Eric Simonnet has 20 years of experience in the financial and investment industry. Before joining Triodos Investment Management, he held several commercial positions, for instance as Business Development Director for the Benelux at Legg Mason and as a Sales Manager for the France and Benelux markets at Oddo & Cie.
Eric holds a BSc in Economics from the University of Versailles and a MSc in Finance from the University of Aix-Marseille.
What led you to dedicate yourself to the financial sector? What would you be doing if you did not find a path in Business?
I studied Economics and Finance at the universities of Versailles and Aix-Marseille and did many summer jobs within the financial services. I worked for instance for a stock-broker within the Paris old stock exchange, where sign language was still being used to communicate. But I also worked for an online bank doing credit scores. All these different experiences were good additional practice to my academic background. After my master’s degree, I quickly realized that I wanted to interact with clients, to build relationships, understand their needs and deliver the right solution. Early 2000’s, I was proposed a sales position in the asset management industry and that’s what I have been doing since then! But if I hadn’t crossed that path early on, I would probably still be working in a client facing role in another industry or making a living with a passion like buying and selling vintage instruments or old records.
What advice would you give young people trying to be successful in the industry?
First and foremost, join for the right reasons. You need to enjoy what you’re doing and to take pleasure out of interacting with different kind of people.
Second, I think that as a salesperson you have the same fiduciary duties as fund managers, financial advisors, or portfolio managers. We are part of the investment process and the end-client deserves our full dedication. Hence your credibility will be your key asset as a salesperson. “Your word is your bond” so you shouldn’t give it lightly.
What sustains your drive within the industry?
I am an optimist and despite multiple market failures and financial crashes since 2000 when I started, I still believe that we can achieve something positive for a greater number of people rather than a limited circle. That is one of the reasons I joined Triodos Investment Management: driving investors to put money at work where it matters, where they can make a difference and have a positive impact on the world we live in.
What do you think will be the next disruptive element in the asset management industry?
There are many disruptive elements that are shaping tomorrow’s landscape of asset management: regulations like EU Taxonomy or SFDR, artificial intelligence and big data, but I believe that it’s the investor itself that will be the biggest disruptor. We are seeing an increasing number of investors choosing sustainable investments as the central pillar of their wealth management, but this is only a drop compared to the wave that is coming at us. Younger generations that are to inherit the wealth that their parents and grandparents built will not walk the same path. They will dictate where these assets should be invested, and they are bound to flow into sustainable and impact solutions. In a few years, “traditional” investments will become the exception…
Triodos Investment Management has been dedicated to active impact investing since its inception – why is this differentiation important as an asset manager?
Indeed, for over 30 years already, Triodos Investment Management is globally active as an impact investor. We were one of the first to invest with the aim to generate positive social and environmental impact alongside a healthy financial return. The past few years we have seen a broader rise of impact investing following the increasing awareness among investors of the instrumental role and creative power of capital when used consciously. In our view, all investments must start with the question ‘what is the impact on communities, on climate and our society?’ This increasing awareness leads to more capital being directed to investments that contribute positively to many of today’s global challenges, from climate change and the ever-increasing gap between the haves and have-nots, to depletion of our fertile soils and loss of biodiversity. Although we welcome this encouraging development, we are also very much aware of the fact that more is needed and that it is of the utmost importance that the entire asset management industry starts looking at investments through a lens of risk, return and impact. Because ultimately how we invest today will determine what our world will look like in the future.