Specialist of the Month: Gerald Esono
At Ilmarinen, we take care of the pension security of more than a million Finns. For almost 60 years we have worked together with employers to create a better working life and promote work ability. But who are the people doing this work? Read on to see what our Specialist of the Month Gerald Esono has to say about his work.
Who are you and what do you do in Ilmarinen?
I am Gerald Esono, a Responsible Investment Specialist in the Investment department team at Ilmarinen. My main responsibility in the team is to enable the integration of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) data and continue to derive analytics to help the investment team navigate ESG risks and opportunities in their investment process. Furthermore, it also involves helping the Investment department and the communication team stay up to date with the latest trends in the responsible investment and sustainable finance space.
What is your background?
I was born in Madrid, Spain but in my early years of my childhood I moved to Nairobi, Kenya. I then grew up in between Kenya and Tanzania. I then decided to go to the university in the UK to study Economics for my bachelor's degree. When I was younger, I did not necessarily have a clear career goal but all I knew was to follow what interested me. Hence, I ended up with two postgraduate degrees in Business Economics and in Environment and Development.
I have worked in various sectors before coming to Ilmarinen. I have briefly worked as an intern at The East African Community – an intergovernmental organization based in Arusha, Tanzania. After that I went on to work for FactSet Research systems Inc, an American financial data and software company, in their London headquarters.
Once I made the move to Finland, I worked within Helsinki’s start-up ecosystem with a technology start-up called WorkAhead which are working to solve sustainability and human rights questions in how companies interact with their suppliers and partners. During this time, I was also getting involved with various other projects at the Urban Mill in Otaniemi.
How did you come to Finland?
My wife is Finnish, and we both met in London a long time ago! But during the time we were living in London, I spent short holidays in Finland visiting various places in and out of Helsinki and I really loved many aspects of the Finnish culture and way of living. My wife and I have lived in several countries in the past so moving to Finland was not a hard choice.
Ilmarinen is open to new ideas
Why did you choose to work for Ilmarinen?
A key reason for working at Ilmarinen was its innovative work on Responsible investing. In addition, being one the largest private pension company in Finland it demonstrated to me its openness to new ideas and possibilities in the responsible investing. It is also a great environment for me to continue learning about investing and of course from time to time to learn some Finnish. I started in February of 2019.
How do you take care of your skills and expertise?
I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to develop various skills during my personal and professional life. My key passions of course remain in issues concerning the environment as well as in technology. Every year I try and set-up mini goals for myself based on my interests. In my last goal period, I continued developing my programming and data querying skills. The latest goal for me is to complete The Chartered Financial Analyst program to support my continuing education in the finance space.
To take care of your skills and expertise it is always important to be passionate about issues you care about and set up some mini challenges for yourself. In this way it forces me to be more purposeful of what I am trying to achieve and offer more creative solutions in my day-to-day tasks for my team.
What is best in your work?
My colleagues in the responsible Investment team and the investment team at large are one of the best aspects of work. Everyone is supportive of each other and always willing to help when you need some support or advice. It is also nice that we have some great facilities at work such the gym, active sports groups such as Tennis and other physical wellbeing benefits.
What does work community and co-workers mean to you?
For me I think it is all about being able to create a working community where everyone can share and listen to new ideas. It is also important that it is a space where people can be themselves and be equipped to contribute to anything that would benefit the whole community.
Focus on your strengths and keep educating yourself
Has the pandemic affected your work?
I think overall the pandemic net effects have been minimal in my current situation. I am extremely fortunate that Ilmarinen, has been supportive in every aspect of my daily functions in the transition to working from home. I think the only minor negative at this point is that I do miss the random interactions you have with different colleagues and random ideas and fun chats you tend to generate through these interactions.
In your opinion, what is the secret to better working life?
It is important to continue understanding your limits or lack of knowledge of a particular topic and continue working on your personal strengths and weaknesses. In that way you get to focus more on your strengths that will ultimately benefit the team but also fulfil you on a personal level because you are playing to your strengths. In addition, I think it is very important to keep educating yourself in areas that inspire you or that you think you need improving on and go for it!
I think this supports a “growth mind set” attitude at work and therefore allows you to be critical of yourself in a way that is enjoyable. Furthermore, it also gives you the opportunity to be open to new ideas that could potentially benefit your team and be personally fulfilling at the same time.
How do you take care of yourself?
I am a big sports fan and I always try keep active whenever I can. Before the pandemic I played futsal and routinely went to the gym. I also enjoy playing tennis, bouldering and going on hikes. If I am not doing something active, I am either reading, trying to learn some Finnish, listening to podcasts or teaching myself a programming language.
If your job was a building, what building would it be and why?
I think it would be a football stadium. It is one of the very few physical places in the world where we can all celebrate different cultures and excel because of our differences in the name of friendly competition.
Ilmarinen’s Interim Report 1 January to 30 June 2023: Return on investments rose to 3.7 per cent, solvency strengthened and cost-effectiveness continued to improve
The return on Ilmarinen’s investment portfolio was 3.7 (-6.2) per cent, i.e. EUR 2.1 billion. The market value of investments grew to EUR 58.2 (56.3) billion. The long-term average return on investments was 5.8 per cent as of 1997. This corresponds to an annual real return of 3.8 per cent.
Ilmarinen as an anchor investor in European climate fund
Ilmarinen continues its investment strategy that has a strong focus on climate change by investing EUR 580 million in a new European equity fund which selects investees based on climate indicators.
Ilmarinen invests in new climate-focused exchange-traded funds
Ilmarinen is an anchor investor in new climate-focused iShares ETFs in the USA and Japan, launched by the US asset management company BlackRock Inc. (NYSE: BLK).