Switzerland: Banking, Finance, and Social Responsibility

Switzerland: Banking, Finance, and Social Responsibility

Examine macroeconomics and the global finance system through the lens of social justice and the ethics of sustainable business.

GenevaFrom its base in Geneva, this program provides a thorough background in international banking and finance through a social justice lens using an experiential, case study approach. The program addresses the causes and implications of the unstable global financial economy, alternative systems of intermediation, and the implications of financial crises on economies through classroom seminars and through lectures and briefings at financial and banking institutions and NGOs. A three-week excursion to Greece gives you the opportunity to experience Greek culture, history, and cuisine while examining the impact of the recent economic crisis on the financial system there.

Major topics of study include:

  • International banking and reforms and markets within internationals financial systems
  • Solidarity economies, microfinance, and sustainable financing and sustainable business
  • Islamic banking
  • Financial intermediation systems and risk
  • Financial globalization, financial crises, and social responsibility
  • Ethics of banking, financial policy, tax avoidance, and market pressure

The international environment of Geneva offers you a unique opportunity to interact with leading experts and academics at a wide variety of banks, financial institutions, and international NGOs. This exceptional learning environment leads to original research, networking, and professional development opportunities.

Network with Experts in Banking and Finance

You will have numerous occasions to meet leading experts working at banks, financial institutions, international NGOs, and government agencies. You will develop your networks throughout your stay in Geneva. These networks will enhance the design and research of your Independent Study Project in Finance or help facilitate your job placement for your Internship in Finance.

Independent Study Project in Finance (ISPF) or Internship in Finance

Further academic and career goals through an original research project or internship.

You will spend five weeks near the end of the semester either working on an Independent Study Project in Finance (ISPF), pursuing original research on a topic of interest to you, or completing an Internship in Finance with a financial/banking institution or international NGO. The ISPF and Internship in Finance are conducted in Geneva.

The ISPF and Internship in Finance both provide practical experience for your academic and professional development. They also allow you to create a solid professional network and form a concrete base for future academic and professional career choices.

Sample topic areas for the ISPF include:

  • Awareness level on sustainable finance issues among bank workers and consumers
  • Profit-generating potential of ethical bank products versus classical bank products
  • Role and efficiency of multistakeholder initiatives in the field of ethical investment
  • Gaps in the existing sustainable finance regulatory system
  • Alternative ways of financing new initiatives and their risks (crowdfunding, etc.)

Potential placements for the Internship in Finance include:

  • Sustainable Finance Geneva, Geneva
  • Ethos Foundation, Geneva
  • Bern Declaration, Lausanne
  • Impact Finance Management, Geneva
  • Banque Alternative Suisse, BAS, Olten/Lausanne
  • Banque Cantonal Geneve, BCGe, Geneva
  • BlueOrchard Finance S.A., Geneva
  • Haute école de gestion de Genève (HEG-Genève)
  • United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Geneva
  • UN Global Compact, Geneva
  • UN Financial Initiative, Geneva
  • Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Initiative, Geneva


Previous college-level coursework and/or other significant preparation in business, economics, finance, accounting, math, statistics, management, marketing, or Information Management Systems, as assessed by SIT.

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The program’s thematic seminars address the causes and implications of the unstable global financial economy and the implications of domestic policy approaches that aim to curb inequality. Coursework addresses various issues in global finance including international banking and finance systems, balance of payments, lending decisions and impact of debt forgiveness, banking laws and tax evasion, and monetary market operations and the principles underpinning social policies that promote growth and social progress.

The program seeks to facilitate a more profound understanding of the ethics of sustainable business by exploring viable approaches that can allow profitable businesses to help reduce social injustice and global poverty and protect the environment. Students develop analytical skills and critical thinking on these ethical issues and build networks with international experts on finance and banking.

Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

International Financial Institutions, Financial Crises and Social Responsibility – syllabus
(EURO3000 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
This seminar addresses issues related to international financial institutions including the IMF, the World Bank, and the European Central Bank. The focus is on the role of regulating financial institutions, questions relating to international finance and macroeconomics, and the functioning of equity and commodity markets and their impact on society. The seminar also tackles the reforms of the international financial system, the global and European financial crises, and their impact on developing countries. The seminar uses lectures, field trips to banking institutions and international NGOs, and case studies from the 2008 US financial crisis and the 2011 Euro crisis.
Alternative Financial Systems and Intermediation – syllabus
(IBUS3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
Recent successive crises in the international financial system have drawn attention to the important role that can be played by alternative systems of financial intermediation. Alternative financial intermediation systems are defined as non-market (stock or bond) and non-modern banking sources, including external financial channels that make it possible for an individual or a small enterprise to access credit that would not otherwise be available to them through modern banking systems. Alternative financial channels are proving to be equally important funding sources in both developing and developed countries. This seminar aims to explore alternative forms and practices of financial intermediation (formal and informal) and their role in the empowerment of individuals and groups that are usually not serviced by modern banking channels and institutions. Modules include solidarity economies and intermediation, microfinance and social entrepreneurship, and Islamic banking and financing.
The Ethics of Banking and Finance – syllabus
(ETHC3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
This seminar covers the financial code of ethics and addresses sustainable financing, socially responsible investment (SRI) issues, ethical banking, legal and practical aspects of integrating environment, social justice, and corporate governance (ESG) issues to institutional investment. The seminar gives a detailed overview about major institutional actors, key players in European and global networks in the field of banking and sustainable financing, and the international standards in the fight against tax avoidance and money laundering. This course is highly practice oriented; each module contains at least one field visit in a corresponding local organization or NGO. Lecturers are drawn from academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations, government agencies, and research centers, or are individuals recognized as specialists in their fields

In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:

Independent Study Project in Finance – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 6 credits / 180 hours)
For the Independent Study Project in Finance (ISPF), students will do fieldwork and design a project that carries an innovative proposition to address banking or finance issues from a social responsibility perspective. Projects may include proposals for a sustainable business, regulatory mechanisms for financial control and ethical account reporting, or approaches to tax evasion or debt forgiveness. Regular reflection and assessment meetings are held with the academic director to review the progress of the ISPF.


Internship in Finance – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 6 credits / 180 hours)
This seminar consists of a five-week internship with a financial/banking institution or international NGO. Students do an internship with a financial institution or international NGO and submit a report in which they process their learning experience on the job, analyze a financial or banking issue the institution faced, and design a socially responsible solution to the problem. The aim of an internship is to enable the student to gain valuable work experience within the finance/banking environment. The report should also document a comprehensive schedule and the specific skills and knowledge acquired through the experience. The institution and internship activities must be approved by the program’s academic director. Regular reflection and assessment meetings are held with the academic director to review the progress of the internship.

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

The program’s educational excursions give you access to leading experts and decision makers in the fields of ethical banking and finance. You will have a chance to experience some of the most magnificent and classical cities and sites in Europe. Excursions within Switzerland will include field trips to Lausanne and other locations.


You will spend more than three weeks in Greece, with the majority of your time spent in Athens, a hospitable city where ancient history intersects with modern lifestyle, orange and olive trees line the sidewalks, and the regular cadence of church bells punctuates the day—all under the city’s ancient Acropolis and Parthenon. The program also includes a short excursion to Heraklion, a vibrant Mediterranean city on the island of Crete with archaeological sites and beautiful pink and white sand beaches, and a visit to Olympia, a sanctuary of ancient Greece and site of the Olympic Games in classical times.

