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The Transformation of Banking from a Sociological Perspective

Digital transformation


Organizers: Felix Bühlmann (University of Lausanne), Léna Pellandini-Simanyi (Universitá della Svizzera italiana), Philip Balsiger (University of Neuchatel)

The aim of this workshop of the Economic Sociology research committee of the Swiss Sociological Association is to bring together junior and senior scholars who study the changes of traditional banks, the emergence of new financial challengers, or the struggles around sustainable finance and other competing logics in the finance sector.

The workshop will take place on the Thursday afternoon 30th March and the Friday Morning 31st March 2023 at the University of Lausanne.

Keynote speakers: Mareike Beck (King’s College London) and Adam Hayes (Hebrew University Jerusalem).


Call for Abstracts

With the financialization of our societies, banking has become one of the key sectors of contemporary capitalism. In recent years, however, the role of banks in finance has been increasingly undermined and the taken-for-granted aim of banks as solely financial actors have been put into question. In the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2008, the traditional business model of banks came under pressure:

  1. The political reaction to the crisis involved stricter regulation in areas such as capital requirements, consumer protection, anti-money laundering and tax evasion. At the same time, digital platforms and the proliferation of smart devices opened new avenues for the finance industry. These changes have shifted the advantage to emerging actors and business areas of the financial sector, such as fintech companies, alternative finance and crypto markets. The new actors of finance are smaller, rely on different organizational structures and champion future-oriented business models. While banks were the archetype of the large, bureaucratic and hierarchical corporation that nurtured stable and long-term relationships with the state, civil society and their clients, fintech and crypto firms are perceived as agile, lean and essentially digital firms that disrupt the traditional functioning of the financial system.
  2. While previously banks were considered as primarily financial actors serving financial aims, the growing recognition of the impact of banks’ (and other investors’) investment decisions on climate change has placed them under increasing environmental scrutiny. Central to the sustainable finance debates is that civil society and state regulations are holding banks accountable for the climate change consequences of their investments. Responding to such criticism and to the rising demand to incorporate aims beyond finance into their business model, incumbent actors from the banking field have integrated sustainability criteria through ESG indicators.


We particularly welcome presentations on the following dimensions:

a) Wealth management, inequality and taxation

b) The organization, management and regulation of financial activities

c) Changing relationships between financial institutions and their consumers  and the everyday uses of finance

d) The political organization, political strategies and lobby activities of financial institutions


Please submit your abstract of max. 250 words until the 10th of February to

Selected papers of the workshop will be offered the possibility to be published in the special issue on banking and finance of the Swiss Journal of Sociology.