“I oversee Responsible Investment. This includes the integration of Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) factors into investment processes across asset classes and geographies.”
Jessica Ground, ASIP
What is your current role and what are your main responsibilities?
I have two key roles as Global Head of Stewardship and UK Fund Manager. With two colleagues I manage £9bn for a variety of clients with lower risk tolerance. As Global Head of Stewardship, I oversee Responsible Investment, which has been identified as an important area for the future of Schroders.
This includes the integration of Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) factors into investment processes across asset classes and geographies. I lead a team of eight specialists. We vote on over 5000 AGMs, have over 500 ESG engagements, educate investors, and produce thematic research into issues such as Climate Change. A burgeoning part of our work is to develop leading-edge investment solutions in this area. Finally, I serve on a number of industry bodies, including the Investment Association’s Corporate Governance and Engagement Committee and Metos’s Banking Futures project
What do you most enjoy about this role?
It's scope. From thinking about how water shortages will impact investments across the firm to having conversations with non-executive board members about what to do next when a management team has got it wrong, there is never a shortage of problems. It’s also satisfying to deliver good risk-adjusted returns to clients over the long term.
What are the most important skills for success in this role?
The CFA is great at teaching you technical knowledge, but I think success in any area of investment requires the ability to clearly articulate the ideas and conclusions. Presentation skills, both verbal and visual, a strong writing ability and a desire to collaborate are essential.
How did you get to this position and how would you advise other CFA Charterholders who would like to do a similar role?
To think laterally. I covered the bank and insurance sectors during their respective crises. I realised that Corporate Governance and poor oversight had a huge part to play. I began thinking more widely around the topic, which led me to give evidence to the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. It meant that I had developed the right skill set for what was in 2014 a new strategic focus for Schroders.
How has the role changed over the past ten years?
Low investment returns have changed almost every aspect of investing. Identifying which companies will thrive in this environment requires a much deeper analysis of the companies themselves and the environment in which they operate. At the same time, it has naturally put pressure on our fees, which in turn has forced us to consider how efficient we are as an industry.
How do you see your role changing in the next ten years?
Transparency is increasing. Investment managers have to show that they can generate strong risk-adjusted returns, after all the fees and charges. In addition, society’s expectations are increasing. It’s no longer enough to manage money or own companies but not to hold them to account. We have to be able to demonstrate that we are good stewards of assets, or lose our clients and social licence to operate.