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    Esgaia Adds New Strategy and Growth Director

    Stockholm (NordSIP) – When we last spoke to Esgaia at the start of October, we were told that the company was on a growth trajectory, looking to expand its horizons. Consistent with the demand for its product, Rickard Nilsson will join Esgaia at the start of December as Director for Strategy & Growth.

    Esgaia is a Software as a Service (SaaS) company that provides a specialised digital solution for asset managers and owners to manage their engagements. Nilsson joins the Swedish startup from Sustainalytics, a ESG research, ratings and analytics provider owned by Morningstar, where he worked as a Senior associate for client relations and a Manager during the last two years. Nilsson’s experience in ESG extends to 2018, when he joined GES, a Swedish company specialised in providing engagement services which was acquired by Sustainalytics in 2019.

    NordSIP reached out to him to hear more about Nilsson’s upcoming responsibilities and his views of sustainable investments in the Nordic region.

    The Inefficient State of Affairs

    This extensive experience working for ESG service providers gives Nilsson a privileged view of investors’ ESG needs. “Having worked in the ESG engagement space for quite some time, I fully agree with Esgaia’s identified market problem, which in short identifies many investors’ systems for engagement management and recording as inefficient and not fit-for-purpose,” Nilsson says.

    “To help increase efficiency, transparency and collaboration both within organisations and in the market, there is partly a clear need to further digitalise workstreams. Esgaia is fully committed to help with this technology infusion, and I really look forward to working with them to support investors globally and the industry,” Nilsson elaborates.

    “With Esgaia’s platform, investors can improve the management of their engagement dialogues. The platform enables investors to e.g. record, track and coordinate tasks across investment teams, automate reporting, and collaborate with other investors to increase influence and efficiency,” Nilsson explains.

    Sustainable Investment Challenges

    Looking at the state of sustainable investments, Nilsson highlights three main challenges: talent retainment, regulatory hurdles and financial returns.

    “While raising the point of institutional memory, attracting and keeping talent in a market as hot as this one (pun intended) is a main challenge for market participants, which can hinder further progress. Furthermore, implementing increasingly advanced RI strategies across regions is a difficult task given different regulatory frameworks, reporting regimes and so forth,” Nilsson tells NordSIP.

    “In part, this speaks to the major challenge around data availability and quality, which will gradually improve through the EU Action Plan requirements (and corresponding initiatives across regions), the formation of the Value Reporting Foundation, among others,” Nilsson continues.

    “As a third point and example, we need to recognize that not every investment in a sustainable and just transition can have a strong ROI, at least not in monetary terms. In order to shift market expectations here, a lot would need to change, perhaps starting with fiduciary duties,” Nilsson adds.

    Opportunities in Sustainable Investments

    Discussing the opportunities in this space, Nilsson is keen to emphasise the opportunities available to improve active ownership around engagement practices.

    “On the opportunities side, naturally the actual business opportunity for asset managers is huge. We all know the historic growth and inflows to sustainable investment vehicles, the wealth transfer to more sustainability and socially conscious generations, and so forth,” Nilsson says. “As norm influencers, there is no doubt that investors’ responsible investment practices are impactful and lead to real sustainable change in society, the question is rather if the pace of change is fast enough.”

    “So, while investors will continue strive for improved practices, I think it is important that we acknowledge the role of active ownership – aside from true impact investing – as the primary responsible investment strategy to drive sustainable change in public markets. In doing so, I believe there is a need to improve investors’ strategies here, for example around how you define and drive real change-oriented engagements, commitments to public policy engagement and generally around activity levels,” Nilsson explains.

    The Nordic Angle

    As one of the most developed regions globally, Nordic investors have benefit from a well-established system built on sound public governance promoting democratic, healthy and fair economies, Nilsson adds.

    “Together with a strong sense of responsibility and a good reputation, this has definitely played a part in shaping Nordic investors’ long history of leading responsible investment practices. With this in mind, and strong institutional memory, we should expect Nordic investors to continue providing leadership and be at the forefront of shaping industry practices,” Nilsson concludes.

    Image courtesy of Rickard Nilsson
    Filipe Albuquerque
    Filipe Albuquerque
    Filipe is an economist with 8 years of experience in macroeconomic and financial analysis for the Economist Intelligence Unit, the UN World Institute for Development Economic Research, the Stockholm School of Economics and the School of Oriental and African Studies. Filipe holds a MSc in European Political Economy from the LSE and a MSc in Economics from the University of London, where he currently is a PhD candidate.

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