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THE NEXT GENERATION HOLDS THE KEY TO THE FUTURE OF IMPACT INVESTING

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Maxim Manturov, Head of Investment Research at Freedom Finance Europe

 

Millennials and those that follow them are changing the world one investment at a time, opting to spend their cash on projects that match their own values, beliefs and ambitions to make a positive socio-economic impact. Essentially, for younger generations, the decision to invest in a company or asset is not only about generating financial return, but also about expressing their opinions, safeguarding their own future and helping to solve the world’s problems.

This determination to make a real difference is especially true for Millennials, with 86% of those born in the early 1980s to late 1990s becoming increasingly aware of the world’s social, economic and environmental issues. They are also driving this surge in impact investing by supporting companies that provide certain standards.[1] Alongside this, impact investing will only rise in popularity as many Millennials reach a point where they have enough savings to invest and those from Gen Z enter the workforce for the first time. To put this into perspective, Millennials currently hold $1.4 trillion in purchasing power, which will likely shoot to $30 trillion over the next year as Gen Z receive financial assets from their parents.[2]

With this in mind, lets dive deeper into impact investing, the rise of this growing trend and the future outlook for some of the world’s biggest companies. For business leaders looking to not only survive but thrive in the years to come, they must first recognise that the next generation are reshaping the world and it falls on them to help build it.

 

What is impact investing?

Impact investing is a strategy that aims to make financial profit, while also creating a long-standing, positive impact on our world. For many impact investors, they are hyper aware of what is happening around them, with factors such as corporate social responsibility (CSR) making a real difference when choosing to invest. Impact investing also includes factors such as socially responsible investment (SRI) and environmental, social and governance investment (ESG). Taking this one step further, impact investors will often do their own research before choosing to invest, looking inwardly at an organisation’s treatment of its employees, as well as factors such as diversity, wellbeing, benefits and workplace safety.

Typical sectors where capital is used to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges include sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, healthcare, education and conservation. For example, an investor will provide capital to renewable energy companies because they believe such an investment will positively impact the environment. It is important to note here that a hallmark of this growing trend is the commitment of the investor to measure the socio-economic performance and progress of underlying investments.

 

The rise of impact investing

Although this trend may have started as a domain for some well-off individuals, it is now conquering the larger retail market, with a significant number of investors looking towards companies that are making efforts to combat climate change. On top of this, with more companies re-thinking their CSR strategies and prioritising efforts to make a socio-economic difference, there will be an increasing number of opportunities available for those who want to invest based on their beliefs for a better world. For example, Tesla inspired the entire transport industry to take the electric vehicle seriously.

Moreover, while younger generations are clearly more conscientious investors than their predecessors, combining investing and social responsibility is something that a range of population groups now strive for and the basis for creating products that would satisfy such needs is already here. As long as social investments bring profits, their popularity will rise. And with Millennials and Gen Z expected to inherit around $68 trillion in wealth over the next ten years, impact investing will only continue to grow.[3]

 

Looking to the future

As we look towards the future of impact investing, we can expect many of the world’s largest companies to adapt in order to meet the demands of younger generations. From catering to their social, economic and environmental values, to providing open and honest communication throughout the entire investment journey, a new approach that holds business leaders accountable for their actions and demands transparent policies will undoubtedly become the new standard. Ultimately, impact investing starts with trust, honesty and a determination to do and be better, meaning business leaders must ensure they are in a position to meet the needs of the next generation or run the risk of being left behind.

[1] https://www.morganstanley.com/access/why-millennial-investors-are-different

[2] https://inyova.ch/en/expertise/en/millenials-gen-z-and-sustainable-investing/

[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2019/10/26/millennials-will-become-richest-generation-in-american-history-as-baby-boomers-transfer-over-their-wealth/

 

Finance

WHY PEOPLE ANALYTICS WILL PLAY A PIVOTAL ROLE IN SOLVING THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY’S SKILLS CRISIS

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Daniel Mason, Vice President EMEA, Visier

 

Successfully guiding teams of employees through the post-pandemic landscape will not be easy for any business, but nowhere is this more apparent than in the financial services sector. Here, leaders face the formidable challenge of rebuilding working environments against the backdrop of huge industry uncertainty, caused by the most turbulent 18 months in living memory, as well as an increasingly concerning global skills gap.

