Meet Helen Skinner

ANZ's new Head of Responsible Investment

As investment markets continue to evolve, one prominent theme is the increasing role of responsible investing. As an investment manager, we have an obligation to meet standards that we can stand behind, and more importantly, standards that you, our investors, expect from us.

These standards also have to fit within the frameworks set out by governments, regulators and other institutions. As these standards change over time, and we learn more about the impact of responsible investing, we too have to adapt to ensure ANZ Investments remains an industry leader.

To allow us to stay at the forefront of responsible investing, we need to have some of the best people, which is why ANZ Investments is thrilled that Helen Skinner has joined us as our new Head of Responsible Investing.

Although Helen is still getting her ‘feet under the table’, we thought it would be good for our investors to learn a little bit about Helen and her new role.

Welcome aboard Helen. Firstly, tell us how you got into the investment industry, and what drew you to responsible investing?

I fell into the investment industry and responsible investing. I came from a household where money wasn’t talked about much, other than ensuring we had bank accounts and that we saved some of our pocket money. I’d also say my career path was unusual. Like many young people, I struggled with mental resilience during my first year at university and decided to leave. In those days, gap-years weren’t really 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 long-term investing and financial planning, and I loved it. I also witnessed how financial planning and investment can be a grateful support, especially in times of grief.

I then travelled for my OE (which turned into 16 years!) and ended up working in investment management. I again worked my up, learning about trading, markets, and responsible investment, and then into management roles in various companies across many different countries. I saw how investments can change people’s lives. I learnt that every action and decision of every staff member is key to ensuring our customers get the best experience. We have an incredible responsibility to look after our customers’ futures.

And that led me to focus on responsible investing.

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

Working in the Investment industry, we help our customers’ “future selves” have better lives.

We have a massive responsibility to ensure we put our customers’ hard earned money in the right places, not only for them, but for all. Our investment decisions can influence corporations, industries and governments – and that’s incredibly exciting and challenging. When we all join together, we have a big voice and we must ensure it’s used responsibly.

Responsible investing is also making sure we see the bigger picture when making investment decisions. We need to ensure we invest in a sustainable way as we’re looking after our customers’ money for the long term. We look at different factors within corporations, industries, and governments to try and identify what the risks and opportunities are that are coming our way. It includes looking at look at various environmental factors like climate change, social factors like the treatment of employees and the wider community, and governance factors like diversity in leadership. We work with highly experienced international managers, and we talk to corporations and industry bodies to drive good practice. We and our international managers will vote at company Annual General Meetings (AGMs) in ways that could influence companies for the better. We’re in it for the long term and we’re in it together.

Having spent many years working overseas, how is New Zealand placed compared to other countries to tackle the pertinent issues that encompass responsible investing?

I think New Zealand is pretty early in 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 think kiwis can sometimes feel a bit disconnected from the rest of the world – thinking that we’re a small fish in a big pond – but at ANZ Investments that’s not the case. The investment managers we employ overseas have a broad range of expertise and we have direct say as to how investments are made and with whom.

What do you see as ANZ Investments’ role when it comes to responsible investing? 

We look after a substantial amount of New Zealanders’ money and their future goals and lifestyle, so we need to ensure we are acting responsibly when making any investment. 

Responsible investing (also known as sustainable investing) is about making sure we cut through the noise that’s out there in the markets and look at the wider picture and the long term vision to foresee the risks and opportunities when investing. That way we can ensure we’re doing our very best for our customers for now and for their futures.

Finally, on a lighter note, what are some of your favourite books, TV shows, or podcasts you can share with us?

I’ve always got a couple of books on the go and am currently reading ‘The Maid’ by Nita Prose, as I love a good mystery, and ‘Becoming' by Michelle Obama.

I often have a podcast on in the car and am listening to some of our third party international equity managers, like MFS and Vontobel. I also like the TED interviews and Desert Island Discs, as well as some good kiwi content like the ‘Coppucino Podcast’, which has some interesting interviews hosted by New Zealand veteran police officer, Constable Bryan. And of course I’ve just finished watching Stranger Things 4… “Chrissy wake up!”

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