oh, so you are the one, Kubera – the God of Wealth!” exclaimed Mr. Rana. “We are so honored to have you with us”. Mr. Rana said this while passing Lord Kubera a bowl of lentil soup with cream. “And Thank you so much Dr Modak for getting him here”
Mr. Rana announced Lord Kubera’s presence to all the speakers and organizers. He told the international visitors from FMO, Proparco, KfW and DeG more about Lord Kubera and the role played by him in financing the world for the past 5000 years or so. The representatives of the mighty State Bank of India and Housing Development and Finance Corporation (HDFC) also praised his presence.
“The presence of Lord Kubera here must be told to the Press” Mr. Rana instructed Ms. Namita Vikas Group President & Global Head, Climate Strategy & Responsible Banking of the YES Bank. “This will be yet another laurel adding to the list of the YES Bank” he said this while clicking a photograph from his smartphone.
Lord Kubera explained the purpose of his presence at the Symposium “We are genuinely interested to finance – I mean the green investments” he said this while looking at me.
Linda Broekhuizen of FMO came straight to the point. “Mr. Kubera, what are your terms and conditions please?”
“Oh, really nothing – there will be no interest. The loan repayment period will be what you choose” Lord Kubera said this while sipping the soup.
“Wow” said Linda – “This sounds rather heavenly”
Mr. Xavier Echasseriau of Proparco asked “What is the currency you will be dealing with? And who will take the forex risk?” (I was wondering what is forex risk in Lord’s context)
Well Mr. Xavier, we finance using gold coins.” Lord Kubera answered and opened his expensive leather bag. He displayed the gold coins he was carrying. These are only samples – you can check the purity. We have unlimited reserve.”
Mr. Xavier was shocked.
Lord Kubera continued
“On Dr Modak’s advice, I am proposing to route the moneys through financing intermediaries and special purpose funds. Please help me in their identification and the criteria I should be considering”
Mr. Rana Kapoor said “This is real easy. You start with the YES Bank as we are the first in Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) in this country in all the respects – be it policy or operations or even the publicity. There are a few others you may like to consider too. Just ensure that they have signed up for UNEP Finance Initiative (costs only 5000 USD a year with no major obligations except echoing the aspirations). In addition, they must have a document on Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF)”
I thought of butting in here – “Lord Kubera, Mr. Rana is right. But I will recommend that you talk to the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB). Both these development financing institutions have forced several financing intermediaries to prepare the ESMF documentation. It has now become a template. The best part is that it does not majorly transform the actual investment operations. It’s a great facade however to show-case”
Most present agreed with me and told Lord Kubera that they will sign up UNEP FI and produce a document on ESMF. “These two requirements will drive the Green Finance” said the waiter serving deserts.
There was one person sitting in the room who was not comfortable with the discussions. I think he was new to the club.
“Lord Kubera – your financing terms are crazy. I don’t know how your treasury survived last 5000 years following this practice of zero interest and long-term lending. Have you ever carried out any due diligence or impact assessment”
“Good question sir” said Lord Kubera “We have been essentially investing on creation, conservation and enhancement of natural assets. Because of poor management of these assets by the mankind, we have landed into Non-Performing Assets (NPA) on the earth. Nothing seems to be performing. I am consulting Hon Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on how to write off these NPAs. He has the wisdom and the right experience.”
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