This extended excursion will give you the opportunity to examine the impact of the recent economic crisis on the Greek financial system and society while you experience Greek culture, history, and cuisine. Coursework includes modules on international financial crises and social responsibility and a ten-hour Modern Greek language course. Modules incorporate classroom lectures and field visits with local financial institutions such as IOBE, a leading think tank on economic research, and ELIAMEP, an independent, nonprofit, and policy-oriented research and training institute focused on research about European integration and international relations.

jovanovicGoran Jovanovic, PhD, Academic Director

Dr. Goran Jovanovic has accumulated wide-ranging experience and solid expertise in teaching and international education. As a professor of international relations, Dr. Jovanovic’s focus has been on geo-economics, economic diplomacy, international trade organizations, globalization and global governance, strategic foresight, and scenario-building. In addition to teaching at the International University in Geneva, he has taught in business schools and universities in Afghanistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, among other places.

Dr. Jovanovic was a department head at the International University in Geneva and a scientific director at the Research Center on Audiovisual Sources of Contemporary History, the audiovisual unit of the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva. Dr. Jovanovic holds a doctorate and master’s degree in international relations and development studies from the University of Geneva; a graduate diploma in American studies from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts; and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Belgrade. He is a Swiss and Serbian national.

Dr. Jovanovic is widely published in the areas of international relations and political communication. He has also produced a number of educational films and documentaries. Dr. Jovanovic has been involved with SIT programs in Switzerland as a lecturer and ISP advisor for many years and is very excited to take on leadership of the Finance, Banking, and Social Responsibility program. 

BlahoGyörgyi Blahó

Györgyi Blahó has a master of business administration (MBA) in strategy and leadership and a university degree in cultural anthropology. She completed her MBA research on the business model of ethical banks and sustainable financial issues in Hungary and in Switzerland. She is a member of Sustainable Finance Geneva (SFG), and her main fields of expertise are sustainable finance, NGO management, training, and education. She was born in Hungary and has been living in Switzerland since 2013. She has been collaborating with SIT since March 2015 as program development coordinator for this program. Before joining SIT, she coordinated projects on education, conducted scientific research and advocacy projects, and organized study tours for several years.

Lecturers on this program may include:

Esperanza Duran

Esperanza Duran has a PhD from Oxford University. She has conducted research and taught at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), London School of Economics, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), El Colegio de Mexico, and University College Dublin’s Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. She has published peer-reviewed articles in international journals including Journal of the History of Ideas, International Affairs, The World Today, and Journal of World Intellectual Property, among others, and has written and edited books published by Cambridge University Press, Routledge & Kegan Paul, and Cameron May, among others. She gained managerial and policy-making experience as senior economist in the IMF and World Gold Council, country officer and economist in the World Bank, and founding executive director of the Agency of International Trade Information and Cooperation (AITIC) in Geneva. She holds a BA from El Colegio de México and an MA from Stanford University.

Bernd Balkenhol

Bernd Balkenhol is professor of microfinance and financial inclusion at the University of Geneva’s School of Economics and Management. His research interests are in the access, use, and impact of financial services. After obtaining his PhD at the University of Freiburg and an MA at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Medford, Massachusetts, he joined the International Labor Organization (ILO). In 1991, he set up and directed for twenty years the Social Finance Program at the International Labor Organization. In that capacity he was responsible for initiating and managing several major research and technical cooperation programs on microfinance, SME finance, remittances, impact investing, SRI, and financial inclusion. He represented ILO at the launch of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion. In 2015, he coordinated and managed the IV European Microfinance Research Conference at the University of Geneva. In addition, he has served as senior policy advisor to the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) in Dakar.

His publications cover a range of institutional, market, and policy issues in connection with financial inclusion. His book, Microfinance and Public Policy (Palgrave Macmillan), investigates the conditions for smart policy support to microfinance institutions and markets. It has been translated into French, Spanish, and Turkish. He lectures at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Paris Dauphine, and University Zürich.

Catherine Ferrier

A graduate of the Universities of Grenoble (France) and Geneva (Switzerland), Catherine studied European and international affairs before focusing her research and teaching on environmental policies, including water, climate change, biodiversity, and economic instruments. In 2007, she received her PhD in social sciences from the University of Geneva. Her thesis focused on carbon markets’ legal and institutional frameworks in the context of climate change policies.

