Asset manager hires veterans Phil Cliff and Aaron Hay to bolster skill sets across sustainability team, while also driving integration efforts.
Fidelity International has added to its sustainability team with climate and private credit-focused appointments with the objective of closing skill gaps and strengthening its offering to clients.
“I don’t think it’s possible to stand still in the sustainability landscape,” Jenn-Hui Tan, Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) at Fidelity, told ESG Investor.
“The evolution is tremendous year on year, new skills are being asked for, new regulatory requirements. new approaches, new client expectations.”
According to Tan, any sustainability team that wants to be at the forefront of sustainable investment must be aware of the skills and competencies it doesn’t have and then address those skills gaps.
“We need to bring people in who have complementary skill sets.”
The asset manager aims to address its skills gaps with the appointments of Phil Cliff as Director, Sustainable Investing (Climate) and Aaron Hay as Director, Sustainable Investing (Private Credit).
“Both bring in skill sets that we either did not have or have enough of at the level of experience that they can bring,” Tan said.
“The goal is for them to help to train and mentor the junior and mid-level analysts that we have,” he said. “We want to integrate them into the broader sustainability team and use their knowledge to help drive our progress in integration into our investment portfolios, providing better products and services to our clients and improving the way that we operate.”
In his new role, Cliff will work collaboratively across the business to enhance Fidelity’s climate strategy and transition plan, driving forward the firm’s commitment to halve emissions across its investment portfolios by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.
He will also be responsible for ensuring the alignment of the firm’s reporting strategy with actions to integrate climate considerations in its investment process, with the goal of achieving net zero across corporate operations by 2030.
“Phil is charged with helping us to deliver against our net zero goals,” Tan said, adding that he will also help Fidelity meet regulatory reporting obligations including the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and International Sustainability Standards Board requirements.
Prior to joining Fidelity, Cliff was Head of Climate at global investment manager M&G Investments, where he led its climate strategy and transition plan. This included the creation of the firm’s net zero investment framework, portfolio analytics tool, scenario modelling and climate reporting. In total he has more than two decades of industry experience.
“Part of Phil and Aaron’s appointments is that continuous evolution and improvement both of the sustainability team but, more broadly, of the integration of sustainability for the firm,” Tan said.
Promoting private credit
Hay will lead the development and execution of the sustainable investing strategy for Fidelity’s private credit capabilities. This will involve collaborating closely with the firm’s investment professionals to ensure consistent and effective integration of ESG throughout the investment process.
He will also spearhead the firm’s stewardship and engagement activities for its private credit holdings, working closely with borrowers in a range of sectors to improve ESG outcomes.
Tan said that private assets remain an “interesting opportunity” from both a sustainability and impact perspective.
He highlighted that there are fewer investors integrating ESG in private assets.
“The opportunity and closeness you have with private companies and the relationships that you can build present really interesting avenues to create better positive outcomes.”
Hay joins from investment manager Federated Hermes where he was responsible for investee stewardship, sustainable and impact investment strategy and implementation, and co-managing a growing sustainable fixed income team.
“Aaron’s immediate goal is to look at existing strategies we have and use his experience to augment our approach,” Tan said, adding that over time he will contribute to the development of new and innovative products and solutions.
Emphasis on integration
In his new role, Tan is responsible for overseeing Fidelity’s sustainable investing and corporate sustainability teams to ensure consistent governance of the firm’s sustainable approach across its corporate operations and client service areas, including investment management and retirement solutions.
“My job is to bring all the different strands of the [sustainability] work we’ve been doing together into one consolidated function and deliver on that integrated way,” he explained.
Following an initial launch of Article 9 funds during the summer, which comprised a range of diversified equity funds that focus on SDG-enabling companies, Tan said that Fidelity intends launch further products into the range.
Last month, Fidelity introduced its eighth fund classified as Article 9 under the EU’s Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation in response to growing client demand.
Tan said that going forward nature will be a key priority for Fidelity’s sustainability team.
“We’ve done a lot of work this year around integrating nature considerations, both risks and opportunities to our investment process,” he explained. “You can expect more from us in terms of laying out our approach, providing more clarity into our future direction of travel.”
Fidelity will also be sending a delegation to COP28 with the objective of contributing to what Tan hopes will be “productive discussions” on topics including the just transition.