An interview with Julie Bech and Audhild Aabø, managers of
Nordea’s Global Gender Diversity Strategy

Why did Nordea Asset Management launch this fund, and why now?

Audhild Aabø: Nordea Asset Management has, for many years, increasingly focused on ESG analysis. In the beginning, the ESG research was mainly used mainly as a negative screening measure in the investment process—screening away companies as a way of mitigating risk. But upon closer inspection, we discovered investment opportunities that could be exploited by using ESG as a positive screen to choose companies. One of these investment opportunities is focusing on gender diversity in a company. Also, as an early signer of UNPRI, Nordea is committed to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals—the fifth goal focuses on gender equality.

In recent years, society’s increased focus on diversity has led more companies to report on their gender diversity variables—which has made this fund possible.

Gender diversity is a new concept for many companies. How can they benefit from embracing this trend?

Julie Bech: In developed countries with an aging population, like Japan, studies show that more gender diversification in the workforce increases GDP. At the corporate level, human capital is something a company can really profit on, and something that is very hard for competitors to copy. There is great demand for the best talent, so if a company succeeds in creating equal opportunities for everyone, it will have a wider pool to choose from. This gives the company an edge compared to competitors who will not have the same growth potential. Further, the company will be more capable of maintaining and facilitating the development of its best talent if it takes an objective approach to advancing employees. Likewise, when a company hires externally, the pool of talented candidates is simply larger if it includes all available candidates. There are multiple studies that show gender diversity is good for a company’s bottom line. This is, amongst other things, due to the widening of the talent pool.

What do you look for in a company when evaluating its gender diversity?

Audhild Aabø: When estimating the gender diversity within a company, we look at the level of gender diversity across different management levels. How gender diversity has progressed in the company and the gender diversity of a company relative to the diversity in the company’s employees. We also look at whether the company has any policies in place for promoting equal opportunities. An important first step in achieving equal opportunities in an organisation is awareness of how the company currently operates. This helps us get a feel for how embedded diversity and inclusion are in the company’s values, and if they are succeeding in bringing parity into the organisation. Looking at the last 10 years there has, in general, been improvement in gender diversity, but the progress is slow and there are clearly industries and countries that are further ahead than others.

Personally, I believe initiatives that allow women to make independent business decisions are better than simple quotas. That way women earn their place and are rewarded for the hard work they do. It would be detrimental to the gender diversity cause if it ends up being perceived as women getting a free ride due to quotas. You might be able to get the percentages for females in higher managerial positions up faster, but you must also take the data quality into account. Diversity and inclusion should be a means to hire, maintain and develop the best talents, not merely a checkbox to mark.

What advice can you offer to women starting out in the industry today?

Audhild Aabø: My advice would be to embrace the individual expertise and aptitude you contribute by simply being a woman and take all possibilities that might show up, even if the timing is not optimal or you feel you are thrown in to the deep end. In general, fully succeeding in gender equality requires changes in society, legislation and company policies and values. It is about enabling both genders to achieve their potential; giving both sexes equal opportunities.

What do you hope to achieve with this fund?

Julie Bech: First and foremost, we want to create value for our customers. This fund offers clients the possibility of good returns with a twist where they can actually impact society by reaching sustainability goals related to diversity. Sustainable investments will play a big role in the future. The companies willing and able to put in the extra resources to make sure they are diverse will benefit from those actions going forward.

 

About Nordea Asset Management
Nordea Asset Management (NAM, AuM 204.8bn EUR*), is part of the Nordea Group, the largest financial services group in Northern Europe (AuM 282.6bn EUR*). NAM offers European and global investors’ exposure to a broad set of investment funds. We serve a wide range of clients and distributors which include banks, asset managers, independent financial advisors and insurance companies.

