- July 24, 2021
- Posted by: CFA Society India
- Category:In Conversation With
Industry Expert- Ms. Alokita Jha, CFA
(Head, Investment Fund Analysts, Fidelity International)
Interviewed By- Jolly Balva, CFA
(Member, Public Awareness Committee, CFA Society India)
CFA Society India had the pleasure of interviewing Alokita Jha, CFA for its current edition of member newsletter. Alokita has been recognised as inspiring women in the investment profession in India by the CFA Institute with her being among the early first fifteen women CFA charter holders in India.
Read on below an alluring conversation we had with her on a diverse set of topics:
Jolly: Please share with us about the journey of Investment Fund Analysts team at Fidelity International in India.
Alokita: The Investment Fund Analysts capability has evolved significantly over the last 15 years and focusses on providing superlative client experience through reports, presentations and insights. The team supported various client reports to start with and now it owns investment communication for various client needs and aids in asset gathering as well as retention.
Jolly: What have been the major challenges and opportunities for the team?
Alokita: A globally collaborative way of working and a culture that provides exciting growth opportunities has allowed the team members to vitalise their careers by pursuing roles across different functions and geographies. If I look at our ways of working, one of the key challenges around complexity, duplication and dispersed sources of data is becoming the biggest opportunity as we simplify, consolidate and utilise insights from data for investment and distribution purposes.
Jolly: How has the role of technology evolved in supporting Investment Management needs?
Alokita: Technology is now helping to deliver higher value in every step of investment and distribution process. There is a big shift toward quantitative investing, and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing are getting embedded in the investment process. No doubt, we are creating many examples of how machines and humans can combine to create exponential value in this space. For example, at Fidelity, Systematic Investing combines our unique fundamental research with quantitative investing to provide cost-effective, alpha-generating, scalable and automated outcome-oriented solutions that cater to the changing industry landscape and evolving client needs.
Jolly: What have been the changes in ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) related requirements and mindsets amongst diverse client sets? How has it changed after the pandemic?
Alokita: Sustainable investing has moved mainstream, with ESG becoming a pivotal theme to various aspects of our client’s decision making. For example, clients have different requirements related to ESG exclusions, integration, engagement, impact on stock selection, and implications on portfolio construction. Overall, clients are increasingly looking to allocate specifically to funds with ESG mandates, but also to ensure that even if there is no sustainable label or objective, ESG is well-integrated into the investment process. Fidelity is addressing this client need by offering a range of Sustainable Funds across different asset classes, as well as driving greater ESG integration in the investment process of all funds.
That said, despite its growing popularity, some investors are still anxious about the impact of ESG investing on portfolio performance and there are concerns if they are investing in companies that are genuinely sustainable in the long term, rather than those just claiming to be so. Hence, there is a growing need about investor education and qualified expertise in this space. We have also witnessed a growing demand of reporting various ESG factors for our products.
On the second part of the question, the COVID-19 pandemic has further reinforced the above trends and brought more focus on the social factors.
Jolly: What is Fidelity’s investment philosophy around sustainable investing?
Alokita: Sustainability is a key strategic priority for Fidelity International, both in the way that we invest and in the running of our own business operations. Accordingly,
- We continue to gain enhanced and holistic investment insights which underpin investment decisions and
- Foster constructive change at our investee companies to protect and enhance long-term value for our stakeholders.
On the investment front, we have 220+ research professionals who are able to achieve outstanding depth-of-company research and breadth-of-industry coverage to which they apply an ESG lens. Our analysts take part in ~16,000 interactions with companies a year, enabling them to form a nuanced assessment of the ESG factors affecting companies and sectors. Fidelity also leverages this research capability through our own proprietary ESG company ratings. These ratings provide a forward-looking evaluation of a company’s focus and trajectory on ESG-related issues. We have a range of strategies for clients across different asset classes based on a common sustainability framework, covering sustainable ‘focus’, thematic’ and ‘enhanced research’ (ETF) solutions.
We also continue to gain enhanced and holistic investment insights which underpin investment decisions and foster constructive change at our investee companies to protect long-term value for our stakeholders. For example, we use our strong relationships with companies and superior corporate access to enhance investment analysis, including of ESG factors. This also facilitates corporate engagement to promote best practice and strong management of ESG issues.
Jolly: Fidelity International has won various accolades on its D&I practices. Please share with us about the initiatives at Fidelity International on diversity and inclusion that are practiced in India.
Alokita: At Fidelity, we are committed to unleash the power of different perspectives by creating a culture where everyone feels a belonging and can thrive. In particular, we are focusing on
- Gender diversity.
- Embracing our LGBT+ communities and employees.
- Promoting cultural diversity by respecting and attracting talent from different backgrounds.
- Improving accessibility and enablement for our employees with different abilities and driving social mobility.
We believe in having a robust and structured approach to D&I, starting from hiring to career development, to drive internal parity between diverse set of employees. To share a few examples, at the time of hiring we focus on writing gender neutral job descriptions, have diverse candidates in the selection process, have diverse representation in the interview panel and compensation discussion. The same philosophy is applied to internal talent reviews and succession planning discussions to ensure we are providing women opportunities to grow and develop. We are also offering returner programs for women who have taken a break in their careers. In another move to drive gender parity, we offer 26-weeks of paid leave to mothers as well as fathers and secondary care givers.
Jolly: What guidance would you like to give to candidates aspiring to become CFA Charterholders?
Alokita: I would encourage the aspiring candidates to utilize the learnings from the CFA program in their different roles and continue to upskill themselves with complementary skills in data, technology and analytics that are becoming a necessity in the investment management landscape.
About Alokita Jha, CFA
Alokita has rich experience of more than 18 years across Investment, Technology and CAO operations. Alokita heads the team of Investment Fund Analysts and Product & Market Research Analysts at Fidelity International which works closely with the Portfolio Managers, Investment Directors and Sales & Marketing teams across asset classes globally. Find out more about her at https://www.fidelity.co.in/about-us/our-functional-leaders/alokita-jha/
About Jolly Balva, CFA
Jolly is a product management professional with a keen interest in sustainable investing.