Erik Alhøj, the former Managing Director for GES Investment Services in Denmark, has, together with two other specialists, started his own engagement company that will directly compete with GES.
The company is called Engagement International (EI) and is based in Copenhagen. The two specialists recruited for the project are Kei Yau Sin, who worked with Alhøj at GES during their final nine months there and Claus Frier, who worked as a sustainability specialist at a Danish biotech firm and as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) consultant. EI’s mission is to provide asset owners and asset managers with engagement services on ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues.
RI reported Alhøj’s departure from GES earlier this year. GES named Charlotte Mansson, who was formerly with Ethix SRI Advisors in Denmark and RepRisk in Switzerland, as Senior Key Account Manager for Denmark.
In Denmark, Alhøj has targeted around 50 asset owners and managers as clients but says he is keen to recruit foreign clients as well. “With my many years of experience in Denmark, it’s a good place to start. But we don’t want to be restricted to the Danish market. We are aiming to be a global company, so we really would like to have clients from all over the world,” said Alhøj, who spoke to Responsible Investor by phone. He added that since starting the firm, he has acquired clients outside Denmark.As part of its offering, EI sources its ESG research from MSCI and uses Manifest of the UK for proxy voting. It currently engages on ESG issues with 50 companies globally but would like to lift that figure to 140 within the next year. As a result, Alhøj says his firm expects to hire one or two more specialists within the coming months.
Alhøj worked at GES for 12 years before founding EI. He also has been a member of Denmark’s sustainable investment forum (Dansif) for years. Asked about the motivation for starting his own firm, he said: “With increasing demand for engagement on ESG and the quite limited number of engagement providers, we think there are good business opportunities for a new player like us in this field.”
Alhøj said his firm offers clients engagement solutions on ESG incidents and materiality, as well as flexible payment per each engagement.
According to Alhøj, another thing that makes engagement firms like EI, GES or Hermes Equity Ownership Services (Hermes EOS) unique is that they specialise in collaborative efforts.
“This is really important if you are dealing with companies. If they know you are representing several asset owners and managers regarding one issue, they take you more seriously,” he said.