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    Meet BlackRock’s Nordic Head of Sustainability

    Stockholm (NordSIP) – In June this year, BlackRock announced several high-profile hires across its sustainable investing team in Europe, appointing simultaneously regional sustainability experts in the Nordics (Charlotte Månsson), the UK (David Hickey), and France (Julie Ansidei). The trio is soon to be joined by colleagues in similar roles in Germany and the Netherlands. The new regional heads are entrusted with building the global asset manager’s presence and promoting its sustainable investment capabilities in their respective markets.

    “At the beginning, we thought there would be a lot of overlap in what the three of us do,” shares Månsson in an exclusive interview with NordSIP. “Yet, despite some common denominators, we soon discovered that our focus needs to be somewhat different.” This divergence is natural, she believes, as the investment landscape does not look the same in the regions she and her new colleagues represent, and the clients, too, are at different points of their sustainability journey. “Many sustainability trends seem to catch up first in the Nordics, then roll out into the Netherlands and further to the UK and continental Europe,” explains Månsson, who has seen this pattern repeat over time.

    “I feel passionately about sustainability,” says Månsson, who happens to be one of the veterans in the field. For the past twenty years, she has held different roles related to ESG product strategy and integration, most recently as senior vice president at Sustainalytics. “I have witnessed first-hand the consolidation and growth of the ESG data service providers industry,” she adds. Over the years, she has developed invaluable expertise in the intersection of client advisory and analytics.

    Månsson tells us she took her time transitioning to the asset management industry. “Over the past few years, I have been wanting to get closer to the ‘engine’ of investing, as part of an asset management organisation, for instance,” she says. She needed, however, to evaluate a future employer very carefully. “I was looking for someone with a clear ambition in the sustainability area. Also, I wanted to join an organisation with a true impact potential.” BlackRock checked both boxes, according to her. “Larry’s letter to CEOs back in 2020 was a Wow-moment for me, making me wish to be part of this journey,” shares Månsson.

    BlackRock’s new head of sustainability for the Nordics assures us that her initial excitement upon joining the asset manager has hardly subsided. “I am still learning to navigate the large organisation, and there is certainly a lot to wrap my head around,” she says. What she really looks forward to is partnering with Nordic clients in two areas: supporting them on their net-zero transition path and engaging in product co-creation. “We are taking a number of steps to help investors prepare their portfolios for a net-zero world, including capturing opportunities created by the net-zero transition,” explains Månsson. “As to new sustainable products, there is an appetite from our clients for tailor-made solutions that fit their sustainability goals. Last year, for instance, we launched a new ETF seeded by a Finnish pension insurer that wanted to focus on incorporating climate risks and opportunities into asset allocations and portfolio management. The ETF provides exposure to companies that we believe are better positioned to benefit from the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

    “It is exciting to feel a part of a truly global team, with all the resources and expertise to back our local efforts,” says Månsson. Commenting on the evolution of BlackRock’s sustainability operations, she talks about the recently rebranded Sustainable & Transition Solutions unit, which replaces its Sustainable Investing department. Within this new unit, Månsson’s goal is twofold: to deliver the firm’s capabilities locally to clients worldwide and to listen and bring back insights and opportunities. According to Månsson, the new setup will help drive sustainability client solutions, external engagement efforts and research ideas.

    Despite working in a global organisation, Månsson confesses that she has her Nordic hat firmly on. “The Nordics have always been at the forefront of sustainability,” she says proudly. “This goes back several decades to the establishment of the first ethics councils in Norway and Sweden and all traditionally strong church investors, pension funds, and foundations across the region. It’s just part of a Nordic investor’s DNA,” she adds. According to her, the region is far ahead in maturity in many sustainability areas, not just combating climate change. “Nordic investors are vocal and active, with well-developed ESG strategies and stewardship programs. That is why it makes sense from a global perspective to follow closely what is going on in the Nordics. BlackRock recognises this and has had a considerable presence here since 2008. We are looking to channel the insights from Nordic investors to the rest of the world.”

    Image courtesy of Jeppe Carlsen
    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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