INTERVIEW WITH AMANI BOROS
Amani Boros, Head of ESG for State Street Bank International, recently shared her thoughts on diversity and sustainability with DiverCity. Amani emphasised that diversity includes not just gender, sexual orientation, race, or disabilities: ‘For me it also includes diversity of thought and age – particularly regarding sustainability and climate risk, because the future is really for the NextGen and Gen Z.’ Sustainability, she tells us, means ‘protecting the only home that we have, Earth, and protecting those who live in it.’
When we asked Amani to tell us about the challenges and rewards of her job, she shared that finding talent can be difficult, in particular with climate risk experience. ‘We’ve had ESG for a long time, but it hasn’t always been taken as seriously and in particular climate risk.’ There is an increased desire by corporations including financial institutions to integrate sustainability across their operations, however there are also many challenges impacting its progress, including differing regulatory requirements, lack of innovative climate solutions and of course, the struggle to find the right talent. On a more personal note, she highlights that working in this area allows her to contribute to the sustainable direction of the organisation. ‘Creating an impact is so important, and sustainability allows you to do that.’
Amani advises young professionals who want to work in the ESG and Impact Investing space that the key ingredient is passion and a keen interest in the space. ‘You need to be passionate – you may get pushback, knowing your purpose and the impact you seek to make will be key.’ She recommends aspiring ESG specialists ask themselves: ‘What kind of impact do I want to make , and where in the organisation do I fit?’ She emphasises that there are many opportunities for the right people in the ESG and Impact space given the increased investor and regulatory interests.
As for the path that led Amani herself to her current role, she tells us she comes from a legal background: ‘I went to law school and started off at an American bank.’ She later moved to Barclays Investment Bank and then spent 6 years at Credit Suisse, where she worked in risk management before going into sustainability. Amani had interest for sustainable and impactful projects and was deeply involved in projects focusing on education and women farmers and entrepreneurs outside of the finance sector.
Regarding sustainable investments, Amani underlines that much depends on who they are for. State Street just launched a 500 million dollar sustainable bond to be invested across various sustainable projects, to support people from underprivileged backgrounds, social impact and climate risk initiatives and innovative climate solutions. It was oversubscribed x4 times, showing a clear interest by the markets and by clients, she adds.
When we mention the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, she laughs and reaches for a poster above her desk – ‘I live and breathe them. When we launch products, we look at the SDGs. We’ve just integrated this in a mainstream way to align our products with the SDGs, including our Sustainable Bond.’
As regards to Amani’s plans and ambitions, she tells us that she wants to make sure she builds ‘a practical and impactful Sustainability function that supports our clients, adheres to regulatory expectations and supports a sustainable business model. It’s all about making a positive impact.’ On that note, she mentions Amatte, a direct trade premium coffee company she founded four years ago, to empower female farmers across Africa. The ethos of Amatte is simple: you can do good and also be profitable.
I deeply care about equity in the workplace and society as a whole. This usually translates as a task which sits within the Diversity and Inclusion function. I am of the view that such an important topic is a responsibility and duty of each and one of us – I believe that diversity in its entirety, including diversity of thoughts, is fundamental to ensure an organisation remains innovative and competitive. Personally, diversity is all about equal opportunities; everyone should be given the same opportunities to succeed regardless of their background. In my previous experience, I identified a gap within the ethnic minorities and worked with the group Board to reposition and rejuvenate the need to focus on, and create awareness around, ethnic diversity. I shaped the strategy and approached senior leaders in the firm to gain their buy-in. As a result, the Board agreed to double the number of ethnic minorities VP to MD level, of course based on meritocracy.
And what does she think of State Street, now that she’s been there for 2 months? ‘State Street has a very good culture. We have smart people who are driven and place ethics, trust and respect at the forefront of what we do. We’re a huge organisation with around 3trn AUM and 43trn assets under custody on the investment servicing side, around 100 different offices and 40.000 employees. Can we do better? Of course, there’s always room for improvement and you can always do more in the sustainability, and we’re already planning more initiatives and challenging ourselves.’
One area she sees as a challenge in the market is, attracting talent – competition is fierce. Candidates have options, and high expectations: ‘They want Sustainability to be taken seriously by their employers, they want evidence that companies take it seriously.’ She currently needs to fill 3 positions and points out that 2 candidates will need to be experienced, but hopes to give a chance to a third person who may not come from a sustainability background. There are many courses online these days and many roles. Many professionals who come into a sustainability role come from various professional backgrounds, including strategy, risk management, engineering and legal. It really depends on the area within sustainability you are interested in.