Re-generating finance with the next generation


Thirty years in financial services is a long time, a bigger number than the ages of many of my most respected colleagues. The older my career gets however, the keener I am to interact with and cater for younger people, particularly those who have had less birthdays than I have had work anniversaries!

For the last few years, I’ve dedicated my work increasingly to advocating sustainable investment, which in the context of this article refers to long term investment in companies whose products, services and culture aim in some way to mitigate the major problems that humankind is faced with.

You might ask how relevant investment is for young people, many of whom will be repaying student debt, saving for a mortgage and/or struggling with high rents. Typically, young people are not the investors that we encounter day to day in the financial advice profession. They are often however, the people for whom the money is invested.

They reap what we sow

When it comes to investing sustainably, its clear that younger people are likely to reap greater benefit over time from any positive social and environmental outcomes that an investment might generate. Conversely, they are also more likely to suffer if we fail to limit rising temperatures, sea levels, pollution, social instability and nature loss.  This is not because these are future problems, they very much affect people of all ages and nationalities today.   Unless we act to address them however, they will become increasingly serious, reducing quality of life and life choices in years when young people should be maturing and prospering.

The hard reality is that, not only is the seriousness of the situation is growing, the window of opportunity to tackle the problem is ever shrinking.   By the time young people have greater hold on the reins of capital and finance, it will be too late to make the urgent changes required to ensure a sustainable economic and social system and a planet on which we can all survive and thrive.

Common ground

I first started working with private investors in the late 90’s, when I was entering my thirties and a Mum of one.  It wasn’t easy winning the confidence of clients who were 30 years older than me and expecting to receive advice from a man with grey hair and a BMW. I tended to talk about the benefits of saving for the next generation a lot, my small child and their grandchildren being our main common ground.

Building a legacy for children and grandchildren is one of the most consistent aims that older investors have. Advisers are tasked with finding ways of passing money on tax efficiently and methods that ensure that young Jack and Jessica don’t “blow the money” irresponsibly.

It could really make a difference if we factored in:

  1. how to pass the wealth on not just tax efficiently but also carbon efficiently and
  2. how to avoid irresponsible investing, as well as irresponsible spending.

A gift without giving

Advisers also help their clients decide whether they can afford to gift money to their family, without putting their own financial security at risk.  Where the investor needs to retain their money for their personal needs, perhaps to provide retirement income or pay for elderly care, a gift can still be indirectly given to younger generations. By holding companies whose goods, services and behaviours generate a positive long term environmental and/or social benefit, the investment potentially pays it forward, as well as providing a financial return.

A new wave of investors

Whilst young people may not be the big investors now, the financial services industry has been keeping an eye out for their imminent arrival over the years to come, anticipating the days when they inherit from the Gen Z’s and the Baby Boomers.

Not all those who inherit will seek financial advice, as there are options and trends available to them that their parents and grandparents would never have considered – think cryptocurrency and investing via a  mobile phone app.  Those young people who do engage with personal financial advice and planning are likely to make some waves.  They will be far more comfortable with digital solutions and more ready to ask why we do things a certain way in the world of finance.  A service that educates and empowers them will be attractive, over one that simply tells them that this is the way things are done.

Whilst recent consumer surveys contest the view that older generations are less interested in sustainable investing, younger people are more likely to seek to align their money with their personal values, to express what these are and to react more strongly to investments that do not fit with their moral compass or beliefs.

The forward-thinking personal finance firms will be thinking ahead about whether their current products and services, their marketing, even the language they use will make younger generations feel at ease and want to engage.

Meant to be a mentor

Until I found my fascination for sustainable finance, I was working as a manager in a broader financial planning role. One of the more enjoyable aspects of that job was the chance to act as a mentor for graduates, who were relatively new to financial services and looking to develop and progress.

It was rewarding to see them progress rapidly either into a client-facing advice role or a skilled technical support function.  I also greatly appreciated the ability to witness how they set out to make their mark and to learn from the mentoring at times, as well as teach. The phrase “there’s no i in team” is used a lot in the office, but there is an e-a-m for “every age matters!”

