We interviewed Maria Cortes, alumna of the Master in Sustainable Business & Innovation. Maria is from Colombia and currently lives in Canada. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on International Relations, Political Science and Food & Resource Economics. Before coming to EADA, Maria worked with various non-profit and governmental organisations in Vancouver. She also volunteered in the fields of education, migration and human rights for NGOs in Nepal and Mexico, as well as in various student associations at her alma mater, the University of British Columbia (UBC). As part of her UBC Co-op programme, Maria also completed an internship with the Embassy of Canada in Chile, where she was responsible for conducting research-related activities for the International Trade Department.
After completing her Master in Sustainable Business & Innovation at EADA, Maria worked for a sustainable consulting firm. In her role as Project Manager, she was responsible for the verification and certification of green building projects in Vancouver and the lower Mainland. Currently, Maria works as an ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) Analyst at Connor, Clark and Lunn (CC&L), one of the largest privately owned asset management firms in Canada. In this interview, Maria tells us about what drives her passion in responsible investing and how she got into the field.
What is an average day like for you as an Analyst at Connor, Clark and Lunn?
There is no average day at Connor, Clark and Lunn. Every day requires you to be on the ball and at top of your game. My work ranges from conducting data analysis, carbon footprint reporting and proxy voting to working with CC&L affiliates on ESG-related issues and shareholder proposals. As an analyst, I am also responsible for conducting research and keeping up to date with pressing ESG trends. Continuous learning is the foundation of my work, and it is what I love the most about it.
What is the most challenging part of your current position? And the most rewarding?
The most challenging part of my role is navigating the different needs and communication between and across affiliates regarding their ESG practices. At times, it can be difficult to coordinate with affiliates when it comes to specific business practices. Another challenge is conducting the UN PRI reporting, which requires a lot of time and contributions from across the firm.
On the other hand, the nature of my work at CC&L is very exciting. The most rewarding aspect is the positive difference we can make in our line of work. The ESG field is always evolving with new issues and developments.
How do you keep up with the latest trends in responsible investing? How important is this in your position?
Being up to date with the latest trends in responsible investing is highly essential for my role. The increased systemic challenges of climate change have incentivised the investing community to take concrete actions to find ways to mitigate the negative impact of climate- related issues on investments. I keep abreast of the latest ESG developments by constantly surrounding myself with reading materials written and published by renowned professionals in the field. An in depth understanding of the financial impact of climate-related issues is key in the promotion of responsible investments.
How do you think the field of impact investing will evolve over the next few years?
Impact investing is already here, and it will only become more mainstream. Known as “Digital Natives”, Millennials and those from the Generation Z are projected to become a major force within the investing community in the near future. Armed with environmental awareness, this cohort is definitely more ESG conscious when making investment decisions. We can see this shift reflected in the rapid growth of ESG-related investing products available in the market today.
What skills do you think are most important for someone interested in a position like yours?
The importance of technical skills and the drive to constantly learn and acquire new skills can’t be emphasised enough. I work in a very result-driven environment where everything is proven by the numbers. It is very important to be comfortable with numbers, tight daily deadlines, and a detail-oriented mindset to be able to deliver results.
How important are soft skills in your position?
Being well rounded and flexible is highly essential. Deliverables change day to day, and I have to ensure that my attention is always constantly aligned to the priorities of the firm and my team. Aside from technical competencies, excellent communication and interpersonal skills are equally as important in order to be able to work effectively with various stakeholders across the firm.
How do you use what you learned at EADA in your current position?
The unique EADA experience was formative in my personal and professional growth: from the leadership development modules, exchange programme and Sustainability Week to the extracurricular activities to learn about the consulting industry. The well-rounded nature of the programme gave me the space to reflect on my personal strengths and weaknesses. Once we know ourselves better, we are truly able to have a clear sense of purpose and career direction.
The international exposure also allowed me to develop connections with a diverse group of young professionals. This was essential in strengthening my abilities in negotiation, teamworking and diplomacy, all skills that I use on a daily basis as an analyst at CC&L.
What advice do you have for students looking to get into the field of responsible investing?
I suggest students to really hone in on technical skills and build on that foundation further by obtaining credentials related to sustainable business and/or finance. Shareholders, especially Institutional ones like pension funds, are always on the lookout for SRIs, and they conduct extensive internal evaluation processes and technical due diligence when it comes to responsible investment options. To succeed in the field of responsible investing, students should also be very comfortable with quantitative methods and the dynamics of a fast-paced professional environment.