The subprime crisis was a kind of trigger for me. It led me to reassess the meaning of finance.”
When did you start working in sustainable investment?
I started my career in 2000 in investment banking at Société Générale. This was at SGCIB initially, selling equity derivatives. Then I moved into specialising in credit, holding various positions such as credit analyst, CDO [Collateralised Debt Obligation] structurer and portfolio manager to optimise the bank's regulatory capital.
The subprime crisis, which began in 2007, was a kind of trigger for me. It led me to reassess the meaning of finance. And around that time I began to take an interest in the development of sustainable finance.
For me, the prospect of combining financial and non-financial performance appealed enormously. So, in 2012, I decided to do an executive master's thesis at ESSEC [a leading French business school] on ‘the real impact of SRI funds on the sustainable development of companies’. This thesis took the form of a market study and it was a fantastic opportunity for me to meet committed professionals and enthusiastically embrace sustainable finance.
Following this study, I joined Kepler Cheuvreux in 2014 to develop an ESG credit research offering, with a focus on the nascent green bond market. I then extended this expertise to social bonds and sustainability bonds at La Banque Postale AM (LBP AM) in 2019, where I was responsible for analysis and research on sustainable bonds.
Green bonds largely seek an environmental benefit, and social bonds, as the name suggests, seek a social benefit. Sustainability bonds seek both an environmental and social benefit. In 2020, I joined Ostrum AM as a Leader Expert on this asset class.
How does sustainability continue to motivate you?
Finance plays an essential role in the sustainable development of the economy. And I love being able to take action and have an impact – to paraphrase the environmentalist Yann Arthus Bertrand, I'm convinced that taking action makes you happy.
And by developing a rigorous methodology for analysing sustainable bonds, engaging in regular dialogue with stakeholders in this market, I feel that I am taking action in terms of contributing to the development of the sustainable bond ecosystem. Being uncompromising in our selection helps to limit the risks of greenwashing and to maximise the impact for our customers and, ultimately, for our society and our planet.
It’s a demanding and constantly motivating field, too. Sustainable finance is a rapidly developing and changing sector. So, learning new things every day in all areas – technology, instruments, regulations, market standards, issues, and so on – is very challenging intellectually.
And I enjoy taking on new challenges – of which there are plenty in this market. To mention just a few, there’s the increasingly specific demands of our clients in terms of CSR, the challenge of data – its availability, reliability, standardisation, deployment in IT systems, and so on. Then there’s the challenge of aligning with new regulations, particularly in terms of disclosure – not least, the application of the SFDR upstream of the CSRD, and unclear definitions of what a sustainable investment actually is.
That’s why working with many different teams at Ostrum AM is very rewarding. It gives me a multi-dimensional view of the issues and the challenges.
What makes Ostrum AM different from other sustainable investment companies?
It’s not a well-known fact outside of France, but Ostrum AM has almost 400 billion euros in assets under management. We’re one of Europe's leading institutional asset managers and a committed player in sustainable development. Indeed, we were one of the first French asset management companies to sign up to the PRI in 2008, and we have remained committed to promoting high standards of responsible investment practices ever since.
The majority of our clients are insurers, who we think are among the most advanced and committed on ESG and climate issues. We manage portfolios for them with objectives such as reducing the carbon intensity of the portfolio or aligning it with a 2°C temperature scenario. We have also implemented stringent sectoral policies which have been recognised by the market. These include policies on fossil fuels, such as thermal coal and unconventional oil and gas.
We also have more than 30 billion euros of sustainable bonds under management, making us one of the largest impact investors in Europe. Our dedicated team consists of three extra-financial analysts that work closely with the credit and ESG Strategy analysts, a proprietary sustainable bond rating methodology based on grids specific to each class of sustainable bond, and a dedicated IT tool.