In this regular series, female members of the ESG investment industry detail how they are dealing with the transition to remote working during the coronavirus fallout
Following on from our sister title Portfolio Adviser which has been running the Working from Home series with investment experts from the wider industry, we are running these articles twice a week with women in ESG. This week, we speak to Kay Orlopp, investment manager at social impact investment company Resonance.
How has the coronavirus affected your day-to-day work – from both a portfolio and workplace perspective?
Day-to-day, my role is still extremely busy! Resonance is in the process of launching three new property funds and as they are all demand-led and created in partnership with charities, they require a lot of stakeholder engagement which is sometimes difficult as they are battling the changes covid-19 has enforced on them whilst working on the frontline supporting the people they work with. Overall though, investors and our charity partners remain committed to these initiatives which has been really encouraging.
From a workplace perspective, I am quite happy working from home and our use of online video calls, if anything, have increased face-to-face conversations with people who aren’t just in the Manchester office so have been a positive. Not having to make the return trip to London is always a bonus for me too, though I am sure I will miss it at some stage!
What has been your biggest contributor to performance since the coronavirus hit markets? And biggest detractor?
The need for stable, good quality homes with a social landlord was already very high and is the biggest contributor to my own and my team’s motivation to perform every day. The demand for these homes has unfortunately increased already due to covid-19 (particularly for women who need to leave an abusive household) and will no doubt be detrimental to the security of a lot of tenures in the coming months, increasing the need for affordable PRS properties.
A detractor has been our ability to purchase property with the restrictions on buying/selling and valuations, though we are fortunate that we have reached near full deployment in our existing homelessness property funds and the three new funds are not yet ready to deploy. So, we will be ready to progress on property acquisitions as soon as the market permits.
What has surprised you most about markets during the coronavirus sell-off?
As a social impact investment company many of our funds invest in housing stock to help tackle a specific social issue. The funds have been created to provide both long-term social impact and potential for financial return and our investors are motivated to invest in these funds because they are also aligned with these goals. During this time uncertain time, the reality is that there is no real impact for our funds. Investors cannot (and don’t want to) withdraw their investments and in fact, social impact investing is needed now, more than ever. We are continuing our plans to launch new social impact-focused funds: The Women in Safe Homes Fund for women experiencing domestic abuse, leaving prison and/or facing homelessness, and the Resonance Supported Homes Fund for adults with learning disability/ autism /mental health problems. These funds continue to attract investors during this time.
What feedback have you had from clients since the coronavirus sell-off?
The need for investment solutions to some of the UK’s social issues is more apparent than ever. As an example, cases of domestic abuse are continuing to increase, leaving women at risk of violence or homelessness. And the virus has exposed how living in poverty or being homeless/at risk of homelessness, puts people at a huge disadvantage at this time, highlighting the real scale of these issues and the impact for society as a whole – as well as also meaning that people’s lives are at serious health risks, particularly right now.
Our investors invest not just for the potential of financial gain but because they want to see social change. They want their investment to do good and support others. And our experience of managing successful social impact investment funds means that we are actively contributing to social and economic solutions whilst enabling investors to reduce their risk, potentially gain financially and support charities and social enterprises we invest in.
By continuing to keep connected to investors during this uncertain time through regular communications including email and personal video calls, updating them on how as a business we are a) working through the challenges presented by covid-19, and b) how we are supporting our partner charities and the people and communities they support, I am prioritising my relationships with them and keeping them updated on key areas of progress – which I think is key.
How do you think attitudes to ESG initiatives will be affected as we move through the crisis?
I hope that covid-19 will have a positive impact in terms of allowing us all to reflect on what we value, both on a personal level and at a company level and that businesses will incorporate ESG in a much more considered and impactful way. I think this crisis could be an opportunity for business as a whole to put stakeholders ahead of shareholders, recognise the benefits of longer-term investing and see how ESG provides initiatives to invest in sustainable enterprises that can provide solutions during times of crisis that traditional investing may not.
Share some good news you have heard recently about the holdings/sectors/themes you invest in?
Many hotels have been offering their rooms for people in need which is a great response for the sector ensuring those who are rough sleeping or in temporary accommodation are able to self-isolate and receive the support they need. In general, the response of the investors and charities we work with has been really impressive; resilient and focussed, working across the sector to find ways to support people whatever the situation.
There also seems a real resurgence of people helping each other within their communities, our Community Asset range of funds work with communities across the UK, to help them develop affordable housing and sports facilities, so we think if this theme continues after covid-19, we will see an even greater number of communities get involved in developing their own infrastructure.
How do you find working remotely during volatile markets?
Whilst this is a challenging and uncertain time for everyone, being part of a close-knit team and having the tools, online systems and video tech to allow connectivity means that it really does feel like business as usual. And actually, rather than to potentially feel isolated, I actually feel more connected than ever with my team and networks which means I can continue progressing the development and launch of our new property funds.
I think as well, that the fact that I work for a social impact investor with sustainability at the core of what it does, means that it is much easier to manage the expectations of our investors who support what we are doing from a longer-term social impact perspective (as well as the potential for financial returns on their investments).
What do you do for fun when you take a break from working at home?
I live in South Manchester and there are lots of green spaces to walk and cycle. The biscuit tin is also being well utilised!
What is your favourite sustainable snack/hot drink when working from home?
I grow mint in my garden so have been drinking a lot of fresh mint tea!
Do you have a ‘top green tip’ to share on working remotely?
Wear an extra jumper to avoid putting the heating on!
To view the previous articles from the Working from Home with … series see below: