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Meet the Manager - Q&A with Anna Väänänen

  • 07 March 2024 (3 min read)

1. Please tell us about yourself. What are your education and career experiences to date? 

I graduated from the University of Helsinki in 1995, Master of Economics; the same year as Finland and the UK joined the EU. My first job was at Kleinwort Benson via the graduate training program. It was at Fenchurch Street, just around the corner from my current location, 22 Bishopsgate. It was great to be able to move to London without a visa or any other bureaucracy. I have fond memories from my years in London in the 90’s – the city changed a lot as us “Eurotrash” moved in. That was the beginning, followed by 28 years in the industry, first as a sell side analyst and the last 20 as a fund manager. Portfolio management is the best job ever, I have been able to live and work in four different countries (UK, Finland, Switzerland and France), meet so many interesting people, try to understand how the world works and the list goes on...    


2. What is interesting about your role here at AXA IM and what motivates you to do well? 

I am a very passionate person. I also have a strong social conscience due to my upbringing in Finland. As a child I was always told “you have a lot, so you have to contribute and give back to society”. Therefore, heading the impact team at AXA IM feels like the perfect role and challenge for me. AXA IM as a company, I believe, has a real understanding of the risks our society faces, whether it’s extreme weather events, growing healthcare issues such as obesity or water scarcity. Working to have a positive impact through investments on these and many other societal challenges, feels meaningful and important. We as a team know that only if we do well, can we have a real impact. It’s very motivating. 


3. How do you feel you complement the team’s skills and add value? 

We are a small team of four but have many other colleagues who play an important role in our process. Within our team we each have our areas of expertise. My role as the head of the team is like a conductor of an orchestra. I try to make sure we have a clear goal and strategy (sometimes the market feels like playing Stravinsky) and that everyone can contribute to their maximum. Like in an orchestra – the result depends on everyone’s contribution.


4. Since joining the Impact team, what has surprised you the most? 

I have been extremely positively surprised by the commitment AXA IM has in investing to do good. This is not the flavour of the year, it’s in the DNA. My colleagues in impact analysis are among the best professionals in the industry. In addition, AXA IM has a strong culture of collaborating on the investment side. Portfolio managers discuss and share ideas. I find the culture supportive and open. 


5. What does progress mean to you? 

In investing, progress means learning from mistakes. Equities is a risky asset class. We will all make mistakes sometimes. What is important is to learn from the past, to keep an open mind and be willing to admit mistakes. On the Impact side, progress is when you see new technologies being developed that help save energy or water, or drive progress in healthcare solutions, such as a digital twin of a brain to test neurological medication. Being able to invest into companies who drive these improvements is very exciting. Progress can also be when a company we have been engaging with starts to report and monitor their use of natural resources or sets a net zero target.     


6. And aside from work, tell us something interesting about yourself that most people won’t know? 

During weekends I go back to the nature, to Bordeaux, and work with my husband at our organic vineyard. Depending on the season we will be cutting, pulling, tying the vines, or weeding the vegetable garden. It gives me so much energy when plants grow – it gives me the feeling that I am part of a much grander scheme. 

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