In order to succeed, not only do they need to create highly compelling environments that entice new and existing employees alike, they must also work to proactively identify areas where additional improvements need to be made. Doing so will enable swift and decisive action to be taken before seemingly small issues start to have a major impact on overall business performance or staff retention.

 

Storm clouds are gathering on the horizon

It’s safe to say the financial services industry garners more media attention than most when it comes to working conditions. With well over a million people employed in the UK alone, scrutiny into key areas such as work-life balance, job pressures and pay is near constant.

In order to gain better insight into current job satisfaction within the sector, Visier recently conducted a new study focussing on how both UK employees and HR leaders feel their businesses are managing during this difficult time, and how it is affecting both current performance and future prospects. The research revealed some worrying statistics that point towards a potential avalanche of resignations in the near future, unless something is done to prevent it.

Why is this? Put simply, too many financial services organisations don’t appear to know their employees are unhappy and of those that do, most don’t fully understand the reasons behind it, meaning they can’t effectively tackle them. This article will discuss these findings and their implications in more detail, before exploring how people analytics can be used to spot key trends – both positive and negative – early, and boost employee experience/morale at this crucial time.

 

Learning new skills is increasingly important to both employees and businesses

According to Visier’s study, over half (52%) of employees in the financial services industry expect to actively look for a new job outside of their current company in the next 12 months, with almost a quarter (24%) already doing so. In light of these alarming figures, you’d be forgiven for assuming financial services organisations have failed to adapt to Covid-enforced ways of working. However, this isn’t the case at all, with the vast majority of those surveyed reporting that their companies have reacted impressively to the pandemic.

There are, of course, multiple reasons why workers may feel compelled to move on, even if they have a positive overall connection with their current employer. While each case is unique, the three most common reasons cited in the study were, perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘poor work-life balance’ (43%), ‘salary’ (33%) and ‘feeling undervalued’ (25%).

Following closely behind in fourth place was ‘not being encouraged to learn new skills’ (19%). However, there’s a growing school of thought that this has a much bigger influence on employee satisfaction than the raw data might suggest. Work-life balance and salary have always been major drivers of change, and learning new skills can go a long way towards helping workers address these by improving the value they bring, as well as boosting their overall day-to-day efficiency. The findings backed this up, with over half (55%) of employees admitting they are worried that failure to develop new skills will lead to their careers stalling.

The study also uncovered a strong feeling amongst both financial services employees and HR leaders that learning new skills is a crucial factor in the future competitiveness of their organisations.  Just 59% of employees felt confident their employer was bringing in the right people to keep pace with clients’ expectations for digital services. Meanwhile, over two-thirds of HR leaders believe that the sector’s lack of available candidates is holding back their company’s digital transformation strategy. As such, not only do employees see a lack of skills training and opportunities as a blocker to their own progression, it also presents an existential threat to the organisations they work for.

 

People analytics is playing an increasingly pivotal role

As financial services organisations continue to work through the disruption caused over the past 18 months, they need to be conscious of key factors impacting employee retention, as well as address any skills gaps acting as barriers to effective digital transformation. Investing in the right new learning opportunities and upskilling current employees will be crucial in reducing unwanted churn and ultimately boosting long-term competitiveness.

People analytics tools give businesses – in financial services and beyond – the real-time intelligence they need to achieve this, enabling them to grow and thrive regardless of what’s put in their path. Not only can people analytics help identify worrying employee trends such as disenchantment about skills training early, it also provides the insights needed to fix issues before they can significantly impact operational effectiveness.

As the data shows, employee satisfaction isn’t the only factor at play. Job happiness is also tied to whether employees believe the business is making the right decisions for their future. However, without the right tools in place leaders must operating on gut feel alone, which is rarely a good formula for success.

Every day, a growing number of decision-makers are using people analytics to uncover the key insights needed to make informed decisions regarding who to hire, who to reskill and who to promote. This is no coincidence. The move towards people analytics at scale is not a passing craze, but the acceleration of a powerful trend that’s been gathering momentum for almost twenty years. Maybe it’s time your business sees what all the fuss is about?

 

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BECOMING THE CEO: THIS IS HOW CFOS CAN SECURE THE TOP JOB

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Mark Freebairn, Partner and Head of the Board and CFO Practices at Odgers Berndtson, explains what CFOs need to do if they want to become CEOs 

 

For some time now, there’s been a very clear trend in CFOs progressing onto CEOs. It’s a trend that should come as no surprise to executive leaders. With more CEOs under increasing pressure, many CFOs have become the nominal second in command, often taking non-finance related responsibilities off their CEO’s plate.

