Japan Next for ESG Veteran Beslik

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) –  Rumours have been circulating for some time now that Sasja Beslik, Danish pension fund PFA’s head of sustainability and a true veteran on the Nordic sustainability scene, is on the move again. Yet, although he was featured prominently as Chief Investment Officer on a Japanese investment firm’s website already in March, PFA waited until 21 April to confirm his imminent departure. It is now official that he will be joining SDG Impact Japan on 1 June to manage the firm’s NextGen ESG Fund Japan.

    NordSIP reached out to Beslik to hear more about this exciting new development. “Japan was an opportunity I simply did not want to miss,” he comments. “The Japanese market is huge and has great potential, especially in relation to ESG. Japanese companies in the small and medium segments are punished for the lack of disclosure that not always corresponds to how they manage ESG issues. Their sustainability alignment is, in many cases, much better than expected. There is leverage in this space, and since ESG needs to move into a new phase and evolve, I identified Japan as a good place to develop NextGen ESG funds,” he adds.

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    Beslik joined PFA only in September last year after leaving his position as head of sustainable finance development at Swiss bank J Safra Sarasin (JSS). “There are few places in the financial industry more important than pension solutions for millions of people and their future,” he commented at the time. “Pension money is real money, and how it is deployed and managed can change the life of many people.” Despite his short tenure at PFA, Beslik sounds positive about his time with the Danish pension firm. “PFA has ambitions and the capacity to continue leading the development of ESG lifecycle pension products in the pension space in DK. I have learned a lot and worked with some very talented people there.”

    As to Beslik’s new employer, SDG Impact Japan dubs itself the first full-service sustainable investment firm in Japan. “Our investments are guided by our vision to create a more sustainable future for people and the planet. We support UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to catalyse technology-driven solutions that drive positive change in Japan and the world,” reveals the firm’s website.

    The NexGen ESG Japan fund that Beslik will be managing is expected to be Japan’s first Article 9 fund. But what does that mean, given that SFDR is an EU regulation, not a Japanese one? “The fund is developed to be aligned with SFDR,” he explains. “Naturally, Japan has its own legislation, and EU regulation does not apply there. Given the EU is leading in developing ESG frameworks, however, it was natural to use SFDR as a guide for the development of NextGen ESG Japan. This is the next generation of ESG investments: focused, outcome-driven, result-oriented, and financially attractive,” he adds.

    For a head of sustainability to take on the roles of portfolio manager and CIO seems like a huge step. Beslik doesn’t sound too anxious about it, though. “Over the years, I have held senior roles in asset management organisations, including within investment management, and this is just a continuation of that. The team in Japan is very experienced, having successfully run other strategies and has great capacity. I look forward to working with them,” he says.

    Recently, Beslik has been in the news openly criticising Swedish asset managers who, in view of the geopolitical situation, have suddenly changed their opinions on investing in defence companies. We take the opportunity to pick his brain on this hot issue as well. “For me, it is hard to comprehend that people seriously believe that the military industry should be part of the ESG fabric,” he comments. “It lacks all logic and serves no purpose. Off course, people working with ESG in the financial industry are under huge pressure to ‘approve’ investments in defence companies, but that is also the reason why they are there, to hold back on things like this and advise their colleagues to be far more long-term oriented then many of them are right now,” concludes Beslik.

    Image courtesy of Sasja Beslik
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