The future of finance

A few weeks back, the 2050 climate group offered some fellow sustainable finance advocates and I the chance to present to an audience of under thirties about sustainable investing and the direction of travel for sustainable finance.  We covered the ghosts of finance past, big commissions, pension mis-selling, the credit crunch (ouch, ouch and ouch again). We highlighted the pioneers of the present, some of them young people themselves (such as Georgia Stewart and her team at Tumelo Bring investing to life | Tumelo | Bring investing to life). Our final slide was an appeal to the audience to come and engage with the world of finance, to modernise, energise and reshape it, whether as investors or as workers.  We pointed out that increasingly there is opportunity for them to use their voices, both directly and via their money.   We called on them to ask the right questions and to expect high standards.

There was a lot of energy in the Zoom room for that final 33slide and apparently “we made finance interesting for the first time ever”.

I would re-iterate that invitation to young people to come and pick up the baton and invigorate the industry. No need to hang around for 30 odd years like I have, but bring your ideas and skills and a little positive disruption. The industry doesn’t just need mathematicians and economists, it needs great communicators, thinkers, designers, psychologists, marketing and IT professionals.

The finance industry has both a huge responsibility and opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment and society by directing where the money goes appropriately.  We should not overlook the fact that it is ripe for an internal reset. There are some people and organisations already working to foster change, such as NextGen planners and The Verve Group The Verve Group | Financial Services. But not as you know it. (, encouraging diversity, accessibility and innovation.  The financial planning profession remains however an aging population and now is an opportune moment for young people to join it.  It’s a great space in which to transform from learner to leader in much, much less than thirty years!


Rebecca Kowalski

Director, Overstory Finance

Press Release: Net Zero Transitions Roadmap Launched Ahead of COP26

A roadmap for pension providers to transition to net zero has been unveiled ahead of COP26.

The roadmap has been published by the Scotland-based Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI) to provide practical steps for pension providers to start taking action now in tackling climate change.

As well as being a useful resource for private pension providers, it is also being sent to all local government pension schemes in Scotland, with several having already engaged with GEFI about the move to net zero.

The transition roadmap has been compiled with input from GEFI’s key partners, including abrdn, who have made climate change mitigation a ‘top priority’.

GEFI believes pension providers should use the power of their investments to drive change in the companies they invest in. This means active engagement with investee companies and voting out directors of major polluters with no transition plans.

Divestment cannot be the primary strategy as this just moves the problem elsewhere and buying carbon offsets should be a ‘last resort’ to deal with residual greenhouse gas emissions – with decarbonisation being the primary focus.

The transition roadmap includes a range of practical steps and actions pension providers can take to overcome the biggest challenges identified by GEFI research: reliable data on emissions, knowledge and expertise of pension fund staff and trustees prioritising climate change. The roadmap also helps pension providers to navigate the plethora of tools, initiatives and frameworks that have been developed in relation to net zero. Pension providers should take action now on tackling climate change and delivering net zero by 2050.

However, the responsibility for net zero cannot be left solely at the door of pension providers. Every company, investors and the whole of society should be pushing for a net zero-carbon future.

Natalie Jackson, executive manager of the Global Ethical Finance Initiative, said: “The eyes of the world being on Glasgow at COP26 presents a great opportunity for Scottish pension providers to demonstrate leadership in taking action on climate change to ensure net zero is delivered by 2050. "Our net zero pension workstream is a direct call to pension providers to increase emissions transparency and develop a tangible strategy to set and/or deliver on net zero commitments, and the roadmap provides a credible set of actions to enable them to do this. "Pension providers need to start taking action to combat climate change now, before it’s too late.”