As result, CFOs have begun playing a more strategic and commercial role which has inevitably broadened their remits beyond the finance function. With many CFOs breaking out of the traditional financial management confines, executive teams and boards have begun to realise that finance and general management are more closely aligned than they previously thought. This has given CFOs more opportunities to gain experience relevant for the CEO position. From owning P&L business units to engaging with external investors, the CFO’s evolving remit is making them likely candidates for the top job.

That’s not to say it’s a done deal for anyone who is currently a CFO. The CEO jobs market is comparatively small, CEO turnover is typically slow, and competition is intense. So below, I’ve outlined the key areas CFOs should gain experience in and the opportunities they should capitalise on if they want to compete for the CEO positions out there.

 

Mark Freebairn

Take responsibility for P&L business units 

Overseeing specific business units is a natural extension of the CFO’s responsibilities. It provides experience of managing products, costs, and revenue generation – all of which are staple requirements for the CEO role. But it also provides operational credibility internally, which will prove advantageous for any CFOs lining themselves up as a succession candidate to their own CEOs.

If possible, CFOs should take on responsibility for turning around a failing business unit. This is the fastest way of gaining commercial experience relevant for a CEO role. Particularly as economies emerge from the pandemic, boards will be looking for leaders who can demonstrate an ability to drive growth and new business despite significant internal and external challenges.

Likewise, CFOs should involve themselves in other business functions. Whether it’s procurement and the supply chain, or facilities and security, CFOs should play a role outside of the finance function in order to gain broader business experience.

 

Build a highly-autonomous finance team 

The CFO’s role within organisations and their ability to easily expose themselves to other P&L units makes them suitable candidates for CEOs. However, CFOs are only as good as the team around them. Building a high-performing finance team that can drive the day-to-day operations of the function will have several outcomes. Firstly, it will free up a CFO to take on more responsibility around the business and gain more time with their CEO. Secondly, it’s a valuable proof point that CFOs can use in any interview to demonstrate their ability to build strong teams – as a CEO, building a strong cadre of trusted executives is crucial for success.

This should be a team that can be trusted to perform autonomously, with a strong second in command that the CFO can rely upon.

 

Take on a non-executive director (NED) role 

While financial management is central to any successful organisation, CFOs still need to develop expertise outside of the function if they are to step up as CEOs. Taking responsibility for P&L business units will provide this, however it won’t provide a CFO with the same board-level perspective that a NED role will.

Taking on a NED role will not only help CFOs to understand what boards expect of CEOs but it will also provide experience of a different kind of leadership; one that is less hands on and more about guidance and mentorship.  Within the commercial sector, there are board roles among smaller quoted companies, those backed by private equity, or family owned businesses. Advisory boards and subsidiary boards are also a good option.

On the public sector side, board roles exist within organisations owned by or reporting to government. These include major infrastructure operators, the NHS, regulators, museums and other arts institutions. Likewise, a charity trustee role (while unpaid) is similar and will help to develop both a CFOs network and board skills.

Auditing, budgetary reviewing and balance sheet responsibilities are often sought after skills in non-executive directors, making CFOs ideal for these positions.

 

Take on internal leadership positions 

These types of leadership positions should be separate to the finance function and can include things like internal workstreams, strategic initiatives such as I&D and sustainability, or CSR projects. The benefit of taking on this responsibility is two-fold. It helps build necessary leadership skills and provides leadership experience. But it also showcases a CFO within the business in a leadership capacity outside of finance. The later will be beneficial for any CFOs looking at internal progression onto the CEO position.

Mentoring achieves similar outcomes. This helps build leadership skills and can lead to greater exposure around the business. What’s more, any mentee may later become a useful contact in a CFOs network.

 

Network outside of the organisation 

CFOs often underestimate the power of a personal network. Building relationships with other senior leaders will enable a CFO to generate career opportunities that can lead onto CEO appointments. While professional networks within the CFO community are valuable, networking outside of these types of environments is likely to be the most profitable for career advancement.

Any CFO looking to make the jump to CEO should build relationships with a variety of third parties. These include shareholders and brokers, investors, M&A specialists, bankers, and even lawyers. A CFOs experience and perspective can be incredibly valuable to these types of professionals so getting on their radar shouldn’t be difficult. Making the effort to build a relationship with them will pay dividends in the long run, and may lead to hearing about, or if you’re good enough, even being recommended for a CEO position.

 

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