Sustainalytics nabs ex-GMI and ISS research head Hewitt for major governance push

Leading industry figure joins ESG research house

Sustainalytics, the environmental, social and governance (ESG) research house, has signalled a major push into the governance area with the hiring of ex-GMI Ratings and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) research chief Gary Hewitt.

Hewitt, who has joined Sustainalytics with the title of Head of Governance Research, was Head of Research at GMI, which was acquired for $15m by index and ESG firm MSCI earlier this year after it sold proxy firm ISS to Vestar Capital Partners, the private equity firm, for $364m.

Hewitt, who has moved with his family to the firm’s headquarters in Amsterdam, will build out a team and lead the development of “an expanded suite of corporate governance research and data products” to complement and integrate with Sustainalytics’ existing offerings, said company CEO Michael Jantzi.

Sustainalytics, whose shareholders include Dutch pension fund manager PGGM and SRI specialist Triodos, is making a “significant investment” in strengthening the corporate governance pillar of its offering, in response to client demand. Jantzi said: “What our clients have asked us to do is up our game.”

Hewitt joined GMI in November last year after spending seven years at ISS where he was an Executive Director, focusing on executive pay. Before that he was with consulting firm Watson Wyatt (now Towers Watson).He has a BA from Yale and a Masters and Ph.D. from Princeton. Earlier this month MSCI advertised a vacancy for a Global Head of Corporate Governance Research. RI understands Hewitt’s appointment is the first of a series of announcements Sustainalytics intends to make over the next few months.

“Gary Hewitt’s extensive corporate governance knowledge will allow us to deepen our corporate offering, create new services for our clients and expand our governance thought leadership,” Jantzi said.

Hewitt said he looked “forward to working with my colleagues and with our clients to expand the solution set and to provide even more meaningful governance insights into the investment process”.

Jantzi noted how governance research has traditionally focused on proxy voting, driven by the AGM schedule. But what clients were increasingly demanding was “integrated insights” across the E, S and G spectrum.

He went on to say that Sustainalytics, which now numbers 175 staff, was keen to be a part of what he called “the second wave of consolidation” in the ESG research sector. “We plan to be the most prominent, independent ESG provider in this space,” he added.

Sustainalytics has also hired Sasha Pagella as Associate Director, Institutional Relations in New York; he also joins from GMI, where he was Senior Client Relationship Manager.