France’s SIF appoints new President and beefs up board as market awaits major RI reporting evolution

Former Brussels financial watchdog chief takes up FIR lead role.

FIR, the French SIF, has taken on Thierry Philipponnat, the former Secretary General of Finance Watch, the Brussels-based financial watchdog set up by a cross-party group of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), as its President. Significantly, Philipponnat, a former investment banker and executive of Amnesty International, is also a board member at the AMF, the French financial regulator, to which he was appointed back in 2013. He replaces Bertrand Fournier, a respected finance head and former President of the Board of Sarasin Asset Management in France and latterly General Secretary of Groupe UFG, which became Groupe La Francaise Asset Management. Fournier had been in the FIR lead role for almost five years. FIR has also pulled in a number of new board and advisory members with solid financial experience reflecting a step-change in responsible investment in France on the back of new regulations for investors to produce information on how they integrate ESG into their investment processes, report on the GHG emissions of their assets and demonstrate how they are contributing to the financing of a low carbon economy. Philipponnat was integral to the development of Finance Watch, which kicked off in 2010 as a push-back to financial lobbying of EU regulation. Today it has 57 members, including 40 organisations (consumers’ organisations, retail investors’ organisations, trade unions, NGOs, research centres) and 17 qualified individual members (academics, researchers, former finance professionals). He told RI he was honoured to be joining the FIR as President and that one of his priorities was to take firmer positions on RI issues based on member consensus, but which would “marry idealism and pragmatism”. “The slogan of Finance Watch was ‘Making finance serve society’, which I think is valid for the FIR, even if they are very different organisations. I see FIR as the bottom-up version, looking at real asset and investment issues through the sustainability lens,” he said.Joining the FIR board alongside Philipponnat is its new Vice President, Pascale Sagnier, Head of Research, Responsible Investment (RI) Department at AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM). She is joined by two FIR Vice Presidents, Philippe Dutertre, Member of the Board of Agicam, the fund manager of AG2R La Mondiale, the French insurance and pensions company, and Hervé Guez, Head of SRI Research at Mirova, the sustainable subsidiary of Natixis Asset Management. Several other new board members have also joined the FIR’s executive following its AGM last month. They are, from BNP Paribas Investment Management: Jacky Prudhomme, responsible for ESG integration and social investment, and Béatrice Verger, responsible for SRI and social investment product development. The Caisse des Dépôts, the French sovereign wealth manager is represented by Anne-Catherine Husson-Traore, Director General of Novethic, its SRI research and media subsidiary, and Héléna Charrier, its Director of Responsible Investment Projects. Éric Loiselet, Board Member at several French civil service pension funds including ERAFP and IRCANTEC and spokesperson for the French network of responsible investors (Réseau des Administrateurs pour l’Investissement Responsible: RAIR), has also joined the FIR board. Other existing FIR board member representatives include individuals from the French trades union CFDT, Le Comité Intersyndical de l’Epargne Salariale (CIES) (Inter-union body for employee savings), Humanis, Kepler-Cheuvreux and Proxinvest. The FIR is managed by Grégoire Cousté, its Secretary General. France’s new ESG integration and reporting rules, which were added as amendments under Article 48 to a comprehensive new French law on the green energy transition (le projet de loi relatif à la transition énergétique pour la croissance verte) are currently being examined for their final legal implementation following May’s approval vote in the National Assembly.
Separately, a number of French institutional investors have told RI that France’s AMF regulator is also working on a set of reporting clarification criteria for RI products, which, it is understood, will be announced shortly.