ESG Not Optional for PineBridge’s Johansen

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Stockholm (NordSIP) – Last week, PineBridge Investments announced the opening of its Nordic office in Stockholm. We took the opportunity to catch up with Viggo Johansen (Pictured), its newly appointed Head of Nordics, who will be heading operation in the region.

PineBridge Investments is a private, global asset manager focused on active, high-conviction investing, with US$101.3 billion in assets under management at the end of 2019.

Exciting New Challenges

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“I’ve spent the past 20 years working in the asset management industry in the region, most recently, as Country Head of the Nordics for Natixis Investment Managers,” Johansen tells NordSIP. “I also spent some time at Schroders Investment Management and AIG Investments in similar roles.”

The growth that his new employer has recently experienced, its approach to clients and the specific challenges of this new role were Johansen’s primary motivators for taking on this role. “PineBridge has experienced impressive growth over the last decade, with AUM recently tipping over US$100 billion. This positive momentum, coupled with a strong product offering, is perfectly matched to meet clients’ needs in the region. Furthermore, a client-centric approach to building investment solutions is essential to Nordic investors and very much at the core of the firms approach, so I felt confident I can continue to focus on what I do best and find the right solutions for my clients. Opening a new office was also an exciting challenge and an opportunity to be more entrepreneurial within a well-established firm.”

ESG Integration and Oversight

Johansen highlighted the depth of ESG integration at PineBridge as one of the asset manager’s sustainability highlights. “I was delighted to see that PineBridge was a signatory to the UN Principles of Responsible Investment (UNPRI) as an A+ rated manager, it places the firm in the top quartile of rated asset managers.”

“What really surprised me is how the ESG analysis is naturally integrated to their investment process in the manner deemed most appropriate for their activities and specific investment opportunities. Instead of grafting ‘new’ ESG capabilities, since 2006, PineBridge has integrated ESG efforts in a manner that complements our existing offerings. Too often in our industry, ESG is a little bit of an add-on and doesn’t feed into the investment philosophy across asset classes and strategies.”

Johansen also focused on the role of internal supervision in ensuring Pinebridge meets its long term goals. “In an effort to define, strengthen, and differentiate our approach to corporate responsibility, PineBridge has established a steering committee composed of 10 members of the organisation, diversified by region and function. The Corporate Responsibility Steering Committee oversees the firm’s subcommittees dedicated to ESG Investment, Stewardship, Company Responsibility, and Diversity & Inclusion. This includes regularly reviewing the subcommittees’ progress toward measurable annual goals. These approaches really reflect what investors in the region need and want from their investment manager.”

Nordic Leadership and the Shift Alternative

“Investors in the region have truly integrated ESG into their everyday decision processes. It is no longer an option or idea that is up for consideration; it is a prerequisite of business. I would say the region is homogeneous and investors across sub-markets are very much aligned in terms of approach and best practice. This homogeneity and common approach are, in my opinion, one of the main reasons the region is more advanced than others when it comes to sustainable investment.”

Considering the path ahead and what remains to be done, Johansen underlined the challenges facing all global sustainable investors. “I don’t see any challenge that is specific to the Nordics. Putting the global health crisis aside, investors across the world are mainly faced with the same challenges, particularly around the definition and scope of what constitutes as ESG investing. There is a need for greater diversification, and we’re seeing investors increasingly considering alternatives. But investment in infrastructure, real estate or private equity and private debt can be more complex to look at from an ESG perspective. This shift to alternatives combined with new ESG requirements calls for greater due-diligence capabilities and for managers to be more granular in their approach and throughout the investment process.”

“At PineBridge, we believe that incorporating ESG principles in investing isn’t a zero-sum game. We recognise that ESG issues may create both opportunities and risks for our clients’ portfolios. We address these factors through our investment process to gain a better understanding of their potential impact on current asset values and future performance. We have been doing this throughout our decades of experience managing equity, fixed income, multi-asset, and alternative investment portfolios,” Johansen concluded.

Image courtesy of Pinebridge Investments

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