It’s my privilege to attend the three-weekly sessions of the Pensions NetWork and I’ve found them a welcome relief over this year of lockdown from the trials of the diurnal round. The 80 minute sessions are positive, informative and intellectually creative. Last night’s was no exception which reminds me to include the link to TPNW’s website from where you can apply to attend the sessions yourself. The next session is on December 17th and will be, like last night’s interactive with a number of panelists chaired by the avuncular John Moret, Pension’s answer to Bruce Forsyth.
The four green leaves of the clover
The success of last night’s session was in bringing together four distinct and complimentary approaches to responsible investment.
Tomas Carruthers, a risk-taker who has put his money where his mouth is since being a student, to improve transparency and value for the private investor.
Maria Nazarova-Doyle, a force of nature who flattens cynicism that insurance companies see ESG as “extra sales guaranteed” with the weight of her conviction.
Jonathan Parker, a consultant with a keen understanding of how to influence fiduciary decisions for good.
Tony Burdon, the mild campaigner with a tenacious focus on making our money matter.
Green for Go
I cannot report in detail – what was said – nor do I need to, the value of the evening being in the combined impact of four short presentations and questions from the floor from an audience that included many who could have been on the panel.
The big picture from a big-hearted Tomas Carruthers
Tomas’ approach is to clear layers of intermediation and create a 21st century stock exchange that enables people to take direct stewardship of their financial assets.
He sees the big picture, the $210trillion in the global financial ecosystem and considered how this money could convert to hitting Paris goals by 2030 and 2050. His estimate was that it would need to convert at $1.5tr a year over the next ten years for our financial assets to be on track for 100% carbon neutrality by 2050. There is £6.2 trillion tied up in the UK pension system, which is as good a place to start as any. He gave us three general insights to underpin what was to come
- Transparent governance works
- Don’t treat people as fools
- Respect the power of technology
Greta Thunberg in her thirties
Maria Nazarova-Doyle started turning up at Pension PlayPen lunches maybe 10 years ago. She was new to pensions then , finding her way as a transition analyst at Capita. She is now running the investment proposition for Scottish Widows and her presentation showed what intelligence, dedication and emotional intelligence can do. It is not for nothing that I liken her to Greta Thunberg. It’s greatly to Scottish Widows credit that they have given the responsibility of transforming their investment proposition to someone who fits none of the characteristics of a senior manager role within an insurance company.
The power of influence
Jonathan Parker has moved from being a senior manager within an insurance company to consultancy in a mirror image of Maria’s recent career path. His strength is in his capacity to influence while Maria’s is in transforming the environment directly. Both approaches are needed if we are to hit our Paris goals with the wealth of the nation.
We have to accept that the fiduciaries who look after other people’s money are not going to adopt new investment beliefs because of the noise of the market. They are rightly skeptical about “green-washing” and struggle to see through the complexity of different approaches to ESG, the wood for the trees. Jonathan Parker put forward a compelling case for using clear analytics and patient explanation to influence those with their hands on the levers of change.
Leading the campaign
What the responsible investment movement has lacked so far is a focus for popular support. Make My Money Matter is that focus and Tony Burdon is the CEO though not the poster-boy! There needs to be a backroom to any front room , and while we all know Richard Curtis, Tony is less of a household name.
But he brought to last night the perfect conclusion, a mild-mannered passion that left us in no doubt that what the transformation of pensions means is a better place for us to live both in terms of our planet and in terms of our social goals and the way we govern ourselves. The popular campaign for change makes influencing those with the hands on the levers and transforming the financial institutions a whole lot easier. It makes the big picture laid out by Tomas- happen.
The Four Green leaves of a clover
Clover is good, it makes honey and four leaf clovers are especially good, they bring good luck and they are exceptionally green.
Last night felt good, I felt lucky, I felt exceptionally green and in such good company saw a way forwards to the green goals we have set ourselves.
Learning about how financial services (and pensions in particular) are adapting to the challenge of a burning planet is an education devoutly to be wished for. I am looking forward to attending another such panel session hosted by Chatham House’s Hoffman Institute. , the IFOA and FiNSTIC We are fortunate to be able to get this education online and with minimum logistical difficulty, this will not always be the case, I urge you to access to such learning , while we can.
Thanks to the actuaries for transformational change for bringing this to my attention.