Stockholm (NordSIP) – This month, international consultancy Mercer welcomed Per Haagensen (pictured) as a Business Developer for Norway. He will act as an investment leader, focusing on building Mercer’s products within investment advisory, implementation and responsible investments. Before joining Mercer, Haagensen was Head of Institutional Business Development at responsAbility.
Tapping Nordic Investors Impact Appetite
After setting up Swiss impact manager responsAbility’s Nordic office in 2015, Haagensen is eager to spread the knowledge he acquired about the Nordic appetite for impact investing. “Five years ago, I had the opportunity to establish the Nordic office of Swiss development asset-manager responsAbility. Over the five years, we managed to offer a niche impact-investment strategy focused on developing countries relevant to institutional investors. The experience showed me that the Nordic Institutional market has a strong interest and a deep knowledge in responsible investment.”
“This growing focus on sustainability and the years at responsAbility opened my eyes to the wide range of investment opportunities where it is possible to combine returns and a positive contribution to society,” he explains. “I then looked for an independent advisor that had an overview of all available investment strategies and shared my beliefs in responsible investment. responsAbility is a strong firm and will continue to thrive. At the same time, I also believe my background in impact investments can contribute additional insight and make a difference to investors looking to expand their thinking and move into responsible investing.”
Global Thinking for Local Actions
Mercer appealed to Haagensens due to its approach to addressing local problems by tapping global resources. “What drew me to Mercer is that it’s a firm that thinks globally but acts locally. I will continue to be based in Oslo where Mercer has been since 2001 and draw on a wealth of resources across every department in every region where Mercer is based across 44 countries to provide the best service to clients.”
“I am looking forward to showing what Mercer has to offer the investment community. We bring an independent view with a global reach, an in-depth understanding of the needs of the institutional investment community, and act as a leading voice on responsible investment,” Haagensen added.
Looking ahead, Haagensen is not shy about the challenges ahead of him and of sustainable investors in general. “We are experiencing extraordinary times, with the pandemic, volatile financial markets, social unrest, change in working patterns and ever-increasing global temperatures.” He argues the appropriate way to address these hurdles is to remain true to one’s beliefs and ensure communication channels remain open. “The key challenge in such times is to have a steadfast mooring, a set of beliefs to hold on to, and to share with both clients and the wider community.”
At the same time, Haagensen argues it is essential to set ambitious targets. “Focusing on listening and combining empathy with economics has been a helpful approach in the first half of 2020. However, as things start to normalise, it is time to plan ahead. We need to identify what we can do to help clients in the longer term as the world returns to a new normal. That means we need to try to find ways to convert the systemic risks into sustainable returns.”
Haagensen is optimistic regarding concerns that COVID19 may hinder sustainable investment efforts. “My view is that the trend towards more sustainable investing will continue and likely accelerate through this period. Investors should be prepared for the fact that there should be no such thing as irresponsible or unsustainable investments, until a point where we simply refer to it as investments, – so that all investments should be both sustainable and responsible.”
A New Post-COVID19 Paradigm
Joining Mercer in March, the Coronavirus pandemic has coloured Haagensen’s experience of his new role from the very beginning. “I joined Mercer in the middle of the Corona lockdown, and the first day in the office was a desk at the kitchen table. The lockdown was new to all of us, both seasoned Mercer colleagues and new recruits like me. We quickly adapted to life on Zoom, Skype and Teams that in many ways, has served to make the onboarding process even more efficient.”
“The use of already available technology has changed the working life – for the better, I think. I believe we will travel less, spend less time in the office and more time with our families while becoming more efficient.” However, Haagensen notes that the paradigm shift in working practices has its limits. “I still believe in spending face-to-face time with clients and colleagues, something technology can never replace, and with the lockdown easing, I look forward to reconnecting with people in-person rather than through a screen.”
“Norway reacted and went into lockdown quickly and is now gradually opening up again, showing positive signs. Let’s hope the worst is now behind us and that we are all better prepared for next time having learned key lessons from 2020,” Haagensen concludes.
Image Courtesy of Per Haagensen