Joanne Ferris (Alter Domus): Embracing ESG as Standard Practice

With its global presence, inclination to innovate and consciousness of environmental, social and economic (ESG) challenges, Joanne Ferris, Chief Human Resources Officer at Alter Domus, believes her firm can offer leadership in building momentum, with its influential private equity, real estate and private debt clients, to help make ESG become the norm.  

 

Can you describe Alter Domus in a few words?

 

Our values are responsibility, excellence, intelligence, and collaboration. I really feel we live by these values and they are reflected in everything we do. Alter Domus’s strategy is to be the leading and most innovative provider of high quality, technology-enabled, value-added services to the global investment industry. We are a very fast-paced company with a meritocratic philosophy when it comes to clear accountability and recognition of performance. We value learning and feel proud that our 3,000 people participated in 28,000 learning interventions during 2020 through our academy. So far this year we are at 18,000 and counting. We have a dedicated workforce with diverse talents that is approximately 50% female to male and comprises 74 nationalities. We grow both organically and through acquisition or through opening new offices in new locations. When we acquire a company, we work to make the new teams feel welcome and have enjoyed good success to date learning from acquired companies and integrating to benefit from the best of both. Furthermore, we value our clients and grow with them. Despite the fact we have only been around since 2003, we have many customers who have been with us for over ten years, and we feel proud that once we start to work with a client, they tend to stay with us. In fact, our customer retention rate is 98%. 

“While we’ll remain at the forefront of regulatory evolutions and anticipation of our clients’ expectations when it comes to ESG, our ambition is to also innovate in that field as much as we do in our core business” 

How is Alter Domus integrating ESG in its ethos? 

 

As a rapidly growing organization, with an increasingly global footprint, we recognize the importance of making a positive impact on the communities in which we operate. Our clients include the largest private equity, real estate and private debt managers in the world. We are conscious of the environmental, social and economic (ESG) challenges impacting our clients. We are committed to ensuring our business planning and decision making considers ESG factors as standard practice. During 2020, Alter Domus leadership committed to building a clear path and strategic framework in support of ESG. A global cross-functional steering committee was installed to ensure key deliverables were defined. These included the recommendation and adoption of a metric-based reporting structure; conducting an ESG materiality assessment of Alter Domus; developing and adopting a global ESG policy and developing and recommending both an internal and commercial strategy. To help achieve these goals we aligned the firm to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI) and the World Economic Forum (WEF) “Measuring Stakeholder Capitalism; Towards Common Metrics and Consistent Reporting of Sustainable Value Creation” framework. We will evolve our reporting and disclosures to fully align with the WEF metrics moving forward using the Sustainability and Disclosure framework which is built on four pillars: governance, planet, people and prosperity.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for ESG and Alter Domus in the next five years?

 

While we’ll remain at the forefront of regulatory evolutions and anticipation of our clients’ expectations when it comes to ESG, our ambition is to also innovate in that field as much as we do in our core business. It comes with empowering our employees and supporting them in their individual initiatives and engagements. We are glad that ESG became a competing field both due to business requirements and our will to be the employer of choice in our industry. This comes with the constant requirement to give purpose to everyone working with us and to value the positive impact we can or should have in everything we do. ESG is a topic on which we will never consider our work complete. The challenge will be to continue the great work already underway and continue to innovate and build on this momentum as we grow with our clients.