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Becoming an agent for positive change: Studying for the MSt in Sustainability Leadership

18 December 2019 – Elena Vydrine, Head of Portfolio Management and Environmental Social Governance (ESG) Integration at Ryedale reflects on how studying for the Master of Studies (MSt) in Sustainability Leadership impacted her career in the finance sector.

I recently joined Ryedale, a financial technology company, where I lead on integration of sustainability data into the core of portfolio management platform, so that fund managers in every investment asset class can have a good visibility of what ESG risks and opportunities their investments are exposed to. 

I made it my mission to apply ESG to the traditional approach to risk and return analysis, and wanted to gain a deeper understanding of how to bridge the gap to create future-proof investment strategies.

My research brought me into contact with CISL, and with positive feedback from a colleague who had studied there I decided to apply for the MSt in Sustainability Leadership.

A unique structure and wider perspective

The structure of the Master’s course appealed to me because of its interdisciplinary approach to covering various aspects of the sustainability spectrum. Since professional expertise in finance became niche and granular, it is often difficult to gain a wider perspective on the complex global issues. This course offered content that was both relevant and applicable to my direct professional function whilst also providing a broader outlook to the multifaceted challenges the world faces.

I found it fascinating to immerse myself in theories linked to economic development and emerging trends related to sustainability. I also gained exposure to such a wide range of people within my cohort, which was invaluable to my own growth through the course. My experiences mirrored my fellow students, and we all felt we had the necessary academic support to pursue our chosen areas of interest.

Access to leading experts and cutting edge theories

Whilst researching for my dissertation, my tutors were able to connect me to experts from various fields such as economics, finance, social sciences and even medical departments. I found this multidisciplinary insight invaluable and was astounded by the level of support and advice on how I should proceed with my work. My tutors had an immense influence during this two-year journey and help to shape my understanding of sustainability leadership.

I was also put in contact with experts from different disciplines whilst collecting primary research data for my dissertation – my tutors had opened doors that I simply wasn’t aware existed before I started the course. I learned about cutting edge theories on future market trends and how to identify what those levers for change were. Utilising such a cross-discipline approach is something the finance sector could really learn from.

During my research, I adopted the medical department’s rigorous approach to the statistical modelling methodology - something I could apply to work projects.

It was also hugely beneficial to be able to tap into the significant research streams that CISL’s Centre for Sustainable Finance and the Investment Leaders Group are committed to. Being part of the CISL Network and having the opportunity to attend regional events with senior leaders and leading practitioners from various industries remains a real asset.

Applying new knowledge and confidence to further my career

The course equipped me with the knowledge to move to the next level of my career. I had developed the expertise and confidence to use sustainability frameworks and models so fund managers could use that knowledge to ‘do well by doing good’.

In the past, I saw an increased acceptance amongst investors of how ESG risks could impact the long-term sustainability of the global economy and their returns. Although the commitment to sound governance policies and framework has always been there, the integration of responsible investment principles has been limited to the niche investments, such as low carbon or Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) strategies. 

It is my belief that financial community is strongly positioned to take that next step and make a measurable impact in developing sustainable practices and ESG should not be a part of these niche investment strategies but a central pillar of any investment philosophy.

CISL is a remarkable platform to help support this shift and, for dedicated practitioners, the immense research and resource pool provides all the necessary tools to become a subject matter expert whilst advancing your career - just as I have done.


Learn more about the part-time Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership and apply by 20 February 2020.

About the author

Elena Vydrine

Elena Vydrine, Head of Portfolio Management and Environmental Social Governance (ESG) Integration at Ryedale reflects on how studying for the Master of Studies (MSt) in Sustainability Leadership impacted her career in the finance sector.

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Guest articles on the blog do not necessarily represent the views of, or endorsement by, the Institute or the wider University of Cambridge.