PFA Gains a Real Change Warrior

    Stockholm (NordSIP) – Late last week, PFA confirmed in a short press release (in Danish) the rumours that Sasja Beslik, former head of sustainable finance development at Swiss bank J Safra Sarasin (JSS), has joined the Danish pension fund as the group’s new head of sustainability. Upon learning the news, NordSIP reached out to Beslik to hear more about the move and what he hopes to achieve in this new context.

    “There are few places in the financial industry more important than pension solutions for millions of people and their future,” says Beslik. “It is very exciting and challenging at the same time, and I like that. Over the last twenty-plus years, I have done asset management, bank & balance sheet products, private banking, and now it’s time to look at the pension side. Pension money is real money, and how it is deployed and managed can change the life of many people. With that privilege comes the responsibility to do it in a sustainable way,” he adds.

    Looking back at the time he spent with the Swiss bank, Beslik seems happy with what he has achieved there. “I had two good and productive years at JSS. I contributed to developing a new ESG strategy as well as a new engagement strategy and designing several Article 9 products,” he reflects. “It was also an opportunity to learn more about what true private banking business is. I worked with a number of very talented people and had a good time in Switzerland, despite the challenging Corona situation,” he adds.

    According to Beslik, the new context he is about to enter is much more important than his position in the new organisation. “I was looking for a context which is as real and as complex as possible from an ESG point of view,” he explains. “On the one hand, millions of lives depend on pensions. On the other hand, there is the transition we need to make and the transformation of how we invest and what we want to achieve. Both purposes are very tangible and real,” he adds.

    PFA is the largest commercial Danish pension company with an ambition to provide 1,3 million clients with sustainable pension solutions. Last year, the pension giant launched its Klima Plus pension solution, pledging carbon-neutrality by 2025. Delivering on that promise is a work in progress. “I look forward to working with the talented people of PFA. There is good sustainability fundament in place, innovation as well as long-term thinking. We will take pensions to the next level,” asserts Beslik.

    Taking the opportunity to pick Beslik’s brain on a more general topic, NordSIP wants to know whether he thinks the financial industry is on the right track when it comes to sustainability. “Well, do you want a ‘no-BS’ answer or an ‘oh-it-is-so-great’ answer?” he retorts. “We can never be on the right track as long as the underlying primary economy is not transforming towards more truly sustainable business models. Full stop,” he says emphatically.

    “Whatever the current state of sustainable investments might be, the fact remains that CO2 emissions are increasing since our economic model is based on growth and consumption. De-coupling without pricing in externalities does not work. We need to be able to tell our clients what they get when they invest in ESG products and, as long as we are not able to do it, and very few of us are, it is all just marketing,” Beslik concludes.

    Photo courtesy of Sasja Beslik

    Image courtesy of Sasja Beslik
    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia has accumulated experience in asset management for more than 20 years in Stockholm and Beijing, in portfolio management, asset allocation, fund selection and risk management. In December 2020, she completed a program in Sustainability Studies at the University of Linköping. Julia speaks Mandarin, Bulgarian, Hindi, Russian, Swedish, Urdu and English. She holds a Master in Indology from Sofia University and has completed studies in Economics at both Stockholm University and Stockholm School of Economics.

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