Q&A with Martina MacPherson, Head of ESG Strategy and Member of the General Management Committee at ODDO BHF AM and PE

Martina MacPherson, Head of ESG Strategy and Member of the General Management Committee at ODDO BHF AM and PE, and President of the Network for Sustainable Financial Markets. In 2014, she founded SI Partners Ltd., an ESG investment content, research, and analytics firm. Prior to that, she has held a range of senior global research, risk mgt., business, and product development roles at Moody's ESG Solutions, S&P Global Inc., MSCI ESG Research, and Lloyds Banking Group - Insight Investment. Earlier in her career, she worked for F&C Asset Management and Deutsche Bank. Martina is a visiting fellow at Henley Business School and a guest lecturer at the University of Zurich. She is an advisory board member at ROSIF, the Sustainable Investment Forum for Eastern Europe, and at the European Law Institute (ELI).

Previously, she was an analyst advisory board member at UKSIF, the UK’s sustainable investment and finance association. She also was a mentor at the Global Thinkers Forum, and at the ICRS. Martina is an award-winning multi-lingual writer, lecturer, and presenter on sustainable investment, risk management, and green finance themes and contributes regularly to industry and academic publications. She has participated in a range of sustainable investment and ‘green’ finance working groups such as Towers Watson's Thinking Ahead Institute Sustainability WG, the Social Impact and Green Finance Initiatives by the UK Gov, CEPS' (EU), and the IIF/IMF's global sustainable finance working groups. She also contributed to the Sustainable Stock Exchanges’ and UK Gov's taskforce reports on sustainable finance, and CEPS' EU report on the restructuring of the Capital Markets Union. Most recently, she became a task force member of the UNGC SDG CFO technical expert group, ICMA's Climate Transition Finance working group, and of the EDM Council's working group on sustainable finance.

Especially for the ESG investments, we are now talking about mainstream activities that highlight the importance of looking at financial and extra-financial perspectives side by side, also delivering a certain element of managing your risk and returns in the active and the passive context from a fundamental, thematic, or factor-related standpoint. And increasingly, the work that's been done around impact.



MEDIA 7: Would you like to take us through your journey, your professional journey?
MARTINA MACPHERSON:
I’ve been in the ESG space for around 20 years on both, the buyer-side and the seller-side. My name is Martina MacPherson and I represent my role on a BHF and PE, a leading European asset management house. With around 58 billion euros under management, 52% of our neutral funds are already in line with ESG criteria and we have a very ambitious roadmap and trajectory to actually move the needle on ESG approaches and activities. These activities include cleaning, integration, and active ownership. I'm also leading the network for sustainable financial markets with The Next Gen Initiative. This is actually a think tank supporting sustainable finance, education, training, and capacity-building programs, which also includes policy and advocacy in certain areas. I have my last leg in academia and NGOs. I'm an academic/visiting fellow at Henley Business School and a guest lecturer at the University of Zurich. I teach various modules on ESG investing and sustainable finance, very often looking at implications for active and passive investment in ESG, different types of taxonomies, standards, or frameworks from a normative regulatory perspective. And of course, the different types of ESG thematics that we're seeing with a strong focus on biodiversity human capital, and increasing technology enablement. I've also made contributions to the AI book last year, the Biodiversity Handbook by Routledge, which is coming out this year, and a new book by RiskNet which will be published next year on ESG portfolio construction.


M7: What inspires you the most about sustainable investments?
MM:
Sustainable investment has come a long way. So first of all, when we look at the paradigm shift of what was traditionally classified as socially responsible, ethical investing, that's where a lot of these topics start. And I'm very still entrenched in this sphere, supporting, for instance, the women in Islamic and ethical finance forum, and they have globally taken the initiative towards ethical investment. Even so, the trajectory has really moved on far from its initial grounding in SRI and ethical strategies.
Especially for the ESG investments, we are now talking about mainstream activities that highlight the importance of looking at financial and extra-financial perspectives side by side, also delivering a certain element of managing your risk and returns in the active and the passive context from a fundamental, thematic, or factor-related standpoint. And increasingly, the work that's been done around impact. And the impact has been always the sister of the ESG investment sphere and it's becoming increasingly and rightly important. It’s making us confront what we are asking ourselves in the context of the broader issues such as climate change, and sustainable development. What do we want to achieve from here? In a short time span, we have achieved from an assets inflow or fund inflows of around 40 trillion US dollars. But is that really enough? This is what inspires me to find out how we can better shape, define and assess what we are actively doing in the field of ESG investing.


