Continuing our series of conversations with Aspen leadership in 2022, we speak with our Chief Investment Officer Aileen Mathieson.
Tell us a little about your background and your role at Aspen.
Prior to Aspen I worked at Aberdeen Standard Investments as Global Head of Insurance, however, my career in investment management started in 2007. In the years following I’ve worked in investment related businesses in the retail, pensions and insurance sectors. These roles have varied across finance, risk, investment management and distribution.
As Chief Investment Officer, I am responsible for our firm’s investment strategy in order to optimize investment performance and support the development and delivery of Aspen’s corporate strategy under Mark Cloutier’s leadership.
What do you think are the most important skills for a good finance/investment executive?
To excel in investment management you must have the courage to challenge the status quo, which goes hand-in-hand with having the confidence to back your own convictions and trust in your ability. Making the right decision does not always mean making the most popular one, so you must be prepared to combat criticism and remain steadfast in your decisions, while of course being open-minded to the views of others.
How has your role changed over the past 5-10 years?
The role of the CIO has evolved extensively over the last 10 years. Responsibilities outside of frontline investment management activities are growing, with the chief investment officer spending an increasing amount of time engaging with regulators, rating agencies, industry groups and other stakeholders.
What’s more, the increasing complexity and expanding scope of assets that insurers allocate to, together with the growing emphasis on ESG, has brought about further change in the role of the CIO, in my experience.
How does ESG and culture play into the importance of your role?
Aspen is at the early stages of its ESG integration journey and so it will be a key focus for myself and the team. My initial goal is to ensure we adopt the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment through our managers and the best practice protocols set out by the UN’s Asset Owners Alliance.
Our CEO Mark Cloutier has a very clear and compelling vision for the firm and this resonates with the ambitions I have for our investment strategy. At Aspen, we have a clear set of values and behaviors that should be reflected in client engagement activities, and these will also continue to influence our approach to investment management.
What are some of your goals over the next 12 months?
Two stand out for me. Firstly, to position Aspen’s investment management strategy as a contributor to the successful execution of our business plan. Aspen is a sophisticated firm, which operates across a number of capital and regulatory regimes. In implementing our investment strategy, it’s vital to ensure that we do this in a way which is consistent with each of the business lines and different company requirements within our Group.
My second priority will be to progress and oversee the continued integration of ESG into our investment strategy. Insurance firms, such as ourselves, have the opportunity to lead on climate and social investing, and I’d like us to join those at the forefront, driving the evolution of ESG integration into the investment process.
Finally, how would you sum up the culture at Aspen?
It’s evident that there is a real spirit of collaboration and genuine enthusiasm across Aspen to deliver our strategy. It also feels a very inclusive and open culture which is refreshing to see in our industry.