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Former AXA Rosenberg Equities CEO launches new ESG firm

Heidi Ridley and Kathryn McDonald have set up Radiant ESG

The former CEO and head of sustainable investing at Rosenberg Equities, part of AXA Investment Managers (IM), have set up a new investment firm focused on diversity and ESG.

Heidi Ridley, who worked at AXA IM for over 17 years including as CEO from March 2017 to April 2020, and Kathryn McDonald, who also had a 21-year career at AXA IM up until April where she was most recently director of investment strategy and head of sustainable investing, have set up Radiant ESG from their base in the US.

The new company will be a diverse, women-led, investment platform specialising in ESG portfolios and research, aimed at institutional investors and wealth managers in the US and Europe.

The pair said in a statement: “Our vision is to create the asset management firm of the future, and to compel asset owners to act in their capacity to drive purposeful change. At the same time, we intend to help carve a path for women and minorities in financial services for generations to come.

“We aim to contribute to the transformation of our industry, not only towards one that more closely aligns client values and their investments but that also better represents the perspective and backgrounds of current and future investors.

“As leaders in the asset management space, we see all too acutely how much opportunity exists for experienced women and other minorities to make a difference in broadening the decision making in our industry.”

In an interview with ESG Clarity, Ridley also said: “We had got to point in our careers where we wanted to do something meaningful. We wanted to create more innovation and open-mindedness.

“We strongly believe that different opinions and mindsets enrich the dialogue and lead to better outcomes in business.”

Rosenberg Equities is AXA IM’s equity quant business, and the duo said Radiant ESG will also eventually launch its own quant portfolios with a focus on diversity and ESG. In the meantime, the pair are offering consultancy services to financial companies looking to improve their ESG and diversity credentials.

“We want to create a beacon of change in asset management,” Ridley explained. “Firms that are walking the walk, not just talking the talk, are really progressive. We want to help firms think about ESG  and advocate these issues through education, speeches and papers. We want firms to build a truly diverse workforce and understand why that is important.

“But our goal is to launch a full-fledged investment firm.”

McDonald added: “ESG will be a critical component of any strategies we offer  – that is what we define as offering quality.”

Turning back to their dreams for the investment industry, Ridley said a lot of firms have started to address diversity through HR, with heads of diversity and inclusion (D&I) or chief culture officers being hired, but she hopes a lot more progress will be made.

“They have got to start somewhere but there is this perception that to improve diversity you need to lower standards. That is ridiculous when you see so many amazing talented women in the industry.

“Hiring heads of D&I should not be the industry standard. We need to see the number of women among the key decision makers in a business materially change.”

Natalie Kenway

Natalie is global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity. She won Editor of the Year at the Aviva Investors Sustainability Media Awards 2021. Winner of Aegon Asset Management's Institutional Journalist of...