Stockholm (NordSIP) – After two years and five months with Danske Bank, Ulrika Hasselgren, the bank’s Global Head of Sustainability and Impact Investment, has announced she will leave her post at the end of June. She talked to NordSIP about this intense journey and what she now looks forward to.
“I am grateful for a tremendous time and the joy of working with so many great colleagues, valued clients, partners and stakeholders,” Hasselgren comments on LinkedIn. “In February 2018, I took on the challenge from Tonny Thierry Andersen to help Danske Bank move from a ‘lagging to a leading position in sustainable investment’.” Being promoted to the Wealth Management leadership team, reporting to Jacob Aarup-Andersen, she created a vision and strategic roadmap for the journey to embed sustainability into the core of Danske Bank’s investment business.
“We’ve accomplished a lot in a fairly short time. 2018 was a turbulent year for the bank and, in a way, this created a real opportunity to drive change,” Hasselgren tells NordSIP. “Our focus was on developing internal knowhow and establishing strong processes. I enjoy working hard especially when I’m surrounded by the right team. Our collaborative spirit allowed us to crack a lot of difficult nuts and find innovative solutions. That is how we were able to transform from a laggard to a leader. I’m really proud of what the organisation has achieved in such a short time!”
For Hasselgren, working on this transformational process within Danske Bank these past two years has also been an opportunity to participate in the rapid evolution of the sustainable investment landscape in the broader market. “The journey has been truly rewarding, especially because I could not only lead ESG integration and impact investing from within one of the major Nordic banks but also truly identify what matters for ESG integration more fundamentally,” she adds. “What is ESG integration? This question wasn’t as easy to answer two years ago as it is today. Writing the white paper with my industry peer Bonnie Saynay has been one of the highlights of this experience,” she says, referring to Lost in Translation – In Search of Authenticity in ESG Integration, a joint effort with Bonnie Saynay, Global Head of Responsible Investment and Dr. Henning Stein, Global Head of Thought Leadership at Invesco.
“We understood that, ultimately, it is the portfolio managers that are the ones accountable for the ESG integration process,” Hasselgren continues. “We believe that incorporating environmental, social and corporate governance matters into an investment process is and should always be about investing,” the paper states.
Looking ahead, Hasselgren is enthusiastic about the further changes set in motion by the EU Commission. “Banks and other financial institutions are still grappling with what the new EU taxonomy means for them. I look forward to seeing how this new legislative framework will influence investors and companies alike,” she adds.
For Hasselgren, who lives in the south of Sweden and commutes daily to Copenhagen, being confined at home during the pandemic has brought about a period of reflection. “This has been an opportunity to take stock of this intense and highly productive period and I decided that it was time for me to take off. I’ve helped build a strong and solid platform with the right people to take on the reins and I can now seek my next challenge. I haven’t made any decisions yet, but will take the summer to do so! I’m broad-minded when it comes to the nature of the task and I look forward to discussing and exploring what may be the best fit,” Hasselgren says.
“I like to lead, manage and execute,” she adds. “There is also an entrepreneur in me. I’ve been in the industry for quite some time and I enjoy working in an innovative setting, whether in an organisation or from the outside. I try not to box myself in.”
Before joining Danske Bank, Hasselgren worked for Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), where she was the Global Head of RI Strategy & ESG Integration after Ethix SRI Advisors, the company she co-founded in 1999 sold to ISS in 2015. In parallel, she has been a guest lecturer on Sustainable Investment and Business Ethics at Stockholm University School of Business 2002-2017, a founding member of Dansif and Finsif, board member of Eurosif, member of the LuxFLAG ESG Label Eligibility Committee, and a frequent speaker at international investor conferences. She is a member of CFA Institute ESG Standard working group and EFRAG, the European Corporate Reporting Lab Task Force.
After the end of the month, Erik Eliasson, Head of ESG Research and Analysis, will lead Danske Bank’s sustainability team on an interim basis. He will report to Atilla Olesen, Head of Asset Management.
“Integrating ESG into our investment decisions will continue to be a key priority for us going forward, and I am sure that Erik and Atilla will do a great job continuing that work while we decide on what is next,” said Berit Behring, head of wealth management and responsible for societal impact & sustainability across the bank.