  • Both the Policy Positioning Paper and the Transition Roadmap can be downloaded here:
  • A photo of Natalie Jackson for publication is available here.
  • More information on the Global Ethical Finance Initiative is available here:
  • If you would like to find out more about GEFI’s net zero pensions workstream and how GEFI can assist you on your net zero journey please contact Natalie Jackson (
  • Contact: Alan Roden at or 07753 904 531

Pension Providers and the Path to Net Zero - Policy Paper Launch Event

With COP26 coming to Glasgow in just over two months time, pension providers across the globe are coming under increasing pressure to accelerate action towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement and to commit to net zero targets.  

At GEFI we recognise that it is one thing to commit to net zero, but quite another to deliver such an ambitious target. As part of our Path to COP26 campaign, GEFI will be launching a Policy Positioning Paper (the first in a two part series) looking at the current net zero pension landscape and highlighting some of the challenges faced by pensions providers in making net zero commitments (or delivering on commitments already made). 

This event will mark the formal launch of our Pension Providers and the Path to Net Zero Pensions Policy Paper, on Wednesday 29th September 2021 : 2pm – 3pm as part of a virtual meeting on Zoom – CLICK HERE to register.

During the session, GEFI’s lead author Natalie Jackson will present the key takeaways from the Paper before facilitating a discussion between industry experts David Hickey (Lothian Pension Fund) and Eva Cairns (Aberdeen Standard Investments). You can find full speaker bios below. These interventions will be followed by a Q&A session where participants are invited to put their thoughts to our panelists.

AT GEFI, we believe COP26 presents a unique opportunity for pension providers to demonstrate leadership on climate finance and for members of the public to unlock the green power of their pension. In the run up to COP26 and beyond, we want to support pension providers in their net zero journey, and hope you will join us as in this crucial event in the run up to COP.  We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on the 29th

Speaker Bios

Natalie Jackson, Executive Manager, GEFI 

Natalie has over 10 years of experience working in finance and is passionate about how finance can be used to deliver social and environmental impact. Her career started at EY in 2010, in the corporate finance department, where she qualified as at Chartered Accountant. She has spent extended periods of time working with social enterprises in Africa and has assisted entrepreneurs in the Global South through the Grow Movement and Kiva. Natalie was one of the finalists in the One Young CA competition and nominated as one of ICAS’s top Accountants under 35 in the field of Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility. She has spent the last 6 years working in project finance with a focus on education, infrastructure and renewable energy projects. Natalie currently sits on the Social Growth Fund Board at Social Investment Scotland, advising on the disbursement of £17m of funding to Scottish Social Enterprises. 


David Hickey, Portfolio Manager and Responsible Investment Lead, Lothian Pension Fund 

David manages Lothian’s European Equity portfolio, which invests in sustainable business franchises based in continental Europe. He also leads the Fund’s work on Responsible Investment (annually assessed by the UN-backed organisation PRI) and ESG integration, which involves developing policy, influencing engagement activity and liaising with external partner organisations and industry bodies. Part of this includes being a lead engager with a utility company as part of Climate Action 100+. David qualified as a Chartered Financial Analyst in 2010, has been involved in managing equity portfolios since 2006 and has worked in the Edinburgh finance industry since graduating in 2002. 


Eva Cairns, Head of Climate Change Strategy, Aberdeen Standard Investments 

Eva is responsible for climate change research and strategy within the ESG Investments team at Aberdeen Standard Investments. That includes climate related research into specific themes (transition solutions such as hydrogen) and for high emitting sectors such as oil & gas, utilities, transportation and agriculture. She also responsible for TCFD reporting in relation to specific asset manager disclosures such as carbon footprinting and climate scenario analysis and integrating climate change into the investment process. In 2020 Eva was a finalist for the ‘Investment analyst of the year’ award presented by Investment Week (women in investments). Eva is actively involved in climate related initiatives such as Climate Action 100+ and the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change. She published a white paper on climate change in September 2019 (Investing in a changing climate) as well as ASI’s climate strategy paper (Climate change - our approach for investments) and numerous articles on topics such as net zero pledges, sustainable food production and the inevitable policy response to climate change.