Karianne Bail-Lancee Senior Pension Investments and Sustainability Manager, Univest Company (Unilever pension funds)
Karianne Bail-Lancee
(Art by Victor Juhasz)

“Karianne is a champion for sustainability. One can’t help being hypnotised by her energy and passion for this area. She is a wonderful inspiration.  Without realising it, she automatically infuses others to up their game and learn more about sustainability.”

—Jayne Atkinson FIA – UK & Overseas Chief Investment Officer, Univest

 

Karianne Bail-Lancee was charged with building out sustainable investment capabilities at Univest Company BV, Unilever’s in-house pension investments team. The company was one of the first corporations to become a UN PRI signatory. As senior pension investments and sustainability manager, she liaises with both the internal investment team and global trustee boards to create something that many corporations claim cannot be done. For example, the Univest Sustainability Fund, an impact investment fund which launched a few months ago under her remit, provides Unilever pension funds exposure to global illiquid investments with the objective to create financial value over the long term, while creating a measurable social or environmental impact.

The Netherlands-born investor is fluent in Dutch, Mandarin, and English and provides investment advice to some of Unilever’s 80 global pension plans with $35 billion AUM. She is directly responsible for the investment strategies and relationships of Unilever’s US, Canadian, German, and Brazilian plans. Her career has taken her from an analyst intern for Fidequity, to work with derivatives for P-Solve Risk Management Solutions. The Cass Business School MSc grad also has a degree as a nutritional therapist.


CIO:  What are the accomplishments you are most happy to have achieved recently, and why?

Lancee: The launch of our Univest Sustainability Fund earlier this year. This fund provides multiple Unilever pension funds access to investment opportunities that stem from a transition towards a more sustainable economy. The fund invests in various illiquid strategies globally with the objective to create financial value over the long term, alongside a measurable social or environmental impact. It has been great to work with our internal investment team and Trustee Boards to create this investment solution. I feel lucky to be part of an innovative organization.  
     

CIO: What would you be most excited to accomplish in the year ahead, and why?

Lancee: I am excited about identifying underlying investment strategies for the Univest Sustainability Fund in the year ahead, and to be fully invested shortly. This will confirm there are plenty of deals out there that target market rate risk-adjusted returns whilst creating measurable social or environmental impact.


CIO:  What’s the most rewarding aspect of being an asset owner?

Lancee: Without a doubt that you can see an idea through from creating the business case, pitching the case to Investment Committees and Trustee Boards, to implementing it! With the help of a brilliant team, of course.


CIO: What’s the most challenging?

Lancee: The multi-stakeholder environment in which we operate; the internal investment team, Unilever as corporate sponsor, and the Investment Committee and Trustee Board groups. Unilever has pension plans in 80+ countries and we need to be cognizant of local differences.


CIO: What are you most hopeful about in the future of the industry?

Lancee: I am hopeful that sustainable investing becomes the new normal. Material E, S, and G factors will be considered as part of the investment process at all times whilst stewardship activities are conducted, and progress tracked.


CIO: What are you most cautious about?

Lancee: The political environment to help facilitate the transition towards a more sustainable form of capitalism.


CIO: As a leader, what are the most important aspects of the industry you hope to change over your career?

Lancee: To change the focus of decision-making from relying on historic events to a focus on what is to come.


CIO: If you had one piece of advice for your peers, what would it be?

“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and your commitment” – Tony Robbins


CIO: What are the biggest current trends you are seeing that have surprised you?​

Lancee: Honestly, nothing surprises me these days! I am not a trend follower.