Update on my personal leadership challenge

Having now completed the first year of the MSt Sustainability Leadership at the CISL, I would like to provide an update and reflect on the personal leadership challenge which I set myself at the beginning of the course.

This challenge was to continue to inspire finance leaders to further integrate ESG considerations into investment decision-making.

Through my current role as Advisor – Capital Markets for A4S, I had the opportunity to influence at my own level the incorporation of ESG factors into investment decisions within the global financial industry through a few projects.

The first two projects have now been completed. One was the launch of an Asset Owners Network in the UK and the second one was the A4S Finance Leaders Forum, a high-profile event which was hosted by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales at Saint James’s Palace on July 9th and 10th, 2018. The aim of this event was to inspire sustainable investment decision-making across the whole of the financial community from investment management companies, investment banks to asset owners via stock exchanges as well as financial regulators, large corporates, investment consultants and rating agencies. A great outcome was that the C-level executives from large financial institutions around the world who attended this event have committed to drive the integration of ESG factors within their organisations further and as soon as possible.

Furthermore, I am currently working on the international expansion of A4S. This project should also participate to the expansion of the sphere of influence of the A4S project and hopefully help increase its advocacy actions on a global level. My work on the strategic aspects of this project should be completed by mid-September 2018 when I leave the project to go back to the industry where I am hoping to take a role in strategic partnership management, corporate engagement, investor engagement or client relationship management and make a difference to the sustainability agenda.

In the meantime, I will dedicate a few months in the autumn to my dissertation on “ESG Second-Opinions and Ratings: An Investigation into how they are perceived by UK Investment Managers”. The research will aim to assess what investment managers think about these second opinions and ratings, examine issues with existing methodologies (such as levels of consistency, transparency, comparability, reliability and granularity), determine whether investment managers consider them as a valuable input into the investment process and make recommendations for improvements to the methodologies. 

Ultimately, I would like to share these findings with the investment community in the form of a guide published by A4S (His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales’s Accounting for Sustainability project) and freely accessible on its website. I am hoping that this will be the catalyst for further improvements to the methodologies of these ESG second opinions and ratings.

In addition, I would like to reflect on my personal leadership challenge and on this first year of the MSt Sustainability Leadership. The past twelve months have been a very intellectually challenging but also enriching experience for me since, in spite of a strong interest in sustainability, I had a lot to learn about this topic when I embarked on the course. My role for A4S has hugely contributed to building up my knowledge and provided me with an excellent opportunity to keep abreast of the regular and substantial changes around environmental, social and governance matters currently taking place within the financial community and the regulatory environment.

One other goal of mine would be to add another personal leadership challenge to my current one: becoming a trustee of a voluntary adoption agency. As you are probably aware, the link between poverty and child abuse or neglect has been well documented and all too often these children are taken into care and sometimes eventually adopted. Here are a few examples of coverage of this topic:

https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/relationship-between-poverty-child-abuse-and-neglect-evidence-review

https://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/default/files/jrf/migrated/files/parenting-poverty.pdf

I feel that, as an adoptive parent myself together with my business, communications and management background, I have a contribution to make by helping a voluntary adoption agency further promote the adoption of children in the UK who, for a variety of reasons, end up being forgotten and are never given the opportunity of a permanent family. I have started talking to a few agencies and I shall update you on this in a few months’ time.

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7 thoughts on “Update on my personal leadership challenge

  1. Big congratulations on your successful completion of the Asset Owners Network launch and A4S Finance Leaders Forum! And I believe you have picked an extremely exciting dissertation topic as I came across numerous financial news around credit rating and sustainability in recent months. Amazing to see many interesting headlines such as
    “Credit rating agencies face call for action from sustainable investors” on Bloomberg Brief dated 25 August 2016 (https://www.bloomberg.com/professional/blog/credit-rating-agencies-face-call-action-sustainable-investors/) and “Credit rating agencies are miscalculating risks of climate change, report finds” on The Guardian dated 25 June 2015 (https://www.google.com.hk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/jun/25/credit-rating-agencies-risks-climate-change-report-finance). I am confident your prior senior management position at Moody’s will add tremendous credibility to your dissertation and the A4S project. Presumably, team leaders at United Nations-led Principles for Responsible Investment will also be keenly interested in your dissertation findings. I understand there are four major credit rating agencies in China: (i) China Chengxin International Credit Rating Co., Ltd.(a joint venture with Moody’s Investors Service); (ii) China Lianhe Credit Rating Co. Ltd. (a joint venture with Fitch Ratings); (iii) Dagong Global Credit Rating Co., Ltd.; and (iv) Shanghai Brilliance Credit. And a good friend and school alum of mine was previously a senior executive with Standard & Poor based in Hong Kong. I won’t be surprised if the Chinese credit rating agencies will be interested in your work too. Am also keen to learn more about ESG Second Opinion.

    Children adoption is also a great initiative. My mother, prior to her retirement, was a special education teacher with the Hong Kong Government for over 30 years. She has handled many special education cases which involved children who have lost their parents through death or desertion and the children who were born out of wedlock and whose parents are unable to maintain them. I wholeheartedly admire your work in this regard. Do share more with us in September!

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    1. Hi Ronald,

      Thank you very much for your kind words of encouragement and support! I shall do my best to complete this research project effectively and hopefully my findings can help progress the agenda of lack of comparability, transparency, consistency and reliability of ESG data.

