Stockholm (NordSIP) – At the beginning of October, Susanne Bolin Gärtner left Folksam, where she headed the fund selection and ESG team for external funds within unit-linked insurance, for the past ten years, to take a short break before starting a new adventure in January 2020. Taking it easy, however, has not come naturally to Bolin Gärtner, who spent the whole of November between conferences and other educational opportunities. We caught up with her in between a yoga appointment and a round table discussion on thematic strategies. We asked her about the new role she will be assuming at Danske Bank at the beginning of 2020 and about her hopes regarding an ever more sustainable manager selection process.
“It feels so exciting to be heading up fund selection and fund manager selection for the whole of Danske Bank,” starts Bolin Gärtner, happily. “For me personally, it is the perfect next step to start on a new fund selection journey, bringing my earlier experience to a new firm.”
For Danske Bank, the adventure will start at the same time as Bolin Gärtner’s, given that her role is a new one in the organisation, taking on a Nordic approach compared to the existing fund selection team that is based in Copenhagen. “I will have to learn the organisation and build my internal network within the whole bank in the Nordics,” she expects. “I plan to spend much time in Copenhagen to start with as the heart of the bank is there.”
“It is a big task and of course. I will start getting to know the existing fund selection team in Copenhagen which has a good reputation already, and build from there,” Bolin Gärtner continues. “I will also try to get the total picture of where external funds come into Danske Bank to eventually manage a “single point of contact”. And then, of course, liaise with the sustainability team in Danske bank to ensure that the external funds also integrate ESG, along the lines followed by the internal funds. Last but not least, I expect to take a closer look at the different client offerings, and how are the external funds are sold today alongside the internal funds in the different Nordic countries.”
At Folksam, Bolin Gärtner took a strong position in advocating for ESG integration with the managers she met in the past few years. In her new role, she will certainly not give this mission up. “I am determined to continue the ESG and sustainability discussions I have already started with external managers,” she says. “The exciting part is that, at Folksam, my team and I already had fruitful discussions with Danske’s internal funds. Now, I will be looking at their external funds. The challenges are the same, but my mantra is to remain humble and engage with the different fund companies, tailoring the discussion depending on how far they have gotten on their own journey.” Talking about impacting the industry as a whole, Bolin Gärtner adds: “I am also thinking of ways to start an initiative among fund selectors in the same way as investors engage together today with listed companies.”
Looking more specifically at the fund management ecosystem, some areas still need a lot more engagement than others. “Hedge funds can be a bit tricky when it comes to evaluating their sustainability. We may have a different view on ethics and responsible investments, but a healthy debate is the type of challenge I enjoy,” Bolin Gärtner comments.
Moving at the other end of the sustainability spectrum where funds are designed around the idea of providing positive impact along with market risk-adjusted returns, Bolin Gärtner prefers diversification over specialisation. “I like global impact funds that incorporate different themes rather than separate theme funds that present a bigger risk for the end client as they hold a higher concentration in their investments. These funds may serve as diversifiers but for a different type of portfolio allocation.”
Danske’s new Head of Fund Selection is also optimistic about the current opportunity for the fund management industry to provide new products to respond to global challenges. “The SDGs inspire innovation in funds,” she says. “There are many ways of approaching this framework and I think that it is good because there is not only one ‘right way’ today. I am hoping for innovation within the multi-asset segment in particular. Historically, equity and fixed income funds have performed well but, going forward, I believe that innovation is needed beyond the traditional asset-class divide.”
“Working with external funds you get the opportunity to engage and move forward together to a more sustainable world,” Bolin Gärtner concludes, looking forward to the challenges ahead.
Picture © NordSIP