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Maddie Smith

June 4th, 2020

Sustainable Finance: moving to the mainstream 

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Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Maddie Smith

June 4th, 2020

Sustainable Finance: moving to the mainstream 

0 comments

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

We recently hosted a webinar with an LSE alum who shared some of his experiences of working in a senior role in sustainable finance in the NGO sector having made the switch from investment banking. Here are just a few takeaways from a wide ranging and interesting discussion.

What was behind the switch from your previous role in the investment banking sector to an NGO?
The switch, with an MSc at LSE in between, was to be able to make more of a difference and to combine work with purpose, having a positive impact on a day-to-day basis.  
 

What changes are you seeing in the sustainable finance field?
While anything sustainability related used to be confined to the CSR team, we are now seeing this discussed in the boardroom. Sustainable finance is now much more mainstream. Banks need to address how they lend. Companies 
realise they must do it, and that their investors expect them to and will hold them to account. There’s been a huge shift in just a few years which is hugely encouraging. 

What are some of the challenges you faced when you started in your role?
Working in the private sector your role is a bit more contained. Moving to sustainable finance and coming to appreciate the huge challenges we face, while coming to terms with the fact that the 
organisation I’m working for plays a small part. The challenge was I wanted to do everything! Once I’d come to terms with this, I was able to appreciate that even small changes are all playing a part to make a difference to the challenges we are facing. 

What impact do you see the current COVID-19 crisis having on the sector?
It will help to separate out those who are serious about sustainability and those who are not. Irrespective of the macro-economic situation we will see who is genuine. There are opportunities to help build a greener, more sustainable economy whether that be through small and medium sized companies re-imagining what is possible, a stronger need for international finance and more cross-border collaboration to name a few.

What made you go into sustainable finance in the conservation sector as opposed to other environmental roles?  How does this differ from e.g. climate finance?
Working for a mission-led organisation with a high profile you get invited into the boardrooms of asset managers, pension funds and banks. You also collaborate with other NGOs who are active in the area and coordinate actions to be able to work strategically.  It’s much broader than climate finance which is really quite specific.  Sustainable finance covering areas including food, agriculture, deforestation, ocean finance etc.
 

What skills do you think the industry needs and looks for in its recruits?
You need to be passionate about the area and show that you really want to learn and push yourself.  Relationship building is particularly important, if you can build strong relationships with some key people and persuade them, this is what generates action! You also need to be adaptable and to learn as the industry is changing at a pace. For example, you have new areas like spatial finance which integrates geospatial data and analysis into financial practice which combines a range of skills sets and specialisations. 

What types of work experience would be useful to break into this field?
Experience can come from a range of areas and interests.  It’s important to be passionate about your field and to forge your own path rather than think there is one set way.  Consultancy, finance, student societies, volunteering, working in the field are just some of the ways. It’s your enthusiasm and how you come across in your application and at interview that is key. This is what will make you stand out. 
 

Keen to find our more?  Here are a few links to get you started: 

WWF – article on why they are working in sustainable finance  

The Guardian – Environment 

UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association

Grantham Institute Sustainable Finance Insights Series

 

About the author

Maddie Smith

Careers Consultant, LSE Careers

Posted In: Finance | Finding work | Insider tips

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