Deciphering the ESG codes with Nadia Humphreys

Nadia Humphreys, Business Manager, Sustainable Finance Solutions at Bloomberg talks to Lynn Strongin Dodds about ESG, taxonomy and accessibility.

The world of sustainability is moving at such a pace, it is seemingly difficult to keep pace with the raft of regulations, dictums, initiatives and demands. However, Nadia Humphreys, Business Manager, Sustainable Finance solutions at Bloomberg, is adept at adroitly juggling all the different aspects of her job.
Humphreys not only oversees Bloomberg’s European business and regulatory offerings, but also supports the technical expert group for Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission product sub-committee on recommendations for environment, social and governance (ESG) product level. In addition, as co-rapporteur of the data and usability sub-group of the European Commission’s Platform for Sustainable Finance, an advisory body comprising experts from the private and public sector, she is close to the regulatory agenda.

A great deal of her attention lately has been on advising the Commission on the review of the Taxonomy Regulation which establishes an EU-wide classification system intended to provide businesses and investors with a common language to identify to what degree economic activities can be considered environmentally sustainable. It is closely aligned with the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR). which imposes measurement and reporting obligations on corporations, financial products, and government bodies.

“The Taxonomy is currently being expanded and updated to cover additional areas such as the circular economy, water and marine resources, pollutant prevention and control, as well as biodiversity and eco systems,” says Humphreys. “The Platform is set to make technical recommendations for these objectives, due to be published at the end of 2021.”

Humphreys believes employing the Taxonomy will help investors have a clearer view of whether their investments are contributing towards European environmental objectives, and to what degree their portfolios are aligned with the Taxonomy for their own reporting. She believes that there will be a steep learning curve to fill the education gap in terms of reporting the correct data, as well as digesting the information to make a good assessment.

“My role at Bloomberg is to offer advice, interpret and decode the rules,” she says. “One of the biggest challenges is the availability of data, because often ESG is an alphabet soup of terms, and companies may be disclosing hundreds of key performance indicators. Our job is to make the data more accessible and useful for clients.”

Bloomberg has teamed up with Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), a fellow member of the Platform for Sustainable Finance, to develop quantitative approaches and models to assess taxonomy alignment. They have produced a step-by-step guide to help clients build their own frameworks.

Although ESG has been gaining momentum over the years, Humphreys believes that Covid-19 provided an impetus. “We have known for many years that ESG helps outperformance, but it was hard to make a direct link,” she says. “However, we have seen a lot more correlation since the pandemic. The social side of ESG has also come to the forefront. In the past, the focus was mainly on environment and governance strategies.”

New horizons
Humphreys herself is a relative newcomer to the sustainable world, having picked up her current remit two years ago. However, she is passionate about her work and a fast learner. She believes her 20 years’ working on both sides of the fence – buy and sellside – has given her an “excellent grounding” to understand the different facets of the financial services industry and the needs of its participants.

“I have worked across the industry, in asset management, insurance and banking,” she says. “I learnt how the industry worked operationally and gained a good grounding across financial markets. It has strengthened my ability to connect with clients. I understand the triggers and also how regulation can be used to incentivise and drive certain outcomes.”

Humphreys started her career at JP Morgan as an analyst and stayed over five years rising through the ranks to vice president. She learnt the ropes in a variety of roles across interest rate and credit derivatives, private wealth. She also headed the EMEA Operations team for the Proprietary Positioning Business before moving onto Goldman Sachs as EMEA head of Credit Derivative Middle Office and Embedded Risk Manager for EMEA Derivatives across asset classes. She was also EMEA Head – Trade and Transaction Reporting.

Although she spent around seven years in total at Goldman Sachs, she left in the middle to join Rothesay Life, a subsidiary of the Goldman Sachs Group, as executive director where she managed pensions & reinsurance operations, including the merger of Paternoster and Rothesay businesses. She was also responsible for the power outage, property catastrophe and lender placed insurance business support of Arrow Re prior to becoming Global Atlantic.

Humphreys was first exposed to the inner workings of Bloomberg when she was nominated within Goldman Sachs as a business coach to support their 10,000 Small Businesses programme which aims to help entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing greater access to education, capital and business support services.

“We worked closely with small business owners to help them develop their business and mitigate any problems,” she adds. “It was also the first time I worked with Bloomberg and the company seemed more like a think-tank. I found the openness, transparency, innovation and collaboration attractive.”

Humphreys joined in 2016 as Global Head, Entity Services and Regulatory Outreach where she managed a global team for Bloomberg’s KYC (Know Your Customer) solution – Entity Exchange. She was in this position for almost three years before moving to her current role.

Scaling the ladder
While her 19-year-old self may not have contemplated the exact direction of her career, she would not have been disappointed by the journey. She has not only risen through the ranks but has also added value at each rung. “I wanted to be mentally stretched and in a very fast paced, challenging environment,” she adds. “Overall, in my career, I have been able to experience different roles across many parts of the financial sector. This has allowed me to learn a great deal about the industry, as well as myself.”

As for diversity and inclusion, Bloomberg has won plaudits for its diversity and inclusion initiatives across the organisation. Humphreys, who sat on Bloomberg’s EMEA Diversity Council, says, “The importance of D&I is well recognised, and we foster inclusion and promote collaboration at Bloomberg,” she says.

“If you are working in an innovative environment, you need disruptive and diverse thought, where all angles are taken into account. However, in general, there should be a push for more diverse representation and role models that reflect the wider community. This means investing in career development and stretching all members of the team and holding them to account.”

©Markets Media Europe 2021

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