Here, we speak to Claudia Quiroz, Team Leader & Investment Practitioner at Quilter Cheviot. She talks to us about her journey into sustainable investment, her call to action to further female advancement in the industry and shares her views on mentoring.
By chance, over 20 years ago, I found my passion in sustainable investment, and I have never looked back.
Growing up in Argentina as the only child of a working-class family, I had considered getting a job immediately after school to have some financial independence as well as helping my parents to pay the bills. However, I was lucky that my parents believed that I should go to university and they prioritised that over going on holidays, a new car, or any other leisure activities. I was the first one in our extended family to go to university. Further education changed my life and opened personal and career opportunities that I’d never dreamed of. I now live in beautiful Surrey with a family of my own (including a cat and a dog), work in London and enjoy helping clients to achieve their financial objectives by investing in the companies of the future – those providing solutions to the issues of climate change and the energy transition.
I joined Quilter Cheviot in 2009 and I consolidated my journey of building and shaping my professional career in sustainable investment. I have had mentors along the way and unexpected sponsors that have given me a platform to grow.
I would like to say yes to that question, just to sound organised and focused, however, I did not. Not at the beginning, anyway. The truth is that I came to the UK to do an MBA to be able to open doors for myself, quite literally from the factory floor to the management building. I was disappointed by working at a chemical plant, as a young engineer managing the workforce in the manufacturing floor was very demanding and overwhelming. After I left City University, here in London, I came across one of the first funds investing in solutions providers to environmental challenges. I become fascinated by the idea of identifying those companies and understanding the business models as well as what makes a business a successful investment. I was in desperate need of income before going back home and I landed a role as an SRI analyst within a research provider to an institutional fund manager. Then, I joined them a year later and the rest is history. This was my lucky stride as I learnt all the skills in the art of stock picking and identifying long term investable themes.
My big professional achievement is developing the award-winning sustainable investment strategy at Quilter Cheviot. We launched the Climate Assets Fund in 2010, well before responsible investment and integrating ESG in the investment process was a thing. We have come a long way since then and I have received an incredible amount of support at Quilter Cheviot not only to develop our flagship fund but also to educate clients and colleagues across the business on what sustainable investment is.
I would like to see a more diverse workforce in the industry, in particular more female representation in senior management positions. Thanks to government initiatives, gender diversity on UK Boards has significantly improved in recent years. Nevertheless, I feel that little progress has been made within the bulk of the workforce, particularly in senior or revenue generating positions.
Balancing work and family life is a journey that never ends for most women. It is likely that women are carers at both ends of their careers- looking after children and elderly parents. How line managers deal with women returning from maternity leave is a cornerstone of the right company culture to develop and retain female talent.
In my experience, it is not that women lose ambition when returning to work, but rather that they seek a balance between career and family life. Perhaps one of the silver linings of covid has been the validation of WFH and flexible working as standard practices within an attractive company culture.
Also, progressive companies should have transparent pay structures, I am not talking about the detail on pounds and pence for every individual in the organisation but disclosing pay ranges and structures as well as skills needed to move from one role or department to another. Transparency and clarity are key to understanding the long-term opportunities within an organisation.
Mentoring is a great tool in the workplace, and I have benefited in my career from being a mentor as much as being a mentee. However, mentoring happens informally most of the time by listening and reaching out to colleagues with the needed skill set. I think that people confuse mentoring with sponsorship. For career progression, a sponsor is a more valuable ally, as it is normally a senior person in the organisation that understands your skill set and professional potential, thus he/she decides to champion you through the business and opens doors when needed. Equally, internal networking is as important in any organisation as knowing your colleagues and understanding what they do in the business is an easy way to find your own cheerleaders across the business.