By Maayan Keren-Zur

Enrico, tell us a bit about your background and what motivated you to pursue something different, impactful as it were?

I discovered the impact investing space during my first Master degree in International Policy at the Catholic University in Milan. I read about it and kept it in mind. Later, I obtained a Master of Arts in Political Economy at City University of London, where I studied Jim O’Neil’s publications. I understood the importance of investments in emerging countries and its impact on billions of people. Outside the office, I have two great passions: volunteering in the World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper Community and playing tennis.

How did you go about changing your career path and what was your motivation?

I started my professional experience in the consulting industry, where I acquired skills and knowledge that are useful in my current role, such as processes and methodologies. I changed industry because I didn’t want to change my ideas. I am extremely concerned about inequality and climate change so I decided to address these issues in a concrete way. The sustainable and impact investment spaces are aligned with my skills and ideas outside the office. MainStreet was looking for a research professional and I decided to apply, and accepted the challenge.

What advice do you have for someone who would like to pursue a similar career path?

The research professionals in the financial industry should be data-driven and curious, but in the sustainable and impact investing field another layer of complexity is added, and the ESG components are integrated in the understanding of each business. Thus my advice is to develop your leadership and talent while being competent and open-minded.

Can you tell us a bit more about MainStreet Partners?

MSP is an investment company that was founded in 2008. We co-manage four funds with clients as sole investment advisor, thus we mainly provide the research, due diligence, and investment pipeline. We are rigorous on both impact and financial return, and it hence means that each investment has to be in line with both criteria. I believe that impact investing should combine both elements. MainStreet is investing around 70% of its portfolio in listed stocks and there are a lot of good opportunities in the market.

Could you describe your role in a nutshell?

I joined MainStreet Partners in 2014 as analyst, and I am currently a research associate. I provide insights and analyses for the team and clients. I am a multi-asset and multi-sector professional, covering both equity and fixed income and the sectors in which MSP invests, both in developed and developing countries. In addition, I am also covering the macroeconomic and impact analysis. My role is challenging and incredibly motivating. Combining pragmatic and ideal approaches, MSP is an ideal place to do that.

After working in the impact investing field for a few years, we would be interested to hear about your industry insights. Do you feel like investing with impact is becoming more ‘mainstream’?

We can consider internal and external factors. Internally, the market will grow naturally as there is an increasing interest of companies and individuals, and increasing product offering in the field. Externally, the political effort to raise the awareness of climate change encouraged institutional investors to invest in such products, and at the same time the rise of inequality and polarisation of society are also raising awareness. Governments and philanthropic initiatives can’t solve these issues alone.

The increasing interest will lead to more structured process. If we consider the preferences of Millennials, the investors will increasingly seek social, environmental and impact return on their investments, and will prefer it over the traditional ones.

In your opinion, what are the main challenges to advancing the impact investment field?

We should communicate better what impact investing is. The investors need to cooperate more and it might help if an international organisation would launch an impact investing framework. In the thematic bond space for example, the green bond principles are clear. When I speak with colleagues in the consulting industry they are all familiar with the concept of green bonds.

Finally, any parting words of advice?

Robert Frost wrote: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less travelled by. And that has made all the difference”. In my case, I started my career in the consulting industry, then I took the “less travelled” and I am still tremendously satisfied with this choice.