Teaching background was crucial to financial career

Career Path: After having devoted his career to sustainability at Storebrand Asset Management, Matthew Smith decided to leave the company after 12 years. Now, he helps KPMG clients develop sustainable strategies and funds. Smith tells AMWatch how a former teacher ended up in asset management.  

Matthew Smith. | Photo: Jan Bjarke Mindegaard

Which career path did you imagine for yourself when you were younger? 

"When I was younger, I imagined having a career in journalism or as a fiction writer. I have always enjoyed writing and I studied English Literature as part of my Bachelor of Arts. One key part of being a writer, which I didn’t factor in early, was the amount of time you need to spend alone. I am quite a social person and I am also kind of practical, so writing became a hobby rather than a full-time job.

Instead, I turned to teaching, where I could still work with language and literature but in a much more social setting."

Which parts of your education have you used the most in your career? 

"I would say that, maybe a bit surprisingly, my teaching background has been the most practically useful part of my education. Knowing methods to condense complex ideas and concepts into an easily understood message is something that has helped me in both internal processes, but also in meetings with clients. Sustainability is a multi-facetted discipline with complex issues in a wide range of areas like human rights, ecosystems, climate change and pollution of the ocean, just to mention a few. You need to explain all these issues in an hour. This is quite challenging.

In my experience, most people greatly appreciate information that is concise and to the point."

Which parts of your resumé represent the biggest changes to your career?

"After teaching for five years, I made the decision to make the move into sustainability. I’ve always been passionate about environmental issues and I was really keen on getting back to studying but I hadn’t found the right subject to study. I began a master’s degree in Sustainable Development at the Centre for Development and the Environment at Oslo University, a choice that has shaped my career ever since. I have never regretted the move for a second, as it has given me the opportunity to work with some of the most pressing environmental and social issues of our time.

A year after I graduated, I applied for a job at Storebrand Asset Management where I could use my environmental background."

What's the most important skill or experience that you gained from your former jobs that is applicable to your next staff role?

"After working for 12 years in sustainability at Storebrand Asset Management, I have built up valuable experience on how to integrate ESG issues into mainstream fund management. I hope to use this experience in relation to KPMG clients.

Helping them with accelerating their ESG work and developing fund offerings that are attractive in the growing market for ESG solutions. Our potential clients are typically family offices or communes looking for help in developing sustainable strategy and selecting sustainable investment options, or small to medium asset managers looking to develop their sustainable funds and reporting. We also expect that working with Private Equity companies will become a large part of our business, as sustainability demands from clients increase.

I think the burden of proof has changed in sustainability. In the beginning of my career in sustainability, I had to convince clients that sustainability was important and relevant for the financial sector. Now, the clients are convinced, and my job is to convince them that we are doing enough and that we are focusing on the right areas."

Which leader in the business has inspired your career the most?

"Without a doubt I would have to say Idar Kreutzer, currently Managing Director at Finance Norway and formerly CEO at Storebrand. Idar has always been way ahead of his time, developing a leading Sustainable Investment team in the early 2000s and recruiting the Head of Sustainability to the Management Board in Storebrand as early as 2006. Wherever he goes and whatever he does, Sustainability is front and center. This is, I think, an example to business leaders everywhere."

What occupies you the most right now?

"Right now, I am working 24/7 on developing Norway’s first consulting service in Sustainable Finance. I believe that there will be a huge demand from the financial sector for assistance in integrating ESG issues and Climate Risk into their work. Many companies lack both resources and competency, at the same time as they experience increasing regulation and demands from clients. In this situation, we hope to be there to help."

Storebrand AM loses head of sustainable investments  

Storebrand AM grows sustainability team to stay ahead on ESG 

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