UBS Asset Management continues ESG recruitment with hire of PRI’s engagement head Piani

Swiss funds giant nabs one of the PRI’s longest serving staff

UBS Asset Management has confirmed that it has recruited Valeria Piani, head of investor engagements at the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

Piani, whose most recent PRI title was Associate Director, Investor Engagements, is one of the PRI’s longest serving staff, having joined in 2008.

“I can confirm that Valeria will be joining UBS AM in early December,” said a UBS spokesperson. A PRI spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Piani heads an 11-strong team at the PRI that supports coalitions of investors engaging with companies on a range of environmental, social and governance issues.

Before joining the PRI, she worked in international development cooperation for the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UN Development Programme in Argentina.

In 2014 Piani received the ‘Outstanding Author Contribution Award’ for her work on “Organising the Collective Action of Institutional Investors: Three Case Studies from the Principles for Responsible Investment Initiative” published in Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability.She will be joining an organisation in UBS that is ramping its commitment to responsible investment – and which hired her former boss, founding PRI Executive Director James Gifford, earlier this year.

UBS AM’s sustainable and impact investing effort is headed up by former RobecoSAM CEO Michael Baldinger, who joined in late 2015. It also recently hired other senior figures from that firm, including Christopher Greenwald, the Head of Sustainability Investing (SI) Research and marketing head Christine Gugolz Kiefer.

UBS’s Group CEO Sergio Ermotti has been vocal about stressing the bank’s commitment to sustainability and it has committed to investing at least $5bn of private client assets to Sustainable Development Goal-related impact investing, in a strategy that includes partnering with a new $2bn social impact fund called Rise.

Meanwhile, the PRI has announced a plan to “look beyond” modern portfolio theory (MPT), one of the cornerstones of modern finance. It will offer a £10,000 (€11,210) prize for a new Call for Papers. “The world has changed but we haven’t kept up step. We are way behind. We are accepting blind spots but these blind spots are right in front of us,” said Nathan Fabian, director of policy and research at the PRI.