M7: You are going to be talking about sustainable investment at a conference that is going to take place really soon. What can the audience expect from you?
MM:
I am going to talk about how in the past five years, environmental, social, and government investing has become really mainstream. It has never been more popular. We have seen the tremendous inflows that are highlighted- we went from a 12 trillion US dollar market in 2012 to a 40 trillion dollar market. But we’re still a long way to go. Likewise, we are seeing the increasing demand from different types of investor groups with different supply needs for sustainable investment activity. Also, to make this growth material for the long term, especially in Europe, there are new shifts moving us from a normative voluntary space to a regulatory space. So, I’m hoping to touch on some of the key regulatory frameworks that are relevant for industrial issues. I’ll be talking about project costs of the EU sustainable finance action plan, and then I'm hoping to assess a couple of the key developments that are driving active ownership in our market, the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. I'm driving there with many investors as a part of a coalition towards a just transition, connecting the dots between environmental issues and societal context, so I hope I can touch on various aspects to really showcase how far our spheres come with the sustainable investment industry, but also to outline some of the remaining challenges and gaps.


By all this, I mean that it's an ongoing process- learning and education. I'm teaching, but I'm also taking in and I'm trying to be part of the conversation that's literally the key I think to what we're trying to do.



M7: Could you please tell us a little bit about the importance of green finance today?
MM:
Green finance has very often been thrown into the mix with ESG investing. I think it needs its own area of focus and therefore segmentation. I see green and sustainable finance as broader and also involving capital market participants. What we've frequently seen in the trajectory of green and sustainable finance is the focus on green or sustainable bonds. And in some of the recent work I've undertaken in my previous roles at Moody's and highlighted in the upcoming biodiversity book, we’ve talked about green bonds and green finance instruments. It's very important to note that this is a market that has gone from less than 10 billion to over 600 billion US dollars within a decade. Ultimately, the issuances in this year are ever-increasing and are also very much ever-diversifying, if you look at the sheer spectrum of players that are being involved. We are looking at diversification of the type of issuers. Initially, we saw many multilateral supporting the government agenda like climate action. We then ultimately saw the shift towards corporations and corporate issuers now playing an important part in this context. We also witnessed involvement from sovereign levels and government levels. And hence, we have seen the diversification of the type of green bonds or sustainable bonds that have been issued, project link bonds in the first instance, the so-called Classical ACHEMA sustainable bonds which include green social and sustainability bonds these days.To summarize again, sustainable finance is its own bucket and is heavily supported by many of the different types of issuances we have seen in this field.


M7: You mentioned two of the books that you have authored. One of them has been published and the other is yet to be released. Would you like to tell us more about it?
MM:
I've been contributing to areas of research concerning biodiversity for some time. A few years ago, we published the current edition and we've worked on a book, looking at the extinction crisis, especially pollinator extinction. As you might know, two-thirds of our food chain might vanish or be severely impacted by the extinction of the pollinators and that obviously has major economic and ultimately financial consequences for the entire food supply chain and other sectors involved. From there, our research moved more towards looking at other areas of species and biodiversity, and we have just finished the upcoming biodiversity handbook, published by Routledge, and are looking at the entire stakeholder sphere. That means, we're looking at taxonomies and frameworks being aligned with biodiversity. TNFD, for instance, is a brand new example. But we also had different types of frameworks for some time that tried to define metrics, and border frameworks and taxonomies for assessing biodiversity risk. This is increasingly important as biodiversity risks are also moving in Europe onto the regulatory agenda.

