Lockdown rules in the UK and Europe have been relaxing in recent weeks and many investment professionals are looking at how their future working lives may look like. Following on from our popular Working from Home series, we ask female members of the ESG community about lockdown habits, the prospect of returning to the office environment and adapted attitudes towards remote working.
In this article, speak to Suzanne Hutchins, co-lead manager of the BNY Mellon Sustainable Real Return Fund at Newton Investment Management
How has the coronavirus affected your day-to-day work – from both a portfolio and workplace perspective?
It’s been a significant change, but a welcome one. Being able to work from home has created time and space to think as well as the opportunity to establish efficient and productive ways of working in a different environment. Spending time with my team physically has always been part of our investment decision-making process, and there has been a big reset since we began working from home, albeit a successful one. I believe that a balance of working from home and team collaboration a few days a week in the office is likely to be optimal. Fortunately, the time the team has spent working together over many years has built trust and confidence and the value this adds for our clients cannot be underestimated.
What have you enjoyed and disliked about remote working?
I have enjoyed spending time in my home with my husband and family, as well as my dogs and horses. I have also enjoyed being closer to nature and my personal life, while still being able to excel in my career by reaping the benefits from remote working. I have a better understanding of my EQ as well as that of my team.
This said, I enjoy and thrive in being with people and not having that in-person contact has been challenging. It still means that more upfront discussions and debate need to take place, which may feel uncomfortable, especially if you’re not able to have a casual catch-up by the coffee machine to quash any tension. I believe that many are feeling vulnerable and isolated so it’s extremely important that we all feel able to openly express ourselves and learn from one another.
Which lockdown habits do you think you will be ingrained in your every-day life?
I have always enjoyed the outdoors. Spending time thinking in an open space, without the constraints of commuting and the pressures of noise and distraction, has become ingrained in my everyday life. We are all different and no one size fits all. It’s important that we all have the freedom to explore our own boundaries.
If remote working is adopted more permanently, what do you think are the benefits for the wider investment industry?
I believe it is certainly beneficial for the environment given there is less travel and less fossil fuel consumption. I also believe that there is a greater ability to focus without the noise of the day to day distractions, which our clients are likely to benefit from in the long run.
Share some good news you have heard recently about companies’ reactions to Covid-19 crisis?
Lonza, which is a European company that makes fine chemicals and biocides for life sciences, pharmaceutical, food processing and agricultural products, has signed up with Moderna to manufacture its Covid-19 vaccine to bring to the market. In terms of beneficiaries from lockdown, these include online entertainment, gaming, music streaming and online education companies, as well as the likes of Tencent, Alibaba and Amazon that have all benefitted from people staying at home more.
How do you find working remotely during volatile markets?
It has been stressful but manageable. The way our technology has been set up to enable us to work from home has been seamless. As always, our clients’ needs have been top of mind during this challenging period.
Do you have a ‘top tip’ to share on working remotely?
What do you do for fun when you take a break from working at home?
I go for a walk with my dogs.
What is your favourite sustainable snack when working?
It has to be Werthers!
The full Return to Work series is below: