Investing to Change the Future: Sustainable Finance in a Post-COVID World

The University of Leicester School of Business was delighted to host its fifth Investment Conference alongside Asset Intelligence and was joined this year by Jennifer Anderson, Lazard Asset Management, Co-Head of Sustainable Investment & ESG and an Alumni of University of Leicester; Stephen Freedman, Pictet Asset Management, Head of Research and Sustainability, Thematic Equities; and Graham Finlay, BMO Global Asset Management, Vice President, Strategic & Technical Sales.

In the first online presentation of this event, these experts from industry shared their knowledge of the growing focus on sustainable finance in the investment world.

Opening the event, ULSB’s Dr Silvia Pazzi, welcomed a theme that reflected the School’s strong belief in the power of education and research in promoting socially responsible business and the importance of research and teaching to increase understanding of how a sustainable solution to problems can be achieved.

Kel Nwanuforo, Asset Intelligence, joined Dr Pazzi in welcoming this year’s prominent speakers and highlighted the role of investors as stakeholders who should not lose sight of their ability in this capacity to shape the direction of the companies in which they invest. Equally, those within the investment industry must recognise their roles as stewards of capital with the power and responsibility to affect issues from climate change to inequalities to plastic use through taking sustainable investment choices.

Graham Finlay, Vice President, Strategic & Technical Sales BMO Global Asset Management, reviewed the substantial changes in behaviours within the investment world driven by key stakeholders – consumer, corporate and regulatory – that have led to a significant increase in sustainable investment over the last few years.

This was further emphasised by University of Leicester Alumni and Co-Head of Sustainable Investment & ESG at Lazard Asset Management, Jennifer Anderson.  Reviewing the history of sustainable investment during her career, Jennifer has experienced a move away from it being a niche activity at the beginning of the decade to one very much in the mainstream today.  The perfect storm of factors coming together including climate change, regulatory changes and strong leadership by the large asset owners who pursue a long term view, have resulted in the area gaining momentum with an increasing range of career opportunities.

Finally, looking at thematic investing, Stephen Freedman, Head of Research and Sustainability, Thematic Equities at Pictet Asset Management, detailed how investments in specific themes can contribute to sustainable solutions both environmental and societal. Stephen illustrated that by using scientific insights it was possible to develop sustainable investment strategies looking at companies that address environmental challenges and have a footprint compatible with identified environmental boundaries.  The focus with thematic investing is on the types of goods and services the companies provide and, using life cycle assessments, Stephen explained that the footprint of the company is measured through the full supply chain to the impact of the product even after sale and disposal – a real “cradle to grave approach”.

“Working with the University of Leicester to host the annual Investment Conference is a real honour. We look forward to the event and it’s great to be able to arrange for speakers with impeccable credentials to talk to students about the big issues which are affecting the investment world.” said Kel Nwanuforo of Asset Intelligence.  “Each year the Investment Conference gets bigger and better and this year was no exception, with an extensive audience online. It was a great event with some insightful and challenging questions to the panel of speakers.”

Dr Silvia Pazzi and Dr Sandro Sozzo commented on the success of the event:
“We are delighted that even in the midst of a global pandemic, we had the opportunity to continue our well-established collaboration with Asset Intelligence and bring to our students the 5th edition of the Investment Conference. As in previous editions, the quality of the speakers was excellent. We are very pleased that our inquisitive students enjoyed the presentations and took the opportunity to ask questions. Once again, the Investment Conference has proven to be an unmissable event in the School’s calendar. We are grateful to everyone involved in the organisation: the ULSB Professional Services teams, and Robert Love (Asset Intelligence Research, founder of the conference). Finally, a special thanks to the speakers, Kel Nwanuforo (Asset Intelligence Research), Graham Finlay (BMO Global Asset Management), Jennifer Anderson (Lazard Asset Management), and Stephen Freedman (Pictet Asset Management), who shared with us their professional insights”.

The event was recorded and can be watched here:
Investing to Change the Future: Sustainable Finance in a Post-COVID World