They've already formed part of some of the categories of the green taxonomy, the EU’s taxonomy currently focusing on environmental categories, but they've also made it into French law directly saying that biodiversity risks have to be disclosed by investors under Article 173, which just came into force as well this year. Finally, beyond the regulatory requirements, we have then assessed the role that financial service providers at large, across the investment and capital markets sphere, can play to support biodiversity initiatives and highlighted in various case studies, biodiversity initiatives that are being led by leading NGOs, for example, the finance pledge for biodiversity, which was launched some time ago at Linked Foundation. We are members and authors of this particular pledge and of the foundation. This group really tries to work with other NGOs such as TFT to develop relevant frameworks for physical and transitional biodiversity risks, but also aims to really get the topic onto the agenda in front of the leading investors globally. That means we're highlighting the full spectrum of taxonomies, solutions, and ultimately multipliers and influences in this context and I'm very delighted to say we have more than 30 different contributors from around the world and different interests and concepts for solutions.


M7: How do you consume all of this information and manage to stay on the top of your game?
MM:
I hope I am able to touch on some of the major fringes of what is really happening in our world, but I think it comes with an interest in complex, interconnected issues. I bring a very Universalist approach and background to the table. I studied law, I also studied philosophy and history of art as lower scale subjects in this broader context of when and where I started my education, later on, shaped myself towards the finance community with specialization in degrees in this particular area, and then I spent a lot of time exploring, working on the buy-side and the sales side and working directly with  ESG data or frameworks and rules-based approaches such as constructing indices, for instance. I think these different types of areas, gave me an opportunity to explore in-depth what really makes our sphere and field, and at the same time to understand and learn and grow with different issues that are increasingly coming to the surface. I'm still very much involved in policy work. I'm the co-chair of the SFDR Working Group at ACHEMA. I'm sitting on the sustainability advisory group of the European law Institute, looking at legal frameworks concerning the European Commission's different types of taxonomy activities, regulatory and framework activities, and other groups like the Enterprise Data Management Councils Group on data and framework specifically in our extra financial sphere. By all this, I mean that it's an ongoing process- learning and education. I'm teaching, but I'm also taking in and I'm trying to be part of the conversation that's literally the key I think to what we're trying to do.


Always continue to learn to associate yourself with different types of organizations that can help you professionally, but also drive your areas of interest because at the end of the day you're only as good as the motivation that ultimately drives you.



M7: You are such an inspiration. What is your advice to the young women who will one day try to become like you?
MM:
Oh thank you! I hope they become their own leading professionals in their own right. But I also understand the importance of having good mentors as someone who had great mentors in the past. I see the relationship between a mentor and a mentee as a truly mutually beneficial relationship. I think my first advice would be to educate yourself across your discipline, and across the different disciplines that are out there like, socio-economics, understanding how financial services work, social sciences, human sciences subjects etc. Always continue to learn to associate yourself with different types of organizations that can help you professionally, but also drive your areas of interest because at the end of the day you're only as good as the motivation that ultimately drives you. I was delighted to have as a mentee at Global Thinkers Forum (a fantastic program by the way, which I can recommend to everyone here) one of the most successful young women I've met. This young lady went on to become an ambassador for One Young World. She literally launched her own money platform on Instagram, to educate the next generation of female private investors, retail investors, etc. about how they could invest their money more sustainably. She has become an inspiration to me, to see how much she has grown, how much she has engaged within this event, and how much we can now automate.


M7: Lastly, would you like to share some of your hobbies with us?
MM:
I’ll start with the book I’m currently reading, ‘What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract’ by Minouche Shafik. She has been working for the IMF, for the World Bank for many different institutions, and Christine Lagarde, the President of the European Central Bank has also recommended this book recently on LinkedIn. It's all about the social contract, so hence I'm trying to educate myself but then, I’m also trying to use that information to bring it back into the value chain, as part of my teaching efforts, as part of the speaking engagements, as part of the conceptual papers I'm writing on these more socially related topics. Human Capital Management is one of the other socially linked areas that I'm focusing on. So in my free time, I try to read but I also try, in all fairness, to spend time with my family. I have kids and I have also a strong sense of purpose and meaning that I derive from my daily life not only professionally but also privately. I try to engage my kids in these topics as well. Most recently, my son asked me how to describe what I was doing for one of his school's homework and I said you could classify me as an Eco-warrior. It’s good to know that they have this idea of me out there fighting for something for good. He's really inspired to learn more. This is what I see as a success as well, engaging the communities around us engaging, especially my family.


