Schroders’ hunt for climate experts shows newest front in ESG talent war

Asset managers are on the hunt for experts who can help them meet their ambitious net-zero emissions targets — and are willing to pay top dollar to attract the right candidates.

As the battle for ESG talent continues to play out across the fund management sector, recruiters say climate specialists have become some of this year’s most sought-after professionals, with candidates from non-financial-services backgrounds able to double their pay in some cases.

“It was inevitable that these types of roles would surface given that most banks and asset managers have pledged towards reaching net-zero goals”, said Sophia Deen, associate director at recruitment firm Bruin Financial.

“There is a huge demand here and firms need the right people to ensure they meet their net-zero goals.”

A swathe of financial services firms have set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or earlier, prompted by pressure from shareholders and a growing body of evidence that the climate change crisis is getting worse.

One of the largest initiatives — the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero — comprises more than 450 banks, insurers and asset managers from 45 countries. The group, established to coincide with last year’s COP26 summit in the Scottish city, aims to pledge around $100tn of financing to help economies transition to net zero over the next three decades.

According to Deen, the majority of senior ESG hires across asset management firms were fulfilled last year, where salaries for some global roles topped £500,000. Now, firms are looking to fill climate specialist, analyst and ESG manager roles to act as second in command.

Salaries for climate specialists reflect high demand. Deen said these roles were currently commanding the biggest salaries, with pay ranging between £105,000 and £135,000.

Schroders and Credit Suisse Asset Management are among firms currently looking for such expertise.

Schroders Capital — the private assets team that oversees investments in non-public markets such as real estate, infrastructure, private debt and private equity — posted a job advert for a climate specialist in February.

Schroders, which is now linking fund manager and analyst pay to sustainability goals, is also member of the Net Zero Asset Manager initiative, which sets a goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050 or sooner.

“This role will be key for the research, development and implementation of all aspects related to climate analysis, methodology, investment portfolio, product offering as well as investment solutions at Schroders Capital,” the job advert states.

“The focus of this position is to contribute to building increased transparency of greenhouse gas emissions linked to private assets investments and to identify and establish innovative business models to reduce overall emissions at portfolio level.”

Meanwhile, Credit Suisse Asset Management wants to hire a climate specialist to “contribute to the net-zero strategy, target setting and climate transition work within CSAM and coordinate with the broader Credit Suisse organisation,” a February job posting states.

“If you look at what the key trends are at the moment, net zero is a significant one,” said Tom Strelczak, founder of executive search firm TWS.

Asset managers are on the lookout for individuals who can support the transition of their own assets to net zero, as well as help fulfil their climate reporting and disclosure requirements, he said.

Interpreting climate data, defining net-zero methodologies and working with data analysts and fund managers are among the must-have skills.

While some asset managers are “background agnostic” when it comes to hiring climate specialists, those from outside financial services can expect a significant uptick in pay, said Strelczak.

Candidates with five years’ climate experience being placed with a large institutional asset manager can command a basic salary of between £80,000 and £100,000, with a bonus of anywhere between 30% and 50% on top of this.

Those with 10-20 years’ experience who can analyse climate data and feed this information into how fund managers invest and engage with companies could command a basic salary between £120,000 and £160,000, with an additional bonus.

“A lot of people that have climate backgrounds, such as from universities, think-tanks or NGOs, have been compensated in line with how that portion of the market pays, which is pretty poorly compared to financial services,” said Strelczak.

“There is a bit of a pillaging going on of people from non-financial services backgrounds with climate change experience, because it is an easy win to pay them double what they are on at the moment.”

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