Q&A with Iain Lindsay from AIM, our Global Climate Bond partner

investment viewpoints

Q&A with Iain Lindsay from AIM, our Global Climate Bond partner

The expertise guiding our Global Climate Bond fund has been strengthened by Iain Lindsay, a fixed-income professional with more than 30 years’ experience, joining Affirmative Investment Management (AIM), our partner in managing the impact-driven capability.

Global Climate Bond, which seeks to outperform by financing projects aimed at climate-change mitigation and adaptation, recently earned the esteemed Febelfin Towards Sustainability label1. Iain has joined AIM as a member of the Management Committee and Co-Chair of the Investment Committee, and shares his perspectives on successful fixed-income investment and career learnings to date in the following Q&A.

 

1. What attracted you to joining AIM and deciding to come out of retirement?

There were a number of factors that convinced me to leave the short-lived comforts of my retirement. I was inspired by the singular sustainable investing focus of the firm, the assembly of expertise, the simplicity (and purity) of investment process, freedom to shape our destiny and that of our industry, and the nascent culture of collaboration, entrepreneurship and respect. We are a team that is sincere in its intentions to do the right thing by our clients.

 

2. What makes a l fixed-income investment manager successful in the long term?

There are four core attributes which make a long-term, successful fixed-income manager: a proven investment process, disciplined execution, self-interrogation and open-mindedness. Objectivity is crucial at all times and investment professionals must have awareness of their behavioural biases. The team’s openness to discussion and debate, supporting check and challenge, encouraging diverse perspectives, looking for the information that is missing and not responding only to the information presented are all critically important human ingredients.

 

3. How does this translate to delivering consistent financial returns?

Financial returns are generated through the disciplined application of your investment process. The process should reveal attractive investment opportunities, however identifying an attractive opportunity is only the start. Value is created through diligent execution during the life cycle of the investment opportunity, from implementation to regular review and closure. Consistent, long-term investment performance is then generated by continually executing on multiple and diverse investment opportunities. This is playing the ‘numbers game’: always seeking to implement multiple, smaller investments, rather than a few, large, concentrated views.

 

4. Given you have experienced a number of cycles during your 30 years in fixed income markets, and given the current low-yield environment, where do you see the opportunities and areas for caution?

Experience has taught me that every market cycle is different and that the next attractive investment opportunities can be either hidden from view or unrecognised in plain sight.

While macroeconomic factors will remain the principal determinant of bond yields, credit spreads and currency values, attractive investment opportunities can come from anticipating the structural changes driving these market values. Social attitudes, the role of the state, macroeconomic resilience and information consumption are four examples of structural changes influencing the flow of capital. Historical reference alone can be a distraction when looking for attractive opportunities.

The latest rapid accumulation of the sovereign debt burden, low levels of inflation, fiscal limits, corporate and household precaution and excess market liquidity all make for an intriguing environment within which to invest. Uncertainty now tends to come in short, sharp episodes and less in the day-to-day market noise. The notion of a risk-free asset is being questioned. Negative yields were once unimaginable.

What constitutes an ‘attractive’ investment opportunity itself has changed. The rapid expansion in the supply and demand for bonds issued to support environmental and social projects is now a key determinant of investment selection, accompanying prospective economic returns. The arms-length exchange of capital between investor and borrower no longer suffices as investors increasingly retain a vested interest in how their capital is being deployed and hold the borrower to account.

To that end, some of the best investment opportunities are likely to come from the increasing, diverse array of corporate issuers leading the transition to social and economic sustainability. As a consequence, these issuers are consequently expected to be the next generation of corporate champions.

 

5. What was your biggest learning from your career to date?

My biggest learning was the value of teamwork and comradeship. To succeed, you must have confidence in the professional judgement of those around you, and you must earn the trust and confidence of others. Be aligned and singularly focused on your mission to deliver on your clients’ investment objectives and wider needs. Think beyond the letter and always consider the spirit of the rule or regulation that you are governed by. It should never what ‘can you do’ but what ‘should you do’.

 

6. Tell us something about yourself that we do not know, but you think we will find interesting.

I should have been a farmer. I grew up on a cattle and sheep farm with my parents and three brothers. My particular interest was in animal husbandry and the Belted Galloway is my favourite breed of cow.

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