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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’.

Horyou team member Dearbhla Gavin with Saker Nusseibeh
Horyou team member Dearbhla Gavin with Saker Nusseibeh

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’.

By Dearbhla Gavin

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Horyou had the chance to interview Eleanor Watson, engineer, entrepreneur, futurist and believer in the positive future of humanity. Eleanor Watson grew up in Northern Ireland as an only child of an engineer, a childhood in which books taught her at an early age the challenges in this world and the hope in defeating them. Today, her continued interest in the psychology of technology has led her to study, speak about and encourage the emergence of social trends. Mrs. Watson is within the Artificial Intelligence & Robotics Faculty at the Singularity University, a benefit corporation that helps individuals, businesses institutions, investors, NGOs and governments with educational programs, training them to understand new technologies and the positive impact potential of these technologies. In this interview she tells us about her work and experiences at the University. — by Amma Aburam

Have you always wanted to be an advocate for Technology in Social Good and Impact? How did it come about?

I grew up as the only child of an engineer in a house filled with serious science fiction. From an early age I also had a cherished copy of the Gaia Atlas of Planet Management, a book that details the whole world’s resources, and the greatest problems of our world society.

I also learned that lasting humanitarian successes, such as the eradication of smallpox, seemed like science fiction not so long ago.

I believe that the combination of these two influences seeded an understanding of the immense challenges facing so many in this world, along with a sense of optimism in being able to continue our shaping our world for the better.

The University impacts Education, Innovation and Community, how are these three elements intertwined to tackle world challenges?

SU teaches new models for understanding the world, based upon principles of harnessing the power of exponential technology curves, and a cultivated mentality of abundance (as opposed to one of scarcity).

This leads to a whole new way of looking at the world, and people sometimes switch the whole track of their lives once they acquire these new tools for understanding the complex systems in which we live.

Such methods also create a clarity about predicting the future of technology and society, which leads SU alumni to found new ventures that are ahead of the curve that the solutions created may have no precedent, or no existing market for them. Many of these solutions are able to generate massive social impact, as well as building powerful engines of wealth creation, enriching society at least as much as shareholders.

Furthermore, we lead an extended community of alumni that is able to continue to collaborate all through their careers. I continue to work on a range of socially beneficial projects with colleagues that I first met during SU, creating a lasting legacy of creative benefit.

What are your best/favorite success stories of local impact with technology through the strategies at Singularity University?

SU students and alumni have founded a wide range of inspiring ventures, with missions as daring as detecting cancer at the earliest stages, mining old electronics to recover valuable materials (mined originally often in places of intense conflict), or even drones that can replenish entire forests by firing seedlings like a machine gun.

What in your opinion are the three building blocks in reaching solutions for local community issues?

The most important success factor is having in-depth understanding of the situation within the local areas that the issue has the strongest particular impact.

Very often, NGOs and public officials attempt to intervene in a situation with the best of intentions, spend a lot of time and money, and still not fix the problem, because they did not spend enough time ‘on the ground’ asking local people about the real issues, and how they themselves suggest fixing them.

Worse still, sometimes even seemingly beneficial actions can lead to unintended consequences for other parties, or for the wider environment. No lasting and useful social solution can ever arise without an intense learning and deep understanding of the core problems, as experienced by people affected by them.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years? Any ideals?

I’m not sure if there is a universal ‘meaning of life’, but we can certainly choose one for ourselves. I have chosen one overriding personal goal in my life, and that is to seed as much good in the world as I reasonably can. I even keep a mental score counter of my hit rate.

There are many possible means of amplifying the good that one does:

One may launch new ventures, creating a self-sustaining engine of happiness for the world. One may educate and inspire others where knowledge is most crucial, and most lacking. One may discover complementary qualities between people that can cause them to flourish once connected. Sometimes one may simply pinpoint better places to allocate resources using reason and evidence, the core idea behind the Effective Altruism movement.

What does our mantra Dream, Act and Inspire mean to you personally and professionally?

An inquisitive spirit to dream of a better future, a valiant will to take action towards those ends, and the inspiration to continue against daunting odds, because humanity needs you to succeed. These are the ingredients of all world-changing efforts!

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