Jonathan Nelson on responsible investments and his move to Varrlyn

30 April 2024 4 min. read
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Varrlyn has strengthened its senior team with Jonathan Nelson, an expert in the area of corporate governance, ESG, and sustainable finance.

Jonathan Nelson has arrived at Varrlyn with more than 15 years of experience in the financial services industry, gained at institutional investors, research houses, and professional services.

“I began my career in corporate governance and proxy voting in the US, eventually relocating to Europe to work with French institutional investors. At the time, European investors were much ahead of their US counterparts with incorporating ESG factors and sustainability into their investment portfolios,” said Nelson.

Jonathan Nelson on responsible investments and his move to Varrlyn

During his time with Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), one of the leading providers of insights to investors, Nelson worked with more than twenty American investors and a dozen French institutional investors on the application of their proxy voting and stewardship policies.

He then moved to Sustainalytics, where he helped establish a new Corporate Governance Research team, growing the team from scratch into an established research arm for clients. Growing the ranks to associate director and product manager, Nelson worked with C-suite executives of major investment companies. He also served as a key thought leader on corporate governance matters and represented Sustainalytics at industry and EU-level events.

“It was both challenging and thrilling experience to help start a team from scratch and build it out. I still have very fond memories of the time – and the great multicultural team we had.”

Over the past years, Nelson moved on to hold two other leadership roles in the industry, serving as Global Head of Research at CGLytics (one of the world’s largest corporate governance data analytics providers, acquired by Diligent) and Morningstar (the parent of Sustainalytics), where he worked with corporates and issuers.

During his second round back at Sustainalytics he worked in the Sustainability Corporate Solutions division, providing educational trainings on ESG matters in general to private companies, corporates, and issuers, as well as with regards to the material ESG issues specific to their relevant industries and subindustries.

Into consulting with Varrlyn

With his extensive research knowhow, Nelson is in a unique position to advise institutions on putting those insights into practice. That is exactly what he’s now doing with Varrlyn, where he currently serves as an consultant to one of their asset management clients.

Leveraging his experience, Nelson is helping this client with “putting research into action in order to create real-world results.” That includes helping asset managers standardise how they interpret and act upon research insights, based on harmonised responsible investment implementation guidelines and company-wide rules around asset class and asset-class strategy.

“I work with members from the responsible investment team, the investment teams, as well as members of product management and risk management. It’s a large endeavour for this asset manager to align its responsible investment objectives internally, and as Varrlyn, we’re proud to be playing our part.”

“This client has identified numerous improvements to their internal workflow for company screening (exclusion and inclusion), stewardship & engagement, as well as proxy voting. In the coming months, several initiatives are taking place to standardising the internal databases and way of working. It looks like it will be quite the ride for the next few months!”

Nelson is personally also supporting a digital transformation project, focused on implementing technological solutions that can automate and streamline the process for updating responsible investment implementation guidelines, as well as embedding updates into the annual cycle.

Looking ahead, Nelson said that he is delighted to be on board with Varrlyn, a firm which is committed to operate at the forefront of responsible investment transformation in the financial services sector. “Throughout my career, I have watched the different parts of responsible investment converge, to now be fully integrated into the policies of investors.”

“The sector has meanwhile moved into ‘Mach 5’, and I am particularly excited about the ever-expanding role of impact investing within the industry, including the growing emphasis on biodiversity and natural environment.”