Stockholm (NordSIP) – This month, Senait Asgede joins Neuberger Berman, an investment manager headquartered in New York, as Relationship Manager for the Nordic region. Asgede moved to the American asset manager from Schroders, where she worked as Senior Client Director since 2015, following several senior roles at Credit Suisse, Aviva, SEB and Handelsbanken.
NordSIP caught up with Asgede to find out about her first impressions. She shared her motivations and her views on what makes for a good ESG offering, particularly in the Nordics.
Hitting the Ground Running
For Asgede, Neuberger Berman’s spirit of entrepreneurship as well as the depth and breadth of its global investment platform, which covers both public and private markets, were key in her decision to join the firm.
“Building up a business in the Nordics requires a high level of sophistication and strategic thinking, and Neuberger Berman certainly offers these to investors. I’m really looking forward to hitting the ground running from Stockholm and working with the Nordics team, as well as our investment professionals, to grow our presence in the region,” she says.
Discussing Neuberg Berman’s sustainable investment offering, Asgede points out its in-house ESG resources, proxy-voting disclosures and strategic asset allocation to climate. “I believe Neuberger Berman has unique ESG capabilities from a quantitative and qualitative standpoint,” she explains.
“We’ve created our proprietary ESG rating system known as the NB ESG Quotient. The methodology is enhanced by our firm’s important data science efforts where we continuously evaluate new alternative ESG data providers. Furthermore, Neuberger Berman’s advanced proxy vote disclosure is differentiated in that it highlights the nuance of active management from an engagement perspective. Lastly, we’ve begun to think about climate issues from a strategic asset allocation angle which is critical for multi-asset class solutions. This is particularly relevant given the accelerating net-zero announcements by financial institutions globally.”
“One interesting solution that the Neuberger Berman team created was for a UK based Local Government Pension Scheme Pool, where the client was keen to adjust their fixed income portfolio towards net zero and do so as a multi-asset credit mandate. I think this type of solution is, and will continue to be, of interest for investors who have done a lot on the equity side and now are looking into how to adjust their fixed income allocation to be in line with the net zero alignments.”
A Prerequisite for Investors
Looking ahead to the near future, Asgede notes that the rising relevance of sustainability factors has created challenges and opportunities for everyone in the sector, which will continue to be felt in the years to come. “Unlike a couple of years ago when sustainability was a differentiator, it is now a prerequisite for investors,” she says.
“For this reason, ESG as a broad topic is incredibly important to me and was a key consideration when joining Neuberger Berman – clients demand innovation and knowledge in this area. Luckily the asset manager is well-resourced and well-recognised within the ESG universe,” Asgede adds. “For example, in 2020 the PRI named Neuberger Berman as one of the leaders in this field, a designation awarded to fewer than 1% of investment firms for excellence in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices. The PRI also awarded Neuberger Berman an A+ in every eligible category for its approach to ESG integration across asset classes.”
Another field that will be relevant for ESG investors will be the development of sustainable investments in private markets. “It is well recognised that integration of ESG needs to go beyond public markets to private markets. Here Neuberger Berman has done a lot of work, which I am keen to explore. With increased interest for private assets generally, I think being to the forefront of integrating ESG into private markets solutions will be increasingly important,” she continues.
An Early Adopter
Discussing her own journey with ESG and her engagement in the development of sustainable investing, Asgede is keen to highlight her early interest in the issue as well as the advanced stage of integration and development of this theme in Sweden. “It has been very exciting to follow the discussion and debates through the years, and indeed it is now at the top of the agenda in most client conversations, at least in Sweden,” Asgede says.
“Thankfully I was an early adopter when it came to the topic and, throughout my career, I made a habit of organising roundtables and deep-dive sessions for and with clients and experts in the field. Historically Sweden has been more advanced when it comes to sustainability so, through these, I feel I’ve learned a lot. Joining Neuberger ensures that I continue on the ESG journey,” she adds.
“I am also contributing to a project with Hållbarhetsprofilen to implement the new SFDR classification by contributing a view from a global asset manager. As you know Hållbarhetsprofilen is a great platform for end investors who want to gain a high level understanding of how a fund integrates and works on ESG. My ultimate hope is to help investors make more informed investment decisions,” Asgede concludes.
Picture courtesy of Senait Asgede / Background Mike Kienle (edited)