      As for my second challenge, this is a life long journey. I am passionate about adoption and how anyone (like your mum for example) can turn the lives of little individuals around and give them love and a much brighter future than they would have had otherwise! I would love to meet your mum one day! 😉 Help is also very much needed to support the thousands of children in the UK who will never be adopted and who will one day be 18 and have to face life on their own without a supportive family. That truly breaks my heart…

      One does not need to go very far away to support adoption since there are already so many children who need support in developed countries and if we can all make a personal contribution towards this, then, it is all worth it.

      Marie

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  2. What a great year you’ve had Marie ! On the work front you’ve definitely achieved some goals and I’m really interested in your thesis topic. I would be interested in whether there is any difference in your findings depending on whether the organization is based in the UK / Europe / elsewhere ? On almost a higher level is your proposed work regarding the adoption process. In Australia it is almost impossible to adopt a child, rather they go from one foster family to another (if they are lucky – some go from one hotel room to another hotel room) and it’s probably no surprise why we have some of the societal issues that we do when perhaps a more stable home environment could have resulted in a different outcome. I work in the foster care sector and anything to give those children a more stable environment is something I support. Keep up the good work for year 2 of the Mt. St. program 🙂

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    1. Hi Angela,

      Thank you for this comments and kind words of support.

      I am planning to interview “UK investment managers” for my dissertation but the parent company could indeed be headquartered anywhere in the world. So, it will be interesting to see if there are any differences in findings depending on where the parent organisation is based.

      I shall provide you with an update on all of this and on my progress with my project with adoption agencies in a few months time! 😉

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  3. Thanks for the interesting post! It seems quite a list of accomplishments done in A4S while you were onboard – seems September will come as a well earned time to take a break, at least from the office, while it already seems you have ideas on how to move forward. Finger crossed indeed!

    Reading about international expansion of A4S, and taking into account our recent experience with diverse mindsets at Cam (winking a bit here, you know!), I’m wondering if you can share a bit more on the plans for this – which are the target countries and especially how culturally different they are, and how A4S would plan to work it into the expansion under the common umbrella of inspiring sustainable investment decision-making? I imagine the further away you move from West Europe the more difficult it becomes, but also more challenging and likely satisfying to find pivoting points which are still aligned with A4S agenda but at the same time adjusted for local specifics.

    Having been to many 3rd world countries I am very sympathetic with anybody who wants to get involved in making the world a better place for children, so I find your personal goal very admirable. Any info on what type of discussions are usually held in management of such adoption agencies would be quite interesting to read and/or discuss.

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    1. Hi Luka,

      Thank you for this reply and kind words of support.

      Unfortunately, for confidentiality reasons, I cannot elaborate on the countries targeted by A4S for its international expansion but as you pointed quite rightly, there will be some cultural differences to take into consideration. Some countries are much further ahead than the UK when it comes to sustainability. Therefore, it will be important to also pay attention to this in order to avoid looking like we are lecturing them on issues they have tackled a long time ago already. Having said that, there is still work to be done in these countries. So, it will be more a matter of “collaboration” with them rather than advocacy work. Some still remain to be convinced and this shall make this exercise very interesting. Organisations rather than governments will be targeted at C-Level in order to accelerate the pace of adoption of sustainable investment decisions and hopefully result in making a substantial difference to the ESG agenda.

      I am yet to approach the adoption agencies in South East England which the CEO of the agency I discussed this with ten days ago suggested I talked to. Therefore, it will only be once I have taken on a trustee role and actually participated to some meetings that I will know more about what is being discussed. Provided that some of it is not confidential, I will happily share this with you. 😉 My added value will probably be more about how to promote their services effectively drawing from my business development, relationship management, partnership management and marketing/communications experience.

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  4. Congratulations on completions of your projects. Asset Owners Network and A4s are really a great initiative to inspire finance leaders to adopt resilient and sustainable business model. Having spent many years in financial services industry, I am very hopeful that by addressing sustainability agenda to decision makers would bring the much-needed shift in the financial services industry. Expanding this at the global level seems natural evaluation and I wish you good luck. Your experience working with financial services and rating agencies for many years blended with your experience working on above projects and Sustainability Leadership masters has placed you in launch pad to move to your next career milestone.

    In my last organisation, one of the key strategic gap we found and placed it at the heart of the sustainability strategy was partnerships. As we learned in partnership module and in the last two workshops that to address the sustainability challenges, partnerships are the key to address then. Multi stakeholder platforms such as SDGs provide vital infrastructure to achieve necessary scale. Additionally, partnership platform also helps to bring together multiple sectors. In my opinion, philosophy of ‘Collective Responsibility’ resonates well with the cross-sectoral collaborations and Partnerships within sustainability. In other words, it is a ‘conscious’ that drives inception, execution, and cession of the partnerships. This should be supported by underlying need, that the partnership must need each other to ensure meaningful collaboration (Tulder et al, 2016). I wish you good luck for your next venture.
    You have selected very interesting research topic, as I am working with one of the leading asset manager, I would be keen to contribute and look forward to the outcomes.

    Your personal leadership challenge is very honourable, I am sure with your expanding network you would be able to find the right organisation. All the best.

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