Nordea Asset Management has a presence in Cologne, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Helsinki, London, Luxembourg, Madrid, Milan, New York, Oslo, Paris, Santiago de Chile, Singapore, Stockholm, Vienna and Zurich. Nordea’s local presence goes hand in hand with the objective of being accessible and offering the best service to clients.

Nordea’s success is based on a sustainable and unique multi-boutique approach that combines the expertise of specialised internal boutiques with exclusive external competences allowing us to deliver alpha in a stable way for the benefit of our clients. NAM solutions cover all asset classes from fixed income and equity to multi asset solutions, and manage local and European as well as US, global and emerging market products.

*Source: Nordea Investment Funds, S.A., 31.12.2018

Nordea Asset Management is the functional name of the asset management business conducted by the legal entities Nordea Investment Funds S.A. and Nordea Investment Management AB (“the Legal Entities”) and their branches, subsidiaries and representative offices. This document is intended to provide the reader with information on Nordea’s specific capabilities. This document (or any views or opinions expressed in this document) does not amount to an investment advice nor does it constitute a recommendation to invest in any financial product, investment structure or instrument, to enter into or unwind any transaction or to participate in any particular trading strategy. This document is not an offer to buy or sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any security or instruments or to participate to any such trading strategy. Any such offering may be made only by an Offering Memorandum, or any similar contractual arrangement. Consequently, the information contained herein will be superseded in its entirety by such Offering Memorandum or contractual arrangement in its final form. Any investment decision should therefore only be based on the final legal documentation, without limitation and if applicable, Offering Memorandum, contractual arrangement, any relevant prospectus and the latest key investor information document (where applicable) relating to the investment. The appropriateness of an investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s full circumstances and objectives. Nordea Investment Management recommends that investors independently evaluate particular investments and strategies as well as encourages investors to seek the advice of independent financial advisors when deemed relevant by the investor. Any products, securities, instruments or strategies discussed in this document may not be suitable for all investors. This document contains information which has been taken from a number of sources. While the information herein is considered to be correct, no representation or warranty can be given on the ultimate accuracy or completeness of such information and investors may use further sources to form a well-informed investment decision. Prospective investors or counterparties should discuss with their professional tax, legal, accounting and other adviser(s) with regards to the potential effect of any investment that they may enter into, including the possible risks and benefits of such investment. Prospective investors or counterparties should also fully understand the potential investment and ascertain that they have made an independent assessment of the appropriateness of such potential investment, based solely on their own intentions and ambitions. Investments in derivative and foreign exchange related transactions may be subject to significant fluctuations which may affect the value of an investment. Investments in Emerging Markets involve a higher element of risk. The value of the investment can greatly fluctuate and cannot be ensured. Investments in equity and debt instruments issued by banks could bear the risk of being subject to the bail-in mechanism (meaning that equity and debt instruments could be written down in order to ensure that most unsecured creditors of an institution bear appropriate losses) as foreseen in EU Directive 2014/59/EU. Nordea Asset Management has decided to bear the cost for research, i.e. such cost is covered by existing fee arrangements (Management-/Administration-Fee). Published and created by the Legal Entities adherent to Nordea Asset Management. The Legal Entities are licensed and supervised by the Financial Supervisory Authority in Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg respectively. The Legal Entities’ branches, subsidiaries and representative offices are licensed as well as regulated by their local financial supervisory authority in their respective country of domiciliation. Source (unless otherwise stated): Nordea Investment Funds, S.A. Unless otherwise stated, all views expressed are those of the Legal Entities adherent to Nordea Asset Management and any of the Legal Entities’ branches, subsidiaries and representative offices. This document may not be reproduced or circulated without prior permission. Reference to companies or other investments mentioned within this document should not be construed as a recommendation to the investor to buy or sell the same, but is included for the purpose of illustration. The level of tax benefits and liabilities will depend on individual circumstances and may be subject to change in the future. © The Legal Entities adherent to Nordea Asset Management and any of the Legal Entities’ branches, subsidiaries and/or representative offices.

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