She has managed the Certificate and Diploma of Advanced Studies in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at the University of Geneva since the program’s creation in 2008, and she has developed the program, launching new activities, including a CSR summer course, CSR lunches, and an alumni association. She lectures on environmental policies in master’s and advanced education program at various institutions including University of Geneva, Université de Versailles St. Quentin en Yvelines (France), and WWF Switzerland.

Ritsa Panagiotou

Ritsa Panagiotou holds a BA in political science and Russian from Wellesley College. She spent her junior year at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris, where she received the Certificat d’Etudes Politiques (distinction). She earned a master’s degree and a PhD in international relations from Oxford University (St. Antony’s College). For several years, she worked as a research associate at the European Business School (INSEAD) in Fontainebleau, France. She has been a visiting professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business and at the University of Athens’ postgraduate program in Southeast European studies. In 2011, she was a visiting research fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. She is currently a senior research fellow at the Centre of Planning and Economic Research in Athens. Her research interests include European political economy, the political and economic development of the Balkan region, and the European Union’s Balkan enlargement. She has published in many scholarly journals, including Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Journal of Balkan and Near East Studies, and Journal of Southeast European and Black Sea Studies.

Demetris Kamaras

Demetris Kamaras is a journalism professor, journalist, political analyst, and communications specialist. He holds a BA in economics, an MA in communications policy, and a PhD in journalism from City University in London. He founded and runs dailyGreece.net, Private Information Network, and alyunaniya.com. His interests include political communication, next-gen web apps, digital R&D, internet ethics, and social networks. He taught journalism and communication at University of Indianapolis Athens from 1999 to 2013 and has published numerous analyses and op-eds, online and in print. His first co-authored book is titled Digital Communication (Zenon Publications, London 2000). His recent publications include Crisis Talk: Greece (2012, iBook); Elections and the Internet, Digerati Publications (Athens, 2014); Crisis Talk: Greece, Part 2 (2015, iBook).

Paschalis Aganidis

Paschalis Aganidis holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Crete and an MA in European and international studies from the University of Athens. His research interests center on European political economy. He is currently pursuing his PhD studies at the University of Athens, where he focuses on the role of policy ideas in structural state reforms.

He has been teaching economics and European institutions since 2009. His professional career includes work as a business consultant in the private sector as well as extensive experience as a public policy advisor at various governmental institutions. His professional expertise is in the area of public policy, strategic management, and policy change. As an active member of his professional community he participates in conferences and enjoys writing articles. He is interested in issues of intergenerational justice. He was member of the scientific council of the Greek netroot movement G700 – Generation 700euros, a social group awarded by the European Parliament (2008) with the European Citizens’ prize.

You will spend about 10 weeks living with a Swiss or international family outside of Nyon in a small city, town, or village. Many families will be located in Lausanne or Montreux, north of Geneva. Most host families are located, on average, 40 minutes by train to the SIT center in Nyon and one hour by train to central Geneva. Trains to Geneva run every 15 minutes.

homestayFamilies typically are middle class and reflect the cultural diversity of Switzerland. Host parents and siblings may speak more than one language, e.g., German, English, and/or Italian, in addition to French. During the homestay, you might undertake a variety of outings with your host families; activities could include skiing, tennis, swimming, volleyball, and/or hiking. Cultural offerings are vast and include music festivals, art exhibitions, museums, and theaters.

During the program’s excursion to Greece, you will stay in student dorms, hostels, or small hotels.

You will continue to live with your Lausanne/Montreux homestay family during the Independent Study Project in Finance or Internship in Finance period.

Program Dates: Fall 2016

Program Arrival Date:  Aug 24, 2016

Program Departure Date:    Dec 6, 2016

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   May 1, 2016

SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $16,740

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

Room & Board: $6,760

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $ 465

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $ 50

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.


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