Sustainable investing and the next generation

Dr. Emiko Caerlewy-Smith

Founder & CEO, KIT Consulting

In your formative years, you attended some of the best schools in the UK. Did school help shape the person you are and instil some of your values?

Completely.  But it’s my time at the local village primary that I‘m most grateful for because it prepared me to go on to attend one of the best grammar schools in the UK.  There’s no doubt my high standards, work ethic and strong belief in meritocracy come from my grammar school roots.

You undertook A-Levels in just 9 months and went on to achieve a first-class honours degree at the University of Leeds, studying Environmental Management. Where did your interest in the Environment come from?

I was strong willed at 16 and left school to join the Army – a dream which lasted about a day!  I ended up working full time for a local IT consultancy but quickly realised my teenage rebellion was leaving me behind.  So, I enrolled onto an intensive A Level course at my local technical college; and achieved straight As in Geography, Politics & Environmental Science.  I developed a passion for geography and the natural world at college. I had inspiring teachers and loved the practical field work.  I still find the systems thinking around people, nature, oceans and global warming fascinating. And now with the added dimension of finance.

From a statistician role at The Pensions Regulator in Brighton, you went on to work for PwC in London; and then in May 2012 you came to Jersey to set up a new business for Lloyds Bank International. What inspired you to head to the Channel Islands?

There’s a bit more of a back story… I started out as a graduate risk consultant at Deloitte, then headed to Oxford to do a PhD in behavioural economics.  I researched investment decision making (including responsible investment decision making).  This was the start of my financial services career and interest in sustainable investing.

From Oxford, I joined the UK Pensions Regulator (TPR) as their statistician. I was responsible for analysing data to gain insight into scheme and sponsor (corporate) behaviour during the 08/09 GFC; then used these insights to recommend regulatory flexes, saving as many pensions as possible.

After TPR, I became a PwC pensions consultant, helping CFOs of FTSE100 companies manage their defined benefit pension risk.  

The decision to move to Jersey was personal.  I’d spent years trying to split my time between London and the South West but it became exhausting.  Jersey offered the opportunity of an outdoorsy lifestyle coupled with a career in finance.  It was perfect timing that Lloyds Bank International was looking for someone with my pensions experience; and after a few years with them I moved over to become Barclays CI COO.

I still find the systems thinking around people, nature, oceans and global warming fascinating. And now with the added dimension of finance

You headed back to London in June 2019 as a Capital Markets Advisor for The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project. How did this come about?

A lot of KIT’s clients are located around the world but we’re physically based in Jersey.  The A4S role is conducted virtually.

I met Jessica, Executive Chair of A4S, at a PwC Alumni event in London. She presented so passionately about their work and support they receive from their founder, HRH The Prince of Wales (who is a very active voice in the world of sustainable finance).

Jessica and I got chatting and, as luck would have it, she was looking for someone to help develop their pension fund engagement programme.  Three years on and I’m still Capital Markets Advisor to A4S.  They were one of our flagship clients and hopefully will be for years to come.

You have held various voluntary roles over the years including being founding Chair of the IoD Jersey Diversity & Inclusion Sub-Committee. During this volunteer role, you were responsible for the launch of the D&I Charter Vision Statement. Why did you choose to volunteer for IoD Jersey and what did you get from this work?

I took a sabbatical after I left Barclays.  I knew I wanted to set up KIT but didn’t know where.  I went off to Australia, Singapore, Dubai and a few other places to test the water.  On returning to Jersey, I met with my network, including Lisa Springate (then Chair of IoD Jersey).  When Lisa asked if I fancied creating the D&I Sub-Committee, I jumped at the chance!  I saw a huge opportunity to galvanise proper support for D&I in Jersey and effect tangible change.  

I’m proud of what we achieved that first year, especially the launch of the D&I Charter at our inaugural event on Valentine’s Day 2020. I only stepped down as Chair so I could concentrate on building KIT but I’d love to get involved in the future.  It’s been great to see Julia-Anne Dix taking the initiative from strength to strength.

I’m inspired by brilliant, confident and enterprising people who act with creativity, determination and passion. People who are confident in who they are and what they believe; people with so much conviction they often end up bucking the trend

In July 2018, you founded KIT Consulting. As CEO, could you tell us more about this pur-pose-led management consultancy which specialises in sustainable finance?

I started sketching out the KIT concept when I left Barclays but didn’t know where I’d locate.  After a few months of travelling the world, I came back to Jersey where I had a strong existing network – something that’s proved invaluable as we’ve grown our client base and built brand recognition.

What we do falls into two areas: 1) sustainable finance consulting – helping financial services firms become more sustainable at a firm and client proposition level; and 2) strategic transformation – helping firms transform everything from their operating models to their commercial and client propositions. Currently, we work only with financial services firms because this is the industry we know and where we have all come from.  Each of us has hands on, in-house experience.

KIT is also proud to be a purpose-led company.  Our purpose is:

i.     To be a source of expertise and inspiration for our clients and business partners.

ii.     To be a values driven employer, actively encouraging and facilitating individual passions, imagination and diversity of approach.

iii.     To be a net positive contributor to local businesses, communities and broader global environments.

In January 2021, you founded Jersey #BuildBackBetter. Could you tell us more about this not-for-profit initiative?

#BBB is an immersive, educational programme designed to upskill and inspire the island’s next generation of sustainable finance leaders.

It’s a one-year programme that gives 30 next generation leaders access to theoretical learning, best practice case studies and external expert opinion.  There are 6 meet ups, all covering a different topic.  The students are split into teams and set Apprentice-style assignments between each meet up.  

The initiative has formed a cohort of sustainable finance advocates that will evolve our industry from the inside out. We are so proud of the way everyone has thrown themselves into it – our participant’s bosses included!

#BBB is currently on a little pause because Amy King, our amazing #BBB lead and KIT Senior Manager, is on parental leave… but we will be picking up with meet up 5 again soon.

What do you do in your spare time as a means to relaxation? Do you manage to achieve work-life balance?

Since founding KIT, I’ve come to realise work-life balance is the most important tool for success.  Taking time away from the laptop, clearing your mind and recharging the batteries is essential for success.

I get my balance through sport, especially tennis which I play a few times a week.  I also love golf but it’s my nemesis and I never have enough time for a full 18 holes. Running around the lanes or up on the cliff paths is a far quicker way for me to get my endorphin hit! 

Who is your inspiration and why?

I’m inspired by brilliant, confident and enterprising people who act with creativity, determination and passion.  People who are confident in who they are and what they believe; people with so much conviction they often end up bucking the trend.  Interestingly, these resonate as shared characteristics of KIT’s clients!