Rebeca Coriat Joins Lombard Odier

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Stockholm (NordSIP) – On the occasion of her appointment as Head of Stewardship at Lombard Odier Investment Managers, NordSIP took the opportunity to catch up with Rebeca Coriat and discuss the evolution of stewardship, the growth of stewardship in the UK and realising the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Prior to joining Lombard Odier Investment Managers, Coriat worked for three years as an ESG Analyst at Investec Asset Management, focusing on corporate engagements and proxy voting. Before this, she was a Senior Associate for Governance Research at Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) between 2014 and 2016. Coriat is a Graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

“I have spent my whole career in the world of corporate governance and shareholder engagement. Having studied Political Science and International Relations, this area always appeared to me to represent the best intersection of business and society, that is, profit and people,” Coriat says. “I decided to join Lombard Odier at this point in my career due to the phenomenally sophisticated approach the firm has taken to deal with and confront, head-on, the financial and economic issues that will define the next decades. I am referring to the sustainability revolution and the challenges and opportunities it creates.”

“It is a fertile ground for stewardship innovation, and there are two clear examples of Lombard Odier’s innovative approach. On the one hand, the focus is now on forward-looking ESG considerations in addition to the traditional ESG backwards-looking ones. On the other hand, Lombard Odier has also placed the Oxford Martin Principles for Climate-Conscious Investments at the heart of our stewardship approach. I am thrilled about the opportunities for stewardship being created by Lombard Odier.”

The Evolution of Stewardship

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Discussing the evolution of stewardship and responsible ownership in the UK, Coriat was keen to emphasise its fast growth and how transparent reporting can assist investors with overcoming greenwashing. “I think stewardship has evolved exponentially in the UK. Similarly to technology in the last 20 years, the speed at which stewardship evolves increases with every new iteration. We are in a situation where the gaps between new stewardship ideas become shorter and where there is an implicit, inherent competition to define and get hold of the lowest possible hanging fruit.”

“There are two issues facing the industry that we can cite, one backwards and another forward-looking. First, split votes on remuneration policy and reports (with varying degrees across geographies of binding and advisory votes) started only in 2013. Still, I don’t think any of us remembers dealing with remuneration through one single resolution at AGMs. Fast forward a few years, and  I am sure we will have across-the-board metrics relating to the transition to a net-zero economy on all remuneration policies.”

“This brings me to the problematic issue of greenwashing on stewardship efforts. It is a priority that asset managers provide clear and honest reporting on their active ownership work. This latest stewardship code is –rightly- asking asset managers to think about and report on stewardship outcomes and not just processes.”

“These requirements are a great step towards helping entities allocating and deploying capital and thinking carefully and purposefully about their stewardship work. I am very curious about the stewardship reports that will come out after 31 March 2021, because they will set the bar for good stewardship, and most importantly, will show how good stewardship comes in many shapes and forms.”

“In a mere ten years, we have moved from asking ‘what’ and ‘how many’ to asking ‘why’ and ‘how deep’! This progress brings us back to what I think needs to be achieved as a priority, open and honest reporting on outcomes, together with an acceptance that some engagement failures are an integral part of the stewardship journey.”

The UK Takes the Lead

Comparatively speaking, across Europe, Coriat is encouraged by the leading role the UK has taken in stewardship. “I believe the UK is the most mature country for stewardship. The first corporate governance code was born in the UK (in 1992), and the first stewardship code was also born in the UK (in 2010). However, stewardship, be it in the UK, or in Switzerland has the same underpinning principle – to look after the assets entrusted to us by our clients and promote and enhance their long-term value. The regional differences offer us an opportunity to look at the same issues through different lenses, and that enriches stewardship.”

“There have been very interesting and important stewardship bottom-up developments in Switzerland,” Coriat explains. “Back to my remuneration example, as a response to the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing public outcry on executive pay, in 2013, the UK implemented binding votes on remuneration policies every three years. At the same time, it also required an annual, advisory vote on the remuneration report. In Switzerland, the public outrage was translated into strong action via direct democracy: theMinder initiative was first tabled in 2008 and finally passed in 2013.”

Tackling the SDGs

Finally, NordSIP was keen on hearing about Coriat’s priorities regarding the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to Lombard Odier’s new Head of Stewardship, if she had unlimited resources and influence to tackle one of the SDGs, she would focus on either SDG 12 (Responsible consumption & production) or SDG 13 (climate action), or a combination of both. “Together, these two SDGs cut across, underpin and empower the remaining 15 SDGs, so they are a great platform for SDG success. They are at the heart of the efforts required to decouple the current economic model from its social and environmental footprint to a more sustainable, regenerative one. Sustainability goes hand in hand with this. It has become a financial imperative, but, more importantly, a great investment opportunity.”

Discussing how to tackle these SDGs, Coriat chose to focus on the urgency of addressing these issues. “Rather than ‘how I would I do it’, I say, ‘how we are doing it’. I use the present tense because this is urgent and it is happening now. Using a joint investment and stewardship perspective, we are focusing on shifting the dial from a WILD economy (Wasteful, Idle, Lopsided and Dirty) to a CLIC (Circular, Lean, Inclusive and Clean) economy at Lombard Odier,” Coriat says. “From my stewardship angle, the key is on engaging with companies to encourage changes in business models (across all sectors). Emphasis is on forward-looking management and boards that accept the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.”

Image courtesy of Lombard Odier

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