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In this video:

  • Anders Schelde, CIO of MP Pension, Denmark
  • Roberta Rudelli, head of fund selection, Cordusio Sim (UniCredit Group), Italy
  • Naoki Akiyama, general manager, finance and investment planning, Nippon Life Insurance, Japan

We ask:

  • [00:14] What is ESG?
  • [01:40] What isn't ESG?
  • [02:10] How do you marry sustainability with fiduciary duty?
  • [03:30] How best to implement and oversee an ESG strategy?
  • [04:12] What are the biggest future ESG issues that no one is talking about today?
  • [05:20] Where do you see ESG practises heading and why?

Transcript:

Anders Schelde: What is ESG? I think that’s a really difficult question. It seems to be still very individual how we define that.

Roberta Rudelli: What is ESG? Social responsible investments. Pollution. The quality of life.

Naoki Akiyama: What is ESG? Thinking globally is what will promote sustainability, and ESG is the catalyst that will lead to the spread of this method.

Roberta Rudelli: The kind of approaches [that are] in favour of improving our lifestyle; not only in terms of carbon emissions, but also to make life better for company staff.

Anders Schelde: I think it’s impossible to say without looking inward and saying, “Who am I? What am I here for?” And then you’ll be able to define what you mean by ESG.

Anders Schelde: What isn’t ESG? Well that’s probably an even more tricky question, I think.

Naoki Akiyama: ESG is not an activity with a short term view or limited interest.

Roberta Rudelli: I would say the traditional investment approach; screening companies, screening bonds - government and so on - without taking into consideration any aspect involving ESG.

Naoki Akiyama: How do you marry sustainability with your fiduciary duty or investment practises?

Anders Schelde: In Denmark, fiduciary duty has traditionally been interpreted as you have to make the best ever possible investment returns and then whether that was done in a responsible manner was something that you hope to achieve at the same time. But I think things have changed quite a bit.

Naoki Akiyama: In addition to pursuing sustainability we take into account whether it can exceed the expected economic return. Otherwise we do not invest. We try to balance and manage both.

Anders Schelde: I think people have started to realise that maybe these two things are not opposite, that maybe you can get both actually. Maybe they’re actually supporting each other.

Roberta Rudelli: ESG for us is part of the product range. We want to be able to offer ideas and services to each kind of client - ESG sensitive or more oriented on the traditional financial investments.

Anders Schelde: As long as you are in sync with your policyholders, it’s actually okay that you ultimately sacrifice some investment return in order to meet some ESG objectives.

Roberta Rudelli: How best to implement and oversee an ESG strategy?

Anders Schelde: So we follow up on all the investments in our own portfolio. We do the engagement ourselves, we do the screening ourselves. And in that sense our managers are a little bit taken out of the whole process. The only thing that they experience is that we give them the exclusion list. Our managers, they become our first line of defence really.

Roberta Rudelli: Generally speaking we like strategies where there is an active role of a portfolio manager in the ESG discussion with the company where they invest - proposing some concrete activity to improve the ESG aspect.

Anders Schelde: What are the biggest future ESG issues that no one is talking about today?

Naoki Akiyama: That’s a difficult question. For example, we will use new technologies such as AI, robotic process automation, et cetera, more and more. It will be very important as we face labour shortages due to the falling population. In the meantime this presents a good opportunity in which companies can newly invest. However, if this trend were to eliminate job opportunities or create a widening gap in income between rich and poor we need to incorporate ESG thinking as well as welcome new technology.

Roberta Rudelli: ESG approaches are evolving in a more restrictive definition. So exclusion is not enough anymore. We need something more clear, more rigid. I would say it’s not a problem for the next months or years but over the long term, since this approach could become more strict and rigid, there could be some crowded positions in some companies which are very well known in terms of ESG features.

Naoki Akiyama: Where do you see ESG practises heading and why?

Anders Schelde: I think in the first couple of years this was not something we did so much because we wanted to [make] responsible investments, it was really more about managing a reputation risk that we felt that we had ourselves. But over the years it seems like people are starting to embrace the whole thing more. And it’s something that they do not just to address their own reputation risk but also to actually make a difference.

Roberta Rudelli: Probably in the future there will be far more involvement from the portfolio manager’s point of view or the asset manager’s point of view, pushing top management of the company for improvements. So as a general consequence: better quality of life for us, better environment, and in the end all the people in the world could benefit from this new positive trend.

Sebastian Morton-Clark

Sebastian Morton-Clark

Producer