This month has been a blur of moderating panel sessions, attending events and taking part in awards ceremonies. It’s a miracle I’ve managed to squeeze in any writing between all those enjoyable in-person sessions! The month kicked off with my latest networking event where we discussed if sustainability would be the death of the global asset manager. The following evening was the Aviva Investors Sustainability Media awards and I was delighted to be shortlisted for Freelancer of the Year. The week after I chaired AXA Investment’s media discussion on “What next for DB pension schemes?”. My latest feature for MandateWire examined how asset owners can be responsible stewards as metals come into high demand. In the third week I chaired a fireside chat with three CIOs at Aimse Europe’s conference. The following day I hosted a roundtable event at the Private & Public Pensions Summit. That evening I was absolutely delighted to win the 2023 State Street Institutional ESG Press Award. Lastly my latest piece for Professional Adviser asked if decarbonisation, demographics and deglobalisation mean investment will be very different over the next decade. What a month!

Will sustainability be the death of the global asset manager?

More than 40 people turned up at the Betsey Trotwood to debate whether sustainability will be the death of the global asset manager. Three insightful panellists discussed why responsible investment was becoming politicised. We examined whether split voting could help asset managers to side-step some of these issues and talked about the implications for their business models. As usual, the audience asked great questions, keeping the panellists on their toes! I feel happy to have created a space the industry can come together to talk openly these important topics. I have exciting new plans for these events in 2024 so stay tuned and get in touch if you would like to come.

Shortlisted for Freelancer of the Year at Aviva Investors’ Sustainability Media Awards

One of the benefits of being a freelancer is you get to carve out of a niche. My chosen specialty is how market structures, financial market movements and regulations influence how different institutions can invest sustainably. It is vital we understand these factors if we want to maximise how the £3trn in UK pension funds can be harnessed to create positive change. In my opinion, there is too much media focus on individual issues such as climate or social factors and not enough on the nitty gritty of what investors can and cannot achieve. I was delighted to have been shortlisted for this award based on three articles which took a deep dive in the factors shaping how pension schemes allocate sustainably.

What next for DB pension schemes?

After a tumultuous year it was good to chair AXA Investment Managers media discussion examining what is next for DB pension schemes. I had a great panel of made up of investment consultants, a professional trustee and a fund manager who shared their insights on the state of the buyout market, what it would it take to get closed schemes to take on more risk, the future of DC investment strategy and how investors should use fixed income.

Green transition presents quandary for commodity investors

How do we manage the green transition without creating another ecological disaster? In my latest feature for MandateWire I ask how asset owners can be responsible stewards as metals come into high demand for the electrification of the grid and ramping up of battery technology. The article looks at how pension schemes should take advantage of the shift in demand for industrial metals in coming decades. It examines whether it is better to invest in commodity indices or mining companies. I argue it is better to allocate to corporates as it gives asset owners the ability to shape behaviour. But that can be hard to do as Article 8 and 9 funds currently exclude mining firms − in other words sustainable investors are currently not funding a key plank of the green transition.

Fireside chat with CIO panel at Aimse Europe conference

Hosting the CIO fireside chat at Aimse Europe 2023 conference was a lot of fun! It was great to have two open pension schemes on the panel which enabled us to spend a good portion of the discussion on the challenges facing investors over the next 10 years. We talked about how to manage the green transition, the rise of AI and fragmentation of the global economy. We also discussed how different asset classes could be used not only to generate returns but also help schemes to achieve sustainable investment goals.

Aligning the interests of asset managers and owners

Another day, another conference stage! I enjoyed chairing this round table discussion at the Private & Public Pensions Summit with a lively and engaged audience who gave clear insights into what worked well and what needed improving in the relationship between asset managers and owners. Suggestions included greater transparency, more publicly available information and a better focus on value for money in DC. Consultants also need to play a more impartial role.

Winner of the 2023 State Street Institutional ESG Press Awards

Winning never gets old! I was delighted to win State Street’s Institutional ESG press award. My article addressed how the LDI crisis changed DB schemes’ ability to invest sustainably. This piece is a great example of how the regulatory environment plus the aftermath of last year’s interest-rate crisis has completely reshaped the investment goals, strategies and portfolios of these legacy pension schemes. It encapsulates how both market forces and regulation shape an institutional investor’s ability to invest sustainably.

Fit for purpose: Investors must revisit strategies as world order shifts

Are things different this time? That’s the question I ask in my latest piece for Professional Adviser. It’s a joke among investment professionals that if you think things are different – they probably aren’t. After all, almost all market scenarios have already happened. But what if things are different this time? Inflation and higher interest rates have been experienced before but the trio of challenges − decarbonisation, demographics and deglobalisation − are new and will influence each other. This change in world order means future winners will not be the same as those who have won in the past. Investors need to spend some time thinking about what strategies will succeed.

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