Agenta’s New CEO: Sustainably Pragmatic

    Stockholm (NordSIP) – At the beginning of March, Ylva Schullström joined Agenta Investment Management as CEO, stepping up a notch from her latest senior role at COIN Investment Consulting Group focused purely on sustainable investments. A prominent figure in the Swedish financial community, Schullström is hardly a stranger to NordSIP’s regular readers. Naturally, we reached out to hear more about her new venture and Agenta’s growing sustainability ambitions.

    “The opportunity to join Agenta IM as CEO was just perfect, and I feel that the role and the context are tailormade for me,” comments Schullström enthusiastically. “I am honoured and humbled by the trust that Agenta’s board and founders have shown in me. We are well-aligned on values and how we look at business opportunities, which is an essential prerequisite for a successful change in the CEO function,” she adds.

    Joining a small and efficient firm means that alongside her CEO role, Schullström will focus on business development as well. She sounds comfortable taking on both roles and eager to get going. “The whole team at Agenta works tight together in a supportive and professional atmosphere, so the client offering is solid,” says the new CEO.

    Schullström is well aware that the competition within investment management and financial advice is fierce. Combined with steadily increasing regulatory pressure, it means that to survive in this business, you need to stay on your toes constantly. She has some ideas on how to achieve this. “My goal is to open up the Agenta platform for a few more selected clients,” shares Schullström. “Generating new business can energise the organisation. It also involves developing new solutions in order to stay relevant to clients and their evolving needs.”

    Being a niche actor like Agenta has its advantages, according to Schullström. She points out the firm’s choice of communication strategy for sustainability and responsible investment as an example. Offering investment solutions and funds only to a concentrated portfolio of select clients makes communication easier. “Our close client dialogues, combined with a strategic decision to stay conservative to avoid greenwashing, means that we feel secure that we are aligned with our client’s preferences for ESG and SRI,” she explains.

    Given her background in sustainability, it is only natural to expect that Schullström would pursue the issues close to her heart, such as human rights and climate change, also in her new role as a CEO. “I believe that sustainability comes into play in everything we do, no matter role or function,” she confirms. “It is of great importance to stay alert and informed. By discussing real investment cases, we increase both our own and our clients’ awareness of sustainability matters.”

    Schullström has always strongly favoured a pragmatic approach to sustainability. In this, she seems to have found a good match in Agenta. “Sustainability is not always black or white. Rather the opposite, most of the time it is quite complex,” she says. “Overselling or promising more than what can be delivered has never been my cup of tea. Agenta stands for a pragmatic view which I find genuine and reasonable.”

    To illustrate the firm’s consistent and pragmatic approach to sustainability, Schullström brings up the hot topic of investing in Russia and the defence industry. “At Agenta, we believe that Sweden and other countries have the right to military defence. Hence, we allow investments in armed products and services for this aim, excluding controversial weapons, of course. That said, we can also tailor investment solutions to fit the client’s own policies,” she adds. “In contrast to many asset managers, Agenta disinvested from Russia already in 2014, in response to the situation in Crimea,” reminds Schullström. “Today, the wind has shifted, more managers allow military defence, many hope to be protected from Russia by the US military, and many have begun disinvesting from Russia,” she points out.

    Just weeks into her new role, Schullström is still in the honeymoon stage, she says. “I am the first to admit that I have a lot to learn. But I feel privileged to be in that position, so I will do my best to come up to full speed asap,” she adds.

    “For us as a firm, there is plenty of room to improve our reach outside our current investor base. We have a great offering, and we believe that cooperation with Agenta adds a lot of value to our clients. The trick is to make it obvious to a wider audience. That is a challenge I am eager to take on,” concludes Schullström.



    Image courtesy of Ylva Schullström
    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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