It is a buoyant market for ESG investment professionals at all levels, with a dearth of talent meaning senior hires can command salaries of $250,000 to $300,000, according to Kaizen Recruitment.
"You've got multiple firms looking for senior people with the sweet spot of knowledge and passion for ESG and the knowledge of investment to embed ESG in the investment decisions," said Matt McGilton, managing director, Kaizen Recruitment. "If you're an experienced ESG person, you'll probably get three to four interviews in a heartbeat."
Kaizen Recruitment notes that heads of ESG research/head of investment stewardship can expect a salary of $250,000 - $300,000 including super and are expected to have 10-plus years of experience. ESG investment managers can expect salary packages of $170,000 to $230,000 including super, a senior ESG investment analyst's salary is $120,000 - $200,000 and an ESG investment analyst can see salaries of $70,000 to $120,000 with one to five years' experience.
McGilton pointed to the increased mainstreaming of ESG in investment management and the trend among super funds and fund managers to establish dedicated in-house ESG research teams rather than to outsource to specialist providers. This means there are opportunities for those who are looking to develop their career in the ESG research space. This is reflected in other parts of the sustainability sector.
"Candidates want to work for the right firm as well," McGilton said. "Money is important, but it has to be aligned to a purpose."
However, McGilton noted that the pipeline of development towards the senior roles in ESG is tight, meaning that there are more firms looking for candidates for the most senior ESG roles than there are people.
"Demand is certainly strong, and we would expect to see salaries to increase this year," he said. "It's a positive place to be."
The ESG investment sector is one area where gender diversity is strong - McGilton estimates that around 60% of roles are filled by women, and 40% by men.
"A lot of firms have told us that our short list have to be equal representation from the gender perspective, and that makes it a really good area for greater diversity," he said.
ESG research roles can have a broad scope that varies depending on size and complexity of investment teams, Kaizen Recruitment said. The roles can range from developing basic ethical screens, and proxy voting through to undertaking in-depth research into companies' current operations and strategy to assess how this may affect profitability and sustainability.
"If you're looking at investment analysts, firms are looking for someone who is working in investment research and understands different asset classes and how and why ESG is really important in a portfolio and how you use ESG to screen out stocks and investments," he said. "If you're a really strong investment analyst and are developing the passion for ESG to transition to that space, we have had a lot of success in putting people there, and seeing other candidates moving into fund managers or super funds because they have the base knowledge and will supplement with ESG."
ESG investment research professionals are expected to have tertiary qualifications in commerce, finance, law, economics, environment/social studies, or associated fields and post-graduate qualifications are highly regarded.
Candidates who are most in demand are those that have a combination of commercial and ESG qualifications and experience. This allows candidates to have a full grasp across corporate and ESG practices. Candidates who look to specialise with investment management and research are expected to be CFA certified or hold a Master of Applied Finance, Kaizen noted.