ABOUT ODDO BHF

ODDO BHF is an independent French-German financial group, created from a French family company and a German bank specialised in the Mittelstand. The Group pursues a dynamic, Franco-German development strategy. The goal is to become one of the leading financial service providers in the Eurozone.

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Policymakers are only just beginning to implement once-in-a-generation financial incentives for new infrastructure technologies and projects,” said Laurence D. Fink, BlackRock Chairman and CEO. “I’m delighted for the opportunity to welcome Bayo and the GIP team to BlackRock, and happy to announce our plans to have Bayo join our Board of Directors post-closing. We founded BlackRock 35 years ago based on a unique understanding of investment risk and the factors and forces driving investment returns. GIP’s deep understanding of the factors and forces driving operational efficiency for long-term value creation have made them a global leader in infrastructure investing. Bringing these two firms together will create the infrastructure platform to deliver best-in-class investment opportunities for clients globally, and we couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities ahead of us.” “I’m excited about the power of this combination and the prospect of working with Larry and his talented team. We share with BlackRock a culture of collaboration, client focus, investment partnership, and commitment to excellence. Investors have adopted private infrastructure investing for its ability to provide stable cashflows, less correlated returns, and a hedge against inflation. Global corporates have turned to private infrastructure as a fast innovator and a more commercially agile owner of infrastructure assets that aren't core to their commercial businesses. This platform is set to be the preeminent, one-stop infrastructure solutions provider for global corporates and the public sector, mobilizing long-term private capital through long-standing firm relationships,” said Bayo Ogunlesi, GIP Founding Partner, Chairman, and CEO. “We are convinced that together we can create the world’s premier infrastructure investment firm.” About BlackRock BlackRock’s purpose is to help more and more people experience financial well-being. As a fiduciary to investors and a leading provider of financial technology, we help millions of people build savings that serve them throughout their lives by making investing easier and more affordable.

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Core Banking

Webull partners with Dow Jones to drive greater financial literacy and empower retail investing decisions

Webull Corporation | January 30, 2024

Webull, a leading online broker for global investors, has launched an initiative to drive financial literacy, announcing its partnership with Dow Jones, a global news and business information services provider and the publisher of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The agreement aims to drive greater levels of financial literacy among retail investors by empowering Webull customers with curated award-winning content from The Wall Street Journal, including news, analysis, and essential insights on managing personal finances. The collaboration provides access to the publication's trusted and reliable journalism to help Webull users make better educated and informed decisions around their financial goals. Webull users will receive a curated round-up of WSJ articles on its news feed within the app. New and renewing Webull customers will also receive a WSJ subscription. "Webull was founded on the principle of democratizing investing and making it more accessible and inclusive - especially for first time investors. In this regard, we've already seen success, with a robust number of our active members being first-time investors," said Anthony Denier, Webull Group President. "Through this partnership with Dow Jones, we want to put the power of the world's leading financial publication straight into the hands of our customers with content that helps investors make better financial decisions with greater confidence." "Financial literacy, powered by trusted and credible journalism, leads to better decisions," said David Martin, Chief Revenue Officer for Business Intelligence at Dow Jones. "We are delighted to work with Webull and look forward to putting the Journal's high-quality and award-winning business news, information and analysis at the fingertips of millions of Webull users on its platform to help elevate their decision making process." Financial literacy has been identified as a key barrier to entry to investing for many people, with research from the World Economic Forum revealing that 40% of non-investors chose not to invest because they do not know how or find it too confusing. In addition, approximately 70% said they would be more likely to invest, or invest more, with expanded financial education. With the trend of retail investors skewing younger, the initiative aims to address knowledge gaps by providing access to actionable and outcome-oriented information to help educate and shape the way new and existing users navigate fast-changing markets in an informed and responsible manner. About Webull Webull is a leading digital investment platform built on next generation global infrastructure. The Webull Group is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida and backed by private equity investors located in the United States, Europe and Asia. Webull serves tens of millions of users from over 180 countries, providing retail investors with 24/7 access to global financial markets. Users can put investment strategies to work by trading global stocks, ETFs, options and fractional shares, through Webull's trading platform, which is currently available in the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil and Canada. Webull also offers investment education services, with lessons covering a wide range of topics. About Dow Jones Dow Jones is a global provider of news and business information, delivering content to consumers and organizations around the world across multiple formats, including print, digital, mobile and live events. Dow Jones has produced unrivaled quality content for more than 130 years and today has one of the world's largest news-gathering operations globally. It is home to leading publications and products including the flagship Wall Street Journal, America's largest newspaper by paid circulation; Barron's, MarketWatch, Mansion Global, Financial News, Investor's Business Daily, Factiva, Dow Jones Risk & Compliance, Dow Jones Newswires, OPIS and Chemical Market Analytics.

