“It is very important for us that our staff members, right across the company, have the opportunity to undertake technical training in this area. By working with Sustainable Finance Skillnet, we were able to deliver hugely relevant, and important, Responsible Investment technical training to over half of our staff in a few short weeks.”
Eoin Fahy, Head of Responsible Investing at KBI Global Investors
Investing in Sustainable Finance Skills
The growth of Responsible Investing is dominating other trends in the financial industry, as investors are increasingly seeking investments that offer benefits to the environment and to society, as well as producing solid financial returns. Responsible Investing, whether it is environmental, social and governance (ESG) or sustainable investing, is crucially important for the financial and banking industry. As this momentum around sustainable finance grows, so too does the sustainable finance skills challenge.
The sustainable finance skills challenge is a relatively new phenomenon. Tackling this skills deficit is Sustainable Finance Skillnet, who are providing a blueprint for the industry beyond Ireland. This national network is developing skills and leadership capacity to advance ESG best practice across Ireland’s financial services sector. In 2020, the Sustainable Finance Skillnet put 1,400+ professionals through a wide range of learning opportunities, including a first-of-its-kind EU Taxonomy course which helps investment professionals understand EU Taxonomy and its practical implementation to facilitate sustainable investment. They also partnered with CFA Ireland to launch the CFA UK Certificate in ESG Investing in Ireland, delivering the benchmark skills required by investment professionals to integrate ESG factors into the investment process.
The ESG Opportunity
The demand for sustainable investment products globally is gathering pace. People are seeking investments that are well-positioned to protect their funds against these challenges but are also looking for investment funds that help resolve or reduce the impact of global sustainability challenges.
One business that is committed to responsible investing and leading in this area is KBI Global Investors. Eoin Fahy, Head of Responsible Investing at KBI Global Investors, has been working in sustainable finance for decades and has observed a worldwide shift towards sustainable investing in recent years which has resulted in the rapid increase in demand for skills in this area: “It is exciting to see the pace for skills training in this specialised area ramp up in recent months. Ensuring people have skills in sustainable finance is a very important issue for the Irish economy going forward.”
“At KBI Global Investors, we have strengthened and deepened our approach to Responsible Investing to the extent that consideration of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria is now a key factor in stock selection and fully integrated into all our investment decisions. We strongly believe this leads to better long-term investment outcomes for our clients. We engage constructively with the management of companies and are committed to sharing with our clients our insights on responsible investing and to report to them on the ESG impact of their investments.”
Growing Sustainable Skills at KBI Global Investors
To ensure KBI Global Investors was providing the best sustainable financial advice to clients, Eoin Fahy prioritised upskilling his staff in this area: “We need to make sure that our staff have the right skills and are knowledgeable about sustainable finance so they can help our investors with their journey to learning more about sustainability. The Sustainable Finance Skillnet is essential in this regard.”
Sustainable Finance Skillnet partnered with KBI Global Investors to offer various courses available from the PRI Academy. The United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment Academy courses explored the key principles of responsible investment, using real life case studies to illustrate the materiality of ESG issues in business, and introducing strategies for identifying and managing new approaches to ESG. In addition, KBI Global Investors recognised the skills gap in taxonomy and engaged with the Sustainable Finance Skillnet to identify the EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy course and importance for staff to develop deep technical knowledge in this field.
Eoin Fahy explains: “It is very important for us that our staff members, right across the company, are offered the opportunity to undertake technical training in this area. We worked with Sustainable Finance Skillnet to make training courses from the PRI Academy available and offered those courses to most staff in our company, and more than half the staff voluntarily opted in to do so. In a few short weeks, we were able to deliver hugely relevant, and important, Responsible Investment technical training to over half of our staff.”
Eoin highlights that the demand from staff has continued: “The positive uptake of the courses and feedback was fantastic. Last year, we also offered a more detailed and in-depth training course on the EU’s Sustainable Taxonomy to a smaller number of staff, and we were very pleased with the uptake. Given the technical and very specific nature of the course, we expected perhaps 2-3 staff members to attend the course, but in the end, we had eight participants, and all had very positive feedback on the course. Importantly, this course was very specifically tailored to investment managers on a very specific topic, and it is hard to know how we could have sourced such training without the assistance of Sustainable Finance Skillnet.”
Through the support of Sustainable Finance Skillnet, KBI Global Investors successfully upskilled its staff to ensure investment managers were equipped with the right sustainable finance skills and knowledge. As new taxonomy regulations come into effect later this year, it was crucial for the key investment decision makers to undertake the EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy course to gain deep technical knowledge of the implications this new regulation would have for clients.
A Greener Future
As Sustainable Finance Skillnet tackles these challenges at home, their approach is increasingly seen as a blueprint for other global financial centres to address their ESG skills needs. European Commissioner Mairead McGuinness highlighted the impact of the work, saying “Ireland’s initiative for improving skills and expertise for greening the financial system is setting an example for others to follow.”