Meet Helen Skinner – ANZ Investments’ Head of Responsible Investment

17 October 2022

Here at ANZ Investments, we’re advocates for investing responsibly. When we consider whether to invest in a company, we don’t just look at its financial performance – we look at its environmental, social and governance performance too, because we believe these factors can also have a big impact on the long-term returns investors receive.

Underlining the importance that we place on responsible investing, we’re delighted to have recently welcomed Helen Skinner to our team, who has joined us in the role of Head of Responsible Investment. As she gets her ‘feet under the table’, we thought you may be interested to learn a bit more about Helen, what her role entails and ANZ Investments’ approach to responsible investing.

Hi Helen. First off, can you tell us how you got into the investment industry, and what drew you to responsible investing?

To be honest, I kind of fell into the investment industry and a career in responsible investing. Like many young people, I struggled with mental resilience during my first year at university, so I decided to leave. In those days, gap-years weren’t a thing, so I got a job instead, in life insurance. I started making cups of tea, but worked my way up. It was my first exposure to financial planning, and I loved it. In particular, I saw how financial planning and investing can be a grateful support, especially in times of grief.

I then set off on my OE, which lasted 16 years! I happened to land a job in investments, and that was it. I again worked my way up the ladder, working for a number of investment companies overseas, learning about how markets worked and the importance of long-term investing. I’ve seen firsthand how investments can change people’s lives.

As investment professionals and the guardians of the money that’s invested in our funds, I’ve learnt that we have an incredible responsibility to look after our customers’ futures. And that has driven my passion for responsible investing.

When you think of responsible investing, what comes to mind?

Working in the Investment industry, our aim is to help our customers’ “future selves” to have better lives. We feel that we have a responsibility to ensure we put your hard earned money in the right places; not just the right places for you, but the right places for everyone, and for society as a whole.

The investment decisions we make can influence corporations, industries and governments – and that’s both incredibly exciting and challenging. 

In a nutshell, what’s ANZ Investments’ approach to responsible investing?

Firstly, we exclude some companies and industries based on their involvement in areas of harm, or for breaching global norms. For example, we don’t invest in companies that manufacture controversial weapons, tobacco or firearms, or those involved in whaling. We also don’t invest in companies that earn a large part of their revenues from thermal coal mining, the extraction of unconventional oil and gas or from adult entertainment.

However, we don’t just have a list of exclusions – we do a lot more than that!

At ANZ Investments, we believe that environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are also important drivers of long-term investment risks and returns. That’s why we delve into these factors to try and identify what the risks and opportunities are for each and every investment we make. We look at environmental factors like climate change, social factors like the treatment of employees and human rights, and governance factors like transparency and diversity in leadership.

But that’s not all. We place just as much importance on stewardship, which involves using our influence as investment managers with a view to shaping the behaviour of a number of companies we invest in. Working on behalf of investors, the aim is to encourage more sustainable business practices and improved corporate behaviour.  Our investment team, as well as the overseas investment managers who we work with, regularly talk to companies and industry bodies to drive good practice. They vote at companies’ Annual General Meetings (AGMs) in ways that can influence them for the better and, as New Zealand’s largest investment manager, we can have a real influence.

How is New Zealand placed compared to other countries to tackle the real issues that encompass responsible investing?

New Zealand is really just starting out on its responsible investment journey as we haven’t been investing for as long as some other countries. But I think, as kiwis, we have more of a connection with our local environment and community, so we can be quite impassioned when it comes to responsible investment.

I also think that sometimes we can feel a bit disconnected from the rest of the world – believing we’re a small fish in a big pond – but at ANZ Investments that’s not the case. Our chosen overseas investment managers have broad expertise and we have a direct say in how our investments are made and with whom.

To find out more about ANZ Investments’ approach to responsible investing, check out our Responsible Investment Framework, which you can find on our sustainable investing page. Within it you’ll find links to our full list of company exclusions, as well as information about our targeted climate change approach and how we provide our investors with full transparency – so that you can assess how our responsible investment approach is working in practice.