Stockholm (NordSIP) – A prominent figure in Oslo’s sustainable investment community, Isabelle Juillard Thompsen is actively driving several local impact and ESG-related initiatives. She is well-positioned to do so as President of the Board of Directors of the Norwegian CFA Society and a board member of the Katapult foundation. She is also an active member of the sustainable finance committee of the Norwegian Society of Financial Analysts (NFF) and the committee for ESG integration in equity investing for NORSIF. After managing the equity portfolio of Norway’s largest foundation, Gjensidigestiftelsen, for almost four years, she recently decided to join DNB Asset Management. NordSIP caught up with her to hear about what prompted the career move and her expectations for the future.
“I am very excited,” says Juillard Thompsen. “Managing a global sustainable strategy enables me to combine my long experience in both equity investing and sustainable investing. The scale is new. The setup is unique. We can leverage the solid global sector knowledge which exists in the largest active fund management team in Norway and combine it with our proprietary thematic research. I get to work alongside Audun W. Iversen, a PM with strong experience, especially in the renewable energy sector. But the most exciting part is the full integration of sustainability in the investment process. Fundamental analysis needs to encompass ESG risks and sustainable opportunities. With SDGs and purpose-related themes, it is more about generating solid alpha over time while seeking positive impact.”
DNB AM’s sustainable strategy aims to align all investments with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. “The SDGs were not originally designed as investable market themes. However, they are a great tool to communicate priorities,” explains Juillard Thompsen, before diving into details about the different themes they have identified and the specific goals that these correspond to.
However, two of these themes are particularly close to Juillard Thompsen’s heart, ‘Water’ and ‘Education’. Growing up in a rural area in France, she experienced early on the importance of clean water and the scarcity of this essential resource. “Everyone tends to focus on the climate issues nowadays,” she says. “But we sometimes forget about water, including its social aspects. The blue economy is essential to support inclusive growth. The Ocean is equivalent to the 7th largest economy in the world and estimated to grow twice as fast as the rest of the economy until 2030. It is also core to the Norwegian DNA.”
There is a personal connection to her other favourite theme, ‘Education’, too. “My entire family were teachers and academics. I firmly believe that education is a powerful tool and an enabler to close the inequality gap,” she explains and goes on to quote the old proverb: “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day; teach him to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.”
Juillard Thompsen’s passion for education seems to stretch beyond investing thematically in this type of companies. Recognising the importance of updating the traditional finance curriculum and helping younger professionals integrate ESG in the investment process, she recently co-authored a guide for ESG integration in equity valuation, together with two other practitioners and academics from the Norwegian Business School NHH.
She is also involved in Katapult’s initiative Nordic Impact Investing Academy. The focus is to provide a platform for small institutional investors and family offices to learn more about impact investing.
There are challenges ahead, of course. Access to high-quality ESG data is hard to come by, according to Juillard Thompsen, and this is a hurdle for integrating sustainability in the investment process. “It is a complex landscape of different reporting frameworks, and there is a lack of consistency between ESG scores from different providers. The EU taxonomy and SFDR were introduced to address this issue but will be challenging to implement in the short term due to the huge data gap. However, I believe this is a right move to increase transparency,” she adds.
Juillard Thompsen describes herself as a “cautious optimist”. “I am convinced that the financial industry is at a turning point and that sustainable investment is becoming mainstream,” she concludes.