EDHEC: Leading the way ahead for sustainable change

There are always a few skeptics when it comes to new concepts. For some, Sustainable Finance is merely a buzzword: a fad, dressed up and greenwashed, ready to dazzle those who believe. Fortunately…
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27 Apr 2021

There are always a few skeptics when it comes to new concepts. For some, Sustainable Finance is merely a buzzword: a fad, dressed up and greenwashed, ready to dazzle those who believe. Fortunately for us, however, there are strong believers and influencers at the top, like Robert Ophèle, (chairman of the AMF) who know that sustainable finance is much more than a superficial sparkle. Quoted as saying: “Financing the transition of our economies to a more environmentally and people-friendly development model has become a challenge that we can no longer ignore. We, therefore, need to address this as a matter of urgency and mobilize all our energies” … his words say it all.  It is essential for change. One thing that is certain; a U-turn in climate change will hang heavily on responsible investment.       

Recently interviewed on BFM TV, Robert Ophèle confirmed this but also underlined that to achieve it, we have a long road ahead. He stressed to succeed, the financial industry will require a combination of the right financial and scientific expertise along with strong financial controls put in place at a European level. This is a clear message to business schools around the world that there is a true need to equip graduates with the right know-how in this specialization.  Only by doing so can we ensure that finance professionals around the world can honorably develop sustainable finance and become leaders in transparent investment decisions.

EDHEC is known to have its finger on the pulse. It is, therefore no surprise that very soon it will be opening its MSc in Climate Change & Sustainable Finance, This innovating double diploma in partnership with Mines ParisTech is yet another example of why it is a top-ranking educational institution.

Sustainable Finance is far from new to EDHEC. It has been inbuilt in the FE Track programme for many years. Pioneered by Professor Lionel Martellini, Professor Gianfranco Gianfrate and Professor Riccardo Rebonato, this base of expertise has been years in the making. For years, these academics have shared their passion for this subject with their students, inspiring many of them to specialize in the field.  EDHEC’s MSc in Climate Change and Sustainable Finance is, therefore, a logical development and a true accolade to all those who have been involved in its planning. It is yet another step further to ensure there are skilled financial experts in an ever-growing field. Although currently a grounding in sustainable finance is already given to all EDHEC FE Track students, this degree is certainly a positive step further to reach real market needs. That being, true financial expertise together with a real understanding of climate change.

One thing is flagrant so far, Gianfranco Gianfrate and Lionel Martinelli have certainly inspired many of their students along the way. Perhaps good examples, out of the many students would be  Eflamm Guegen, (winner GARP & Veolia Prize) or indeed current student Giacomo Gualtieri, (member of the Student Finance Club - ESFC responsible for their Sustainable Finance Branch) both are enthusiastic and focused to making this a more sustainable planet.

Another good example and indeed proof of EDHEC’s real focus and dedication to this field would be Thibaud Noël. He is a recent FE Track graduate who has chosen to focus on sustainability.  We asked Thibaud his thoughts on his blooming career along with his vision for future graduates wishing to study and work in this field.

Where are you working now?

I am at Sia Partners, a management consulting firm. Currently, I’m part of the Corporate Investment Banking & Capital Markets team working within the ESG task force *

What does this team focus on in layman's terms?

It’s a task force that aims to capitalize on our expertise in sustainability and green finance. We along with our trained network of professionals support our clients invest in their sustainable projects. Amongst our clients, we have big energy companies, banks – more specifically CIBs (Corporate Investment Banks).

What inspired you to specialize in this field?

Ah, various factors… Of course, my classes at EDHEC in Sustainable Finance played a big part but I think, as with all decisions, it was a combination of things.

Firstly, I think my GAP year in London was an influencer. I worked in the Debt Capital Market team at Commerzbank. It was just at that time we saw the early generation of green bonds. 

Perhaps, however, the greatest influence was the time I spent in India. From August 2019 to January 2020, I was living in Hyderabad and studying on an exchange programme with one of EDHEC’s partner schools: The Indian School of BusinessMy stay in India reinforced my wish to make an impact on fighting for sustainability and play a proactive part in achieving change.

Why will your particular job make a difference?

I think mainly because my role involves helping banks to implement a shift to a low carbon energy business model. We accompany them in the implementation of a new strategy from operation to transformation through to organization and we also ensure they are aware and understand the latest EU regulations in terms of ESG (which takes form in the regulatory watch, decryption, studies, and benchmark).

How do you think you will make an impact?

I try to believe that I will be a part of making an impact on the environmental ecosystem. I strongly believe that banks will be highly influential over the next few years. CIBs have an enormous role to play in creating sustainability. The pandemic crisis has certainly been a powerful catalyst for future investors to put green factors at the top of their agenda. However, it is our whole mindset needs to evolve. Working in this sector will make me an integral part of the change.

How do you see the job market for those who chose our new MSc?

I am more than 90% sure that those graduates will have jobs rapidly. It is, at the moment, “a hot topic”. Proof of this is that ESG teams in banks are growing all the time and we now have whole teams dedicated to ESG issues. But it is not only banks, it is of course also companies who are taking into account topics addressed by ESG (Environmental Social and Governance). They are therefore needing financial expertise. Consultancy agencies, (similar to Sia Partners) are also looking for well-trained staff in this domain. All in all, it is an area of real growth. The creation of this MSc is a real opportunity… I would have really liked to have done this!

What is your vision for the next 10 years?

Although just now there are still insufficient financial resources for stimulating green activities, I’m pretty sure that all the major actors (from banks, companies, and consulting companies) have understood that ESG and sustainable Finance are here to stay. It will, therefore, continue to be a really big topic.  Indeed, it will become more and more important as time progresses. As I said, jobs are being created, CEOs of companies are putting their energies into trying to understand its importance… so I’m confident that ESG and sustainable finance will be a major aspect of a company’s future business model. Banks are starting to put a huge emphasis on developing green assets, reducing brown activities, and integrating climate-related risks into bank’s capital requirements in order to redirect funds to a low-carbon economy.

How do you think we will create real change?

Finance is certainly the pivotal element to achieve change. However, I do believe that a change in habits needs to come from all sides; both personal and professional.  We need to act responsibly in our daily lives to ensure bad habits change. I couldn’t do this job if I was not eco-responsible in my daily life… It wouldn’t be honest! The two go together. In fact, it’s this combination that will catalyze the significant change we need.

And finally, a difficult one – do you think we’ll manage to meet the Paris Agreement?

Yes, I think we’ll get there because we are certainly going in the right direction. All the major players are putting strength into this objective. Global Investments in Green Finance have to be multiplied by 15.4 to meet 2030 goals so I don’t know if it will be soon, but I am confident we will definitely succeed to achieve sustainable life.



 *The company announced in 2019 its strategy “consulting for the good” with a focus on Climate Analysis, Social Responsibility, Ethics & Compliance, Responsible AI. Sia Partners wants to position itself at the forefront of low carbon transition.

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