Investment trusts, Jamie Oliver and renewable electricity suppliers: Working from home with EQ Investors’ Sophie Kennedy

In this regular series, female members of the ESG investment industry detail their transition to remote working


Natalie Kenway

In this regular series, female members of the ESG investment industry detail how they are dealing with the transition to remote working during the coronavirus fallout

Following on from our sister title Portfolio Adviser which has been running the Working from Home series with investment experts from the wider industry, we are running these articles twice a week with women in ESG. This week we speak to Sophie Kennedy, head of investing at EQ Investors and ESG Clarity‘s editorial panellist.

How has the coronavirus affected your day-to-day work – from both a portfolio and workplace perspective?

We are assessing our portfolio positioning daily and keeping as up-to-date as possible with the medical information flow and subsequent investment implications. While we are looking to take advantage of some of the dislocation in the investment trust market, our portfolios are diversified across asset classes, regions and sectors and therefore we have not had to make any wholesale changes. The same can’t be said from a workplace perspective, it couldn’t be more different! I am now juggling being a mummy to our 10-month old daughter Mila, working full-time and trying to keep the house in some order! Luckily, I’m an awful cook and my husband the next Jamie Oliver so I’ve got off lightly in the kitchen!

What has been your biggest contributor to performance since the coronavirus hit markets? What has been your biggest detractor?

For our Positive Impact Portfolios our sector positioning and fund selection have been a key contributor to performance; specifically no exposure to energy and mining, an underweight to banks and an overweight to healthcare and utilities. In addition, structurally reducing the UK equity exposure across all our strategies has also been beneficial. Within these strategies, some of our bond funds with significant credit exposure detracted from performance.

What feedback have you had from clients since the coronavirus sell-off?

In normal times, client communications are central to our day-to-day agenda at EQ. The importance and clarity of these are even more significant during this volatile period. We have been on the front foot thus far, being as clear and transparent as possible with regards to portfolio positioning, performance and our thinking. It’s important to interact using different types of media and our video updates have been particularly well-received.

It is always hard to gauge how much clients want to hear from you, but feedback so far has been that clients feel very safe and secure with us. Thankfully, our Best Ideas and Positive Impact strategies have held-up well, that helps.

How do you think attitudes to ESG initiatives will be affected as we move through the crisis?

ESG funds have fared better than the wider global index and I think we’ll see more mainstream investment managers adding impact and ESG funds to their portfolios.

In terms of ESG integration into the investment management decision making process. The consensus across the industry supports this. It helps to create an information advantage and equip fund managers with an understanding of the relevant risks and opportunities – in turn improving risk-adjusted returns and reducing drawdowns.

How do you find working remotely during volatile markets?

I have been amazed at how little disruption we have experienced as a team and a company while having to work from home. Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, WhatsApp, email etc. have meant we have been able to communicate efficiently… in some cases too much so. Our investment team are meeting by video link every day and have all their usual systems available. In these highly volatile markets, it may actually be beneficial to have a little physical distance!

For the gents in the team, they are using the lockdown to give their razors a break and have taken this as an opportunity to grow (or in some cases try to grow) an impressive array of beards!

What do you do for fun when you take a break from working at home?

My answer to this has changed dramatically since a time know referred to as “pre-baby party times”. A break from working currently translates to changing nappies, feeding, playing, bathing, puppet shows, ball pits & bouncers…. All made a little easier with a nice glass of rosé if the sun is over the yardarm!

What is your favourite sustainable snack/hot drink when working from home?

Homemade hummus! Tinned chickpeas are sustainable, nutritious, cheap & accessible; just add with some extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon. Even better… the tin is also widely recyclable!

How is home schooling being managed in your household?

Less schooling, more entertaining a 10-month old. We panic bought toys in the initial stages of the lockdown… Mila was amazed at the sudden appearance of a ball pit, tepee & enough books and toys to last a lifetime! Or not, three weeks in and she is less than impressed with it all and far more enjoys eating leaves in the garden.

Do you have a ‘top green tip’ to share on working remotely?

Now is the time to make sure you are using a renewable electricity & energy supplier at home. It’s likely we are all using more electricity while we are spending so much time at home and by subscribing to renewable energy suppliers you could be supporting the demand for further scaling on renewable energy in the UK grid from the comfort of your sofa!

To view the previous articles from the Working from Home with … series see below:

Cushioning the falls and home-schooling in French: Working from Home with Morningstar’s Hortense Bioy

Reducing emissions and Morrisons’ corporate responsibility: Working from Home with Kames’ Miranda Beacham

Deadlines, schoolwork and team drinks: Working from home with ESG Clarity’s Natalie Kenway

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