Who are you, what did you want to be as a child and what do you do now at UniCredit?
My name is Stephanie Kraus-Nijboer, and I head the Social Impact Banking Team at UniCredit Bank AG in Germany. People often ask me where my name comes from… well, I married a Dutchman.
As a child I wanted to become a teacher, sharing my passion for foreign languages and mathematics with children. However, after studying business and international management in Cologne and Paris, I kick started my professional career in the Corporate Finance team of a US investment bank in Frankfurt and soon moved to the London office – a truly intense period with very little sleep.
In 2010, I joined UniCredit’s Corporate and Investment Banking in Munich, where I was able to broaden my banking expertise enormously.
Finally, in 2019, I was offered the opportunity to set up the Social Impact Banking division at UniCredit in Germany. Realising that there must be more to banking than maximising profit and shareholder value, it was a challenge which I happily accepted.
What do you enjoy most about your job and what is the proudest moment or greatest achievement of your career?
I enjoy using my banking expertise to maximise social impact for our communities and to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable groups in Germany. As a pioneer amongst European Commercial Banks, we contribute to a fair and inclusive society by providing Social Impact Financing to corporate clients, who invest in social projects in areas like education, health, and inclusion, and we provide financial education training to disadvantaged young people.
It makes me extremely proud to regularly receive positive feedback from clients and partners on our commitment to sustainability and long-term partnerships. And above all, I am immensely proud of my fantastic team which goes the extra mile every day and our committed colleagues all over Germany who support our activities.
And what is the hardest part of your job or most difficult moment at work?
I strongly believe that Sustainable Finance – banking with a focus on ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) – will be the “new normal”. So far, most attention has been on the E - our clients’ transformation towards an ecologically sustainable business model.
The hardest part of my job is therefore to convince everybody about the importance of the S in ESG – not only for developing countries, but also for Germany. A just and fair transition to sustainable development for all groups in our society cannot be reached with State welfare and philanthropy alone. It needs initiatives from private companies and entrepreneurs who also focus on social in addition to financial return.
What advice would you give your younger self or somebody considering this role as a career?
From my own experience, I recommend gaining client advisory experience and solid technical skills in many different areas of a bank. Stay curious, open to change and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. However, the most important success factor is true passion and enthusiasm for making an active contribution to a fair and inclusive society and for supporting clients on their way towards a sustainable future.