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RI Careers Interview: “The RI-Market is a great field to be in”

Agnes Neher, Senior Responsible Investment Manager, Baloise Asset Management talks to Responsible Investor about how she got into ESG and her career to date.

Tell us a bit about your current role and the company you work at?

I am the Senior Responsible Investment Manager at Baloise Asset Management. Baloise Asset Management belongs to the Baloise Insurance Group headquartered in Basel in Switzerland. I am responsible for the implementation of Responsible Investment (RI). This implies, for example, the execution of our Responsible Investment Policy throughout all strategies and asset classes, the advancement of the Policy, or the close observation of market developments (e.g. regulatory situation in the EU). I am also the sole point of contact for RI at the company and have to educate on RI throughout the company. Additionally, I represent Baloise Asset Management in the RI community and various working groups in the Swiss market. The RI Core Team supports me in fulfilling my tasks, such as it examines new investment ideas in the individual asset classes and strategies.

What does a typical working week look like for you? What do you do on a daily basis?

This is difficult to say in a few words as generally every week looks differently. I am in regular discussion with the different teams integrating ESG into the investment analysis, the Communication & Marketing department for RI-targeted communication, or the group sustainability team to align our strategies. I spend time on reading new research pieces, the RI-news or other sources of information to strategically further develop our Policy. I travel to workgroup meetings with other players and organizations in the Swiss market, and answer requests from our stakeholders, or visit clients to present our RI-approach. 

Have you always worked in RI/ESG? Tell us about your career path.

I have started to work in RI/ESG when I started my PhD-thesis. While looking for the right research topic, I found interesting research pieces on RI which caught my attention, and have not let me go since then. And I think the decision writing about “ESG Risks & Responsible Investment in Financial Markets” was the most particular step in my career. Since then I had my step in the RI-market by getting to know the market, and the different players acting in the field. 

After a short time as a consultant at the German company Detecon Consulting, I worked as an ESG-Analyst and Corporate Sustainability Manager at Bank J. Safra Sarasin for a couple of years. These years were very instructive, as I was able to cover many different subject areas. I recently moved to the Asset Management of the Swiss Baloise Insurance Group where I hold the position “Senior Responsible Investment Manager”. This move was a logical step for my own development as I can work in a company that combines the insurance business with asset management. Our understanding of "sustainability as a success factor" is becoming increasingly important, especially when it comes to expanding our business areas. I am strongly motivated by the strategic importance of sustainability within our growth strategy “Becoming a leading Asset Manager on the Swiss market”.

What single thing or person has had the most positive impact on your career, and why?

Yes, I am thankful for meeting Prof. Dr. Andreas Hoepner during my PhD-Studies. He gave me the opportunity of doing research with him as a visiting scholar. He taught me how to be passionately working on new ways of doing research, and how important it is to listen to the market in order to create usefulness for the financial market. We are still connected as we lead together ReFineResearch which is responsible for the annual Transparent Asset Owners Awards (previously known as RI Reporting Awards).  

What is your understanding of a sustainable workplace? 

A sustainable workplace must fulfill two things: on the one hand, it must be locally attractive (good infrastructure, enough space at the desk, good air conditions, etc.). On the other hand, the position must give the employee the possible freedom to bring in his/her strengths and passion in a way that promises success. It must be a place of mutual respect, where there is an opportunity for constant learning and development in a way that benefits both the employee and the company at the same time. Therefore I really appreciate working for a company like Baloise Group that puts a lot of effort into becoming one of the most attractive employers in the industry.

If you knew what you know now what would you have done differently when you started your career. What advice do you wish you’d been given when you started out?

Luckily I do not regret any step in my career so far. My advice to every young person is to be curious/noisy and follow your passion regardless of what the current job market promises or what other people claim to know. The time has proved me right when I think of the many new jobs in the RI-market that have come up. It is important to be open, willing to learn permanently, be diplomatic, and have the skills to translate technical jargon into the financial or everyday language, for example, and not shy away from approaching each individual in the company. 

The RI-Market is a great field to be in as ultimately positive impact for our environment and society can be generated in the long-term. Working for a sustainability dedicated company like Baloise I see a great opportunity to set things in motion and really achieve change. 

 

CV at a glance:

  • Baloise Asset Management, Senior Responsible Investment Manager (since July 2019)
  • Bank J. Safra Sarasin, Corporate Sustainability Manager / ESG-Analyst (2015-2019)
  • Detecon Consulting, Business Analyst (2015)
  • PhD-Student, University of Hohenheim / University of St. Andrews (2010-2015)
  • Master of Philosophy of Social Science, London School of Economics (2010-2011)
  • Master of Economics, University of Tübingen (2004-2009)

To access other interviews and Sustainable Finance Careers Report follow the link: esg-data.com/careers