Agents of Impact | September 24, 2019

In impact talent twist, candidates are vetting employers’ impact bona fides

Kate Shattuck and Gloria Mirrione
Guest Author

Kate Shattuck

Guest Author

Gloria Mirrione

ImpactAlpha, Sept. 24 – It’s usually the organization that is testing candidates for cultural fit and commitment. But more and more we are seeing candidates in the impact investing sector testing organizations on their commitment to the space.

As much as our role at Korn Ferry is to work with Boards and CEOs to find the right executive for a leadership role, or to evaluate top potential, we are finding that top tier impact investing candidates are now the ones doing the evaluating.  

For the leadership roles we are recruiting for, candidates are taking the lead with “pre-qualifying” questions — sometimes before they even put their hat in the ring.  Some of these questions include:

  • Describe the ESG engagement across products and portfolio?
  • Describe the LP’s ESG engagement and KPI reporting requirements?
  • Describe not only Senior Management engagement, but more importantly, mid and junior level investment professionals’ ESG interest and integration?
  • Describe the firm’s commitment to ESG as it applies to investment cycles.

The motive behind these questions isn’t simply to uncover red flags. For top executives considering a move to a new platform in the impact space, their reputation is also on the line. Our sources in the impact community have relayed numerous scenarios to us, some good, some bad, and some ugly. Here’s a sample of some of the things we’ve heard:

  • “My ESG mandate was uphill at best.”
  • “The CIO was a climate denier and I couldn’t break through to him the imperative for a climate risk metric in the portfolio.”
  • “Our CEO was a true ambassador, but the portfolio managers didn’t care and the ESG policy was collecting dust on their desk.”
  • The Advisory Board had big names but haven’t run an organization…they don’t know what it takes to run an ESG program.”

As competition for impact investing talent intensifies, it’s not just the candidate who is interviewing for a job – Boards, CEOs, and other senior leaders are as well.