Embedding ESG into the culture of a GP firm is easier said than done, as senior leadership must unpick the meaning of ‘culture’ as well as ensuring company values are fed through the entire organisational hierarchy.
One of the ways in which Coller Capital aims to instil ESG from top to bottom is through its ESG intern programme, in which internships within the ESG function, which sits within the investment team, are offered to undergraduates to help drive growth from a fresh perspective.
The internship has been running for several years, but over time a specific interest has arisen in recruiting undergraduates with an ESG focus. Now, one ESG intern is hired every summer as part of the cohort.
Adam Black, head of ESG and sustainability at Coller, explains the opportunity further: “We now run a summer ESG internship and we tend to partner with Imperial College to find new recruits, although we also consider other academic institutions. We offer a six- to 10- week long programme with the opportunity to shadow us as a team and, of course, to work on a project.”
A two-way street
The opportunity is valuable to interns as they can obtain experience working in a dynamic investment environment while viewing the business through an ESG lens. That skill is in high demand in the industry, and its impact could contribute to developing the next generation of dealmakers.
Meanwhile, Coller gains access to a bright set of young minds who are keen to get stuck in with projects. The experience also has the potential to open doors further down the line with a full-time role if the stars align.
Fitting the bill
When asked about the preferred skillset of an ideal candidate, Black comments: “We’re really looking for a marriage between finance and sustainability. The students tend to come from courses which combine climate science and finance, and they have strong modelling capabilities, with a real understanding of ESG issues.”
Black also suggests that many of the candidates have expressed an interest in joining the finance industry in particular, due to the potential for influence and making a difference. There is a desire to apply knowledge across a broad range of asset-level exposures to see how they can make a bigger impact.
Instigating change tends to be a priority for the next generation, so making sure a GP outwardly represents itself as an attractive place to work is an integral part of a successful hiring process. An internship programme could be a good way to spread such a message. Black adds: “There's a tendency for younger generations to work for companies that are more open about their approach to ESG-related issues. We see that in our hiring practices – candidates are attracted to us because they've had a look at the website, or they've read something about what we say we do, and they want to know more.”
Above all, an initiative like this helps to avoid a silo mentality – Black learnt the importance of integration and avoiding a silo mentality early in his career after graduating and starting his first sustainability role in the industry. Involving undergraduates in transactions and getting hands-on experience with the investment team early on can help trigger the right questions from people at the beginning of their career. This in turn should help create a future workforce equipped with a new ESG skillset, something that is already highly desirable.