Former Goldman, Hermes and TIAA exec Joffe sets up ESG advisory firm

SquareWell Partners uses proprietary technology to inform engagements

Bess Joffe, formerly of Goldman Sachs, Hermes Equity Ownership Services and TIAA, has launched an ESG-focused boutique advisory firm, with two other partners, which aggregates “hard data” on investors to help companies engage with shareholders.

The London-based company, SquareWell Partners, uses proprietary technology to monitor investor behaviour and preferences and predict trends in ESG practice and disclosure – ultimately aiming to optimise company-investor engagement.

Founder and partner Joffe told Responsible Investor that SquareWell’s use of data-driven analysis and insight allows the firm to look at a client’s entire investor base “more deeply and holistically”.

She said the “efficient and sophisticated mapping tool” aggregates data concerning issues investors have focused on, how they have communicated with companies, and their expectations of companies and their wider industry and peers.

The firm aims to help companies meet “the evolving needs of investors”, at a time when regulatory requirements and the pressure to deliver sustained returns mean investors are increasingly integrating non-financial factors into the investment process.Although new, the firm already has clients from France’s CAC40 and US Fortune 100.

SquareWell’s default model to clients is a year-round service, working with companies to be “proactive and strategic”, rather than “reactive and responsive”, in managing risks and problems with shareholders.

Joffe’s career in finance spans nearly two decades, including positions such as Associate Director – Americas, Hermes EOS; Vice President, Investor Relations at Goldman Sachs; and Managing Director, Head of Stewardship & Corporate Governance at TIAA.

Also on the team of partners are Ali Saribas and Louis Barbier, who developed the data platform underpinning the firm’s offering.

Corporate governance and activism specialist Saribas started his career as a research analyst at the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC) before working with ISS covering the UK market and setting up an M&A/Activism team.

Barbier specialises in shareholder engagement, having worked at firms like PwC.