Mikael Homanen talks about his time involved in key industry conferences.

Published Friday, 1st February, 2019 in Student successes

Mikael Homanen, PhD student, Cass Business School was involved in key conferences organised by the Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI). Here’s what he had to say about his experience:

"My research lies at the intersection of Externalities, Morality and Financial Markets with a further focus on banking, corporate governance and investor ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) policies. In my work, I try to understand the real-life obstacles that investors face when tackling major problems like climate change.

The Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI) Academic Network Conference is a rising and important conference on Sustainable Finance, hosting top scholars from around the world. In conjunction, the PRI organizes a major conference for practitioners called the PRI in Person, which is attended by over 1,200 investment professionals from around the world. These professionals represent over 70$ trillion dollars’ worth of assets under management and collectively, they meet for a three day socially responsible investment conference for a series of high-profile panel sessions, keynotes and networking events. This year, these events took place in San Francisco with diverse and influential speakers including John Chiang, California State Treasurer and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. To top it off, even the U.S. Vice-President Al Gore showed up to give a passionate speech on the future of sustainable finance. Fortunately for me, I had the honor of being invited to both of these events. My paper on Depositor Activism, where I show that depositors take their money out of banks that were involved in environmental, corruption or tax evasion scandals, was accepted at the academic conference and I was personally invited as a speaker for their Millennials session at PRI in Person.

During the academic event, my paper received much attention from both academics and practitioners. One professional admitted personally to me that he himself had quit his job as a banker early 2000 as a reaction to NGOs protesting his bank’s un-environmentally friendly projects. Another investor approached me and admitted their personal reactions to some of the events that I document in my research. Their institution had cut ties with a bank, once they found out about the fraudulent activities their bank was involved in. These encounters gave confidence to my research and provided exactly the kind of anecdotal evidence I was hoping to hear from investors.

During the PRI in Person, I spent three full days networking with investment professionals from the asset management industry ranging from insurance companies, pension funds, mutual funds to investment bankers. It was a great opportunity to hear them share their experiences on sustainable investing and to hear how challenging they find it to address major issues like climate change in their investment processes. Furthermore, my session on Millennial Investors sparked interesting debates and many practitioners approached me afterwards thanking me for the session as well as inquiring about my personal work and research. Overall, it was a tremendous honour to have been able to participate in this hugely influential conference. The continued push from academics and practitioners to address real world challenges ranging from corruption, climate change to indigenous rights was truly inspirational."