Responsible Investment: What it Says on the Tin, with Added Punch and Attention to Detail

Matt Christensen AXA IM

Global Head of Impact Strategy and Responsible Investment: Matt Christensen

The rise of responsible investment (RI) as a crucial part of the financial industry has been one of the defining themes of the past two decades.

Matt Christensen has been at the heart of it for most of those 20 years. These days, he lives and works in Paris, heading up RI and impact strategy for AXA IM, the investment arm of the French insurer, AXA Group. Christensen’s efforts have helped to gain recognition for the group’s vocal and respected stance on sustainable investment.

He arrived in 2011, at a moment when the world was starting to peer out from beneath the fallout of the global financial crisis. Markets were looking bullish again (and would do for another eight years), underpinned by central bank and fiscal support. AXA IM had been delivering RI solutions for its clients since 1998, and there was clear potential to build on those strong foundations. The aim was to embed RI principles and ESG factors in every part of the business.

Christensen’s RI team is now 15 strong, and connected to another 15 ESG experts with specific asset-class focus, integrated throughout AXA IM’s investment teams – and it is still delivering on that early promise.

It was a natural path. In 2002, Christensen had been the founding executive director of Eurosif, the Europe-wide association of asset managers, pension funds and other financial services firms. It represented €600bn in AUM, and his work there focused on promoting the role of RI, drafting public policy recommendations for the European Commission, and developing industry standards.

Christensen also developed key research initiatives, such as an EU-wide study on ESG assets under management, as well as the first study on the then-nascent impact investment market in private equity. He was a member of the commission’s co-ordination committee to explore the future of sustainability policy and legislation in the EU, a position he held until joining AXA IM.

It helps to explain why AXA IM has sought to play a leadership role in promoting new standards for the industry, and in collaborative efforts to push for change. That includes the recent call for an entirely new asset class, Transition Bonds, designed to finance projects that put carbon-intensive companies on a more eco-friendly path.

That ties in with US-born Christensen’s entrepreneurial background, something else he has brought to his work. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School and has taken those skills into strategy consultancy, personal finance and the digital economy —arenas where success is measured by goals achieved and progress made.

It’s that decisive focus on getting things done that has shaped his approach at AXA IM. His tenure has ensured that every vote counts, and that investment in every asset class is guided by ESG and has increasing impact.

At AXA IM, Matt Christensen has personally made sure that every opportunity is taken to promote the importance of sustainable investment to the responsible, active and long-term clients whose interests he serves.

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