The issue of sustainability: Q&A with Nanuk's Jane Henderson October 2018

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Jane Henderson has joined the team at Nanuk Asset Management, a firm which she says offers an investment analyst an opportunity to "improve global living standards". We ask Jane about her planned focus in the role and how Australia's appetite for sustainable investing compares with that of Europe. We also find out a little about her formative years, her recent degree majoring in Philosophy, and about those who have influenced her most.

What drew you to Nanuk Asset Management?

Nanuk offers an investment analyst a very interesting opportunity; that of helping direct the capital necessary to develop sustainable and emerging industries which will improve global living standards.

What will be your main focus in the role over the next 12 months?

Nanuk’s universe of stocks is new for me. However, my previous experience in global equities has given me an understanding of certain sectors which I hope will complement the core strengths of the Nanuk team. Over the next 12 months, I hope to be able to make a contribution in terms of diversifying Nanuk’s skills base.

What would you identify as the most exciting opportunities for the sustainable investing sector in 2019?

One of Nanuk’s major investment themes is that falling technology costs are accelerating the transition to more sustainable technologies, products and services. In 2019, this trend may become evident in the wind and solar renewable energy sector, as well as the supply chain associated with vehicle electrification.

"The Norwegian perspective that asset managers are custodians, rather than owners, is compelling."

How does Australia compare to Europe in terms of investors’ appetites for sustainable investments?

The issue of sustainability is obviously global, and I think investors worldwide have similar appetites for sustainable investments. There are far fewer opportunities to invest in Australian companies which provide the scale and diversity offered by global companies, but there is increased interest from Australian investors. In Europe, however, the sustainability investment focus is more mature.

Who has had the biggest influence on your life/career so far?

My grandfather and father were both stockbrokers, as was one of my brothers. Growing up in a household always aware of markets, and their volatility, has obviously influenced my career choices. The two CEOs I worked for during nine years at Norges Bank Investment Management, which manages the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, were also very influential. The Norwegian perspective that asset managers are custodians, rather than owners, is compelling. Most companies exist for far longer than the investment time frames of those who buy their shares, but if those investors can make a positive contribution to the strategic and capital deployment decisions of company boards and management, future generations can benefit.

"Philosophy is about taking the time to think, which many of us, unfortunately, don’t prioritise."

Where did you grow up and what was it like?

I grew up in Brisbane in the era when it was very much a “big country town”. As children, we were lucky enough to spend many family holidays on Fraser Island, and in those days sand mining was still in operation there. I remember many family debates between the “capitalists” and the “environmentalists”, and wondered at the time if the two schools of thought could ever be reconciled.

If not finance, where would you be?

I have recently completed a Diploma in Arts, majoring in Philosophy, at the University of Queensland. The teachings of many philosophers in ethics, political, and environmental philosophy provide useful learnings for businesses today. And philosophy is about taking the time to think, which many of us, unfortunately, don’t prioritise. If not in finance, I would probably be a student again.

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