It’s not every day you get to meet an inspiring person, and I can say without any doubt that I have just met one. At 32 years old, Cléo Fitzsimons is head of the responsible investment team at Cazenove, a role she has held for the past 18 months, writes Katie Gilfillan.
I quickly found out that Fitzsimons is an avid athlete. She runs or cycles the 12km to work and back every day and at 28 she completed her first iron man in 14.5 hours. Upon hearing this I swiftly put down my second slice of bread and decided to take the 128 steps down to the northern line rather than the elevator after lunch.
Detecting a bit of an accent I ask about her roots before Cazenove.
‘I studied business and finance at university in Montreal, Canada, where I’m originally from.
‘While in Canada I started my own charity. We would organise bike events across the country to raise money for various cancer charities. It was very inspiring and rewarding work. I loved what I was doing, however, this eventually grew into frustration. It was an amazing idea but because it was charity work, it was never at the top of people’s priorities.
‘I had ambitious plans but found the pace of change too slow.’
After moving to the UK and doing a masters at LSE, Fitzsimons interned at the UN, helping emerging economies learn basic business skills. Despite it being very rewarding work, she again found the pace of change was too slow.
‘I soon realised the way to drive real change, and to do so quickly, was via private capital. It’s here where you have an idea, you go for it and things happen!’
She started at Cazenove in 2012 but was soon faced with a difficult decision after being offered two jobs within the firm. Either go into the mainstream private client route or work on the sustainable investment side.
‘I got offered my dream job but it was just too early,’ she says, referring to the latter.
After being a portfolio manager for five years, Fitzsimons tells me she definitely made the right choice, as she was able to learn more about the technical intricacies of portfolio construction.
‘It really made me appreciate the delicate balance between balancing sustainability objectives with investment criteria.’
Having responsible investments as an area of expertise must lead to quite a unique client experience.
‘When clients come in and we talk about the ethical side of things, you can see their eyes light up. It’s a great feeling that my specialism is the thing that people are passionate about and I get to be the person that ignites this reaction.’
Speaking of eyes lighting up, mine definitely do as I spy food heading for our table.
There are some interesting avenues you can go down as you delve deeper into responsible investments as not all investment returns have to be motivated by money.
‘The impact you’re creating in sustainable investing isn’t always tangible on a spreadsheet and can’t always be recorded, but in reality it holds a massive amount of value to the person for whom you are investing for.’
Fitzsimons has an interest in microfinance which is founded on human behaviour and trust.
‘Despite the high amount of risk you’re taking on within microfinance, the repayment rates have shown to be 98%. Can you name me another high street bank with this high a repayment rate?’
After tucking into our food, I find out she is expecting her first child, but isn’t letting this little one slow her down.
‘It’s great to see the world is full of empowering female athletes such as Serena Williams winning her record-breaking 23rd grand slam title at the Australian Open while pregnant. Hopefully I’ll be able to strap the baby to me when I restart my marathon training next near with my dog running alongside!’
GLASS HALF FULL:
I’m very optimistic about the momentum that is being built around sustainable investing from all sides.
GLASS HALF EMPTY:
Like anything relatively new that is taking off, some people will try to milk it for commercial gains. This will dilute the genuineness of certain investments and can hinder the impact intended.