With environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing becoming mainstream, the demand for professionals with relevant knowledge and skills required to integrate ESG factors into the investment process has surged.
The CFA Institute, the global association of investment professionals, has seen growing interest among its members to acquire the Certificate in ESG Investing, which it launched in early 2021. And as concerns over greenwashing increase, interest in the qualification is expected to remain strong.
“Since product inception in September 2021, we have seen more than 21,000 candidates globally register for the Certificate in ESG Investing. Hong Kong has gone from being the top Asia-Pacific (APAC) market for registrations last year to now being the top market in the world,” Paul Moody, managing director of global partnership and client solutions at the CFA Institute, said during his first post-pandemic trip to Asia.
From September 2022 to January this year alone, Hong Kong recorded more than 2,400 registrations, compared with over 1,000 in the United Kingdom, 800-plus in the United States, and more than 300 in Singapore, Moody shares.
The Hong Kong government, keen to establish itself as a leading green finance and investment hub in Asia and eager to create a pipeline of ESG talent, is also underpinning the certification push by providing financial support for people who want to take the qualification.
According to a PwC report published in October last year, asset managers globally are expected to increase their ESG-related assets under management (AUM) to US$33.9 trillion by 2026, from US$18.4 trillion in 2021.
And just as asset holders, regulators and investors across APAC have accepted the need to urgently address all of the constituent parts of ESG, industry professionals have also appreciated their lack of expertise in a sector that is expected to see significant growth, could impair their career prospects.
With the current dearth of supply of investment professionals with the appropriate qualification and experience, Moody says that it is becoming hard to recruit people with relevant ESG investment expertise which has led to what he claims to be an incredible salary inflation.
Firms may also find themselves at a loss over the qualifications of the people in the job market since there is a lack of benchmarks to assess them.
Currently, the top markets in APAC for the Certificate in ESG Investing are Hong Kong, Singapore, India, and Australia. APAC also has the youngest average age of 35+ years (versus 37+ years in EMEA and 39+ years in the Americas), and the highest percentage of female candidates at 52%+ (versus 42%+ in EMEA and almost 44% in the Americas).
During his trip across the region, which included meetings in Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, Moody says, the eagerness for the new qualification was robust both in developing and developed markets.
South Korea, which is home to a substantial renewables and clean energy industry, is also seeing strong growth in the numbers of industry professionals signing up for the institute’s ESG certificate programme.
“All of those countries are taking ESG seriously because they can see first-hand the impact of climate change in their own country, so as well as gaining ESG qualifications, there's an innate and acute awareness of the core issues, too,” Moody says.