NN Group's focus on responsible investing is a stand out in this year's chief investment officer (CIO) award. Like other insurers, the company has been concerned with the arduous task of generating returns in a low interest environment. But equally important for NN is the focus on responsible investment policy.
Indeed, the Dutch group's chief investment officer Jelle van der Giessen has always maintained his commitment to responsible investing.
"Quite some time ago we made green investing an essential issue going forward," he says. "It is important from a risk and return perspective but also from a market and reputational perspective. I think we have to take responsibility as a very large investor. We need to do whatever we can for sustainability."
Van der Giessen, who has been overseeing NN's general investment account since 2013, has made it his focus to push NN's responsible investment framework. This includes finding the right products to invest in and ensuring that its existing portfolio is helping to advance the sustainability message. NN's combined investments in green bonds and renewable projects within its infrastructure debt portfolio grew to €540m ($660m) at the end of 2017.
Meanwhile, NN Group's asset manager, NN Investment Partners, had €10.9bn in socially responsible investment funds and mandates in 2017, an increase of 114% in its sustainable equity and fixed income products from the year before.
The Dutch insurer is one of the few in the industry to have conducted a comprehensive analysis of its carbon footprint, which it then used as a tool to improve
engagement with companies that have a high carbon intensity and better understand the climate change-related risks existing in its investment portfolio.
It has also been working on other elements of its portfolio, like real estate where it has been adapting physical real estate holdings to try and reduce the carbon emissions and improve its green label.
At the same time, van der Giessen has been leading a shift to higher yielding assets such as mortgages to help the insurer maintain its strong solvency position in a low interest rate environment. "It is not just good for the environment but also positive for the impact on returns and value. This award proves a point."