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Payments

Plooto Launches Enhanced All-In-One Payment Automation Solution for Scaling Businesses

Plooto | January 16, 2024

Plooto, a leading payment automation solution for small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs), has launched a payment orchestration offering that is custom-designed to support the complex workflows and security requirements of rapidly scaling businesses. As the size and operational complexity of businesses increase, the risk of fraud and human error grows. This leads businesses to implement more rigorous security and control policies to keep the management of cash flow secure and reliable, placing additional burdens on finance teams including time, effort, and resources spent upgrading or building in-house solutions. Similar challenges extend to accounting and bookkeeping firms, as their robust compliance processes and corresponding reputation are critical drivers of growth. Firms' ability to retain and expand client accounts hinges not only on strong relationships but also on their adherence to rigorous compliance standards, especially when it comes to financial data protection. With this launch, Plooto brings to market the first solution in Canada to address these unique cash management challenges faced by midsize enterprises. This offering is priced at a competitive rate as organizations often cite cost as a barrier to adoption of cash management solutions. As volume and complexity of operations increase, businesses can trust Plooto to scale their needs seamlessly without straining their resources. Coupling end-to-end payment automation with stringent security controls and seamless connection to enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, Plooto is now capable of helping even more businesses scale efficiently within their ecosystem. Building upon Plooto’s core offering of simplified, all-in-one payables and receivables automation, new capabilities include Dual Controls: Limits human error and protects against fraud through comprehensive approvals on changes to sensitive financial information Single Sign-On: Enterprise-level safeguards that enable security personnel to manage both user access to sensitive data and removal from a centralized hub as teams scale Integration with Oracle Netsuite: Seamless two-way sync automates reconciliation protecting against costly human error, reducing billable hours, and helping finance teams save time "Our new offering enables finance teams to easily scale their workflows and gain the visibility they crucially need into their cash flow,” says Hamed Abbasi, Co-Founder and CEO of Plooto. “I’m thrilled that Plooto is expanding how we support growing SMBs, and that we are the first company to fill this critical gap for Canadian businesses.” Having recently been awarded with Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500™ and Technology Fast 50™ designations for a staggering 3-year 433% growth rate, Plooto continues to provide industry-leading support for SMBs with a platform that enhances cash management through its all-in-one payment automation. Plooto has also recently expanded its leadership team, bringing extensive experience from major financial services companies such as Varo Bank, Xero, and PayPal. About Plooto Plooto partners with growing small-to-midsize businesses to give them complete control over their cash management. The all-in-one payment automation platform securely automates all payable and receivable workflows, offers extensive payment capabilities, and seamless integration with accounting software to automatically reconcile invoices. Founded in 2015 and headquartered in Toronto, Plooto serves over 10,000 North American businesses, and integrates with top accounting software platforms Quickbooks, Xero, and NetSuite. Simplifying complex processes at scale, Plooto is the financial engine businesses rely on to achieve their growth potential.

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ODDO BHF

ODDO BHF is an independent French-German financial group, created from a French family company and a German bank specialised in the Mittelstand. The Group pursues a dynamic, Franco-German development strategy. The goal is to become one of the leading financial service providers in the Eurozone....

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