Hermes Investment Management is one of the UK’s largest institutional asset managers, advising in both the public and private sectors. What makes Hermes stand out in the crowded market of wealth management is its values or, more likely, the CEO that cultivates them.
On a preliminary search of Saker Nusseibeh, I came across words like ‘stewardship’ or ‘responsible capitalism’, or again statements like ‘We believe that better governed companies create a better society for our investors to live in’, all things often more associated with social enterprise than high finance. I was excited to meet him.
Nusseibeh studied medieval history to PhD level and I was intrigued as to whether this critical academic training gave him a pluralist attitude and the ability to see a situation from all angles and solve it? It was an unequivocal yes. He said it is essential for any leader to think and act rationally in any situation. He champions cross collaboration, saying that when recruiting, he is most interested in candidates with diverse profiles for ‘diversity helps nurture innovation in teams’.
Something that may well have been the deal breaker in winning the title of Global Investor CEO of the year is the culture that he cultivates among his staff that gets half of their bonus each year for ‘being nice’. As vague as this may sound, Nusseibeh assures that it’s simple: ‘we reward attitude. Kindness and care towards your colleagues and clients ensure that every day runs smoothly.’
I agree with him, mentioning my training in yoga that teaches that conflict and tension are wasted energy that does not serve us and is certainly no addition to any workplace.
On a more business note, Hermes have adopted a model that helps cultivate more sustainable behavior in the world of investing, as stated in their latest published survey ‘Responsible Capitalism’: ‘Investment decisions should be about outcomes that are not purely nominal but allow savers to retire into a stable social system’.
During the interview, Nusseibeh repeatedly referred to ‘holistic profits’. Intrigued, I asked him to clarify. ‘Reasonable, sustainable companies have a social license to exist; they are part of society, their presence impacts on society and has no right to impact negatively on the majority while benefiting just the few’ he says.
I asked him about his industry predictions for the short to medium term. More specifically, did he think that sustainable business possible? That profit can exist without social cost?
He says that he has never witnessed client demand for measured social impact and transparency like he has in the last twelve months: ‘a key part of Hermes’ strategy is ‘stewardship’, i.e. being completely accountable and responsible for all that they invest in’.
Nusseibeh predicts that attitudes to environmental and social governance will be a key measure of a company’s development and growth over the next year.
Tube-riding home, I read through their survey ‘Responsible Capitalism’.
Statistics peppered each page but in keeping with what I had witnessed at the event all day, they weren’t measures of company growth or consumer confidence in the brand, but social statistics; figures illustrating female representation on boards, or diversity in the workplace, or energy efficiency. In the same vein as Bloomberg hosting a day long conference dedicated to good business, it was a sign of the times to see social impact highlighted on every page of a global asset management survey.
It is no longer the economy at one end and society at the other. As Nusseibeh said himself: ‘we own the economy, we all have a stake, we benefit and we lose out, our fate is in our own hands’.