02 April 2019
JP Morgan's Marilyn Ceci is one of the pioneers of the green bond market.
She was one of four bankers who helped draft the Green Bond Principles (GBPs) in 2013, which have become the commonly accepted guidelines of best practice for the market, and she remains an integral part of the market.
Her role as JP Morgan's managing director and head of green bonds sees her, like many underwriters, constantly travelling the world to promote the concept of issuing green, social or sustainability bonds.
But her other roles include being a member of the GBPs and Social Bond Principles (SBPs) and Sustainability Bond Guidelines' executive committee, vice-chair of the steering group representing underwriters, and co-chair of the new markets taskforce.
She was also on the Sustainability-linked Loan Principles working group.
Her efforts were praised by the awards judges. "Marilyn should be rewarded for all of the hard work she puts tirelessly into driving the GBPs to higher standards," said one.
Another said: "Marilyn has served the market with relentless passion and integrity for many years. In 2018 she was very active within the GBP/SBPs steering committee, has provided feedback and guidance via the New Markets Taskforce, and – among other things – volunteered JP Morgan's help to drive the translation of the GBP/SBP into many languages, which was a major improvement for the market in 2018."
"Marilyn is, simply put, a green bond superstar," another summarised.
Unsurprisingly, Ceci is bullish about the market's prospects, and is "not concerned" about the flatlining growth of the green bond market in 2018.
"Nothing grows in a straight line," she argues. "There were a lot of different influences in 2018. I still believe the market is strong."
She is encouraged by numerous trends in the market, including the growing number of sovereign issuers – which she believes are catalytic in terms of encouraging others to issue – and growing signs of interest from parts of the corporate community.
When asked for her highlights of 2018, she says: "The sovereigns of Ireland and Belgium resonate for me, personally, with their commendable leadership.
"It was also exciting to see the REIT market in the US come alive with Alexandria, Prologis, Kilroy and Boston Properties."
She cites figures that show that in 2018, 13% of US REIT issuance was green, up from 0% in the previous two years.
"The momentum continues in 2019," she says. "The continuity of the supranational issuers as well as stalwarts like Enel, Engie and Berlin Hyp continuing to underpin their commitment with repeat issuance is inspiring."
Ceci has argued repeatedly over the years that green bonds are 'additional' in the sense that they help to raise awareness of sustainability issues.
"My views have not changed," she explains. "We need to move past the traditional definition of additionality that demands: 'If not for this financing the project would not happen'.
Investors now have an instrument that enables them to use their investments to support positive green or social outcomes
"We need to expand it and acknowledge that green or social bonds have created a platform for issuers to communicate their sustainability goals and ambitions via the capital markets to their investors. Investors now have an instrument that enables them to use their investments to support positive green or social outcomes.
"The market was created to fill a void for investors and, as a result, has driven the climate dialogue and raised awareness of social issues, such as gender or the underserved."
The impact reports of green bonds are also worth highlighting, she says: "The reporting commitment and impact metrics provide greater insight into companies and their sustainability achievements."
She concludes: "Of the 48 corporate green, social and sustainability bonds issued so far in 2019, 40% were repeat issuers... leading us to conclude that both issuers and investors recognise the benefits."