Personality of the year: Isabelle Vic-Philippe
Isabelle Vic-Philippe's work helping to update the Social Bond Principles to allow the market to more effectively respond to the coronavirus pandemic earned her the accolade of Personality of the year.
Vic-Philippe, Amundi's head of euro aggregate and lead portfolio manager, began her career at BNP Paribas in 1989 upon completion of an MA in Economics and Statistics from ENSAE Paris and an MA in Economics from EHESS – both French schools of Economics and Statistics. She went on to join Amundi's Euro Fixed Income platform as a portfolio manager in 1994 and has since taken active role in initiatives that have helped channel capital towards climate and social objectives.
One Environmental Finance Bond Awards judge commented that Vic-Philippe has made an "important, transformative contribution towards the development of green bond markets".
For example, in 2018, Vic-Philippe and her team worked with the World Bank to launch the Amundi Planet Emerging Green One (EGO) fund; the first green bond fund aimed to finance projects in emerging countries. Vic-Philippe has also managed Amundi's Responsible Investing Impact Green Bonds fund since its launch in 2016.
Her team, in partnership with the European Investment Bank, also mobilised several investors to launch the first fund aiming to finance green projects outside of investment-grade issuers space, in 2019.
More recently, her focus has moved beyond green to include social issues. In 2020, she launched Amundi's first social funds aligned with International Capital Market Association's (ICMA) Social Bond Principles (SBP). She also co-chairs the ICMA Social Bonds Working Group and contributed to enhancing the Social SBP to include projects fighting Covid-19 pandemic effects, such as the financing of healthcare systems and employment retention.
It was her pandemic-focused work as co-chair of ICMA's Social Bonds Working Group that caught the attention of the judges in particular. "The fast reaction to Covid-19, led by the work of the Social Bonds Working Group, was indeed one of the key factors that showed the broad and useful applicability of the social bond instrument, as well as the great work done in these markets. Isabelle's work is an example of the solutions that can be provided by engaged individuals in the green and social bond markets," one judge commented.
The quick response of the Social Bonds Working Group meant that most issuers were able to issue Covid-19 focused social bonds, Vic-Philippe told Environmental Finance.
"The idea was to quickly provide a framework so that issuers could feel comfortable to issue social bonds to fight the pandemic. Issuers must be aligned with standards to avoid green- or social-washing. As the pandemic required a new direction for some use of proceeds, we had to make sure the standards were updated as well.
"We looked at which types of spending could be eligible under the SBPs. For example, before the pandemic, job creation was mentioned in the SBPs. We amended this to include job retention – meaning social bond financing could go towards keeping people employed. We also added a section on Covid-19 to the ICMA Guidance Handbook to clarify to what extent it was possible to refinance Covid-19 spending," she says.
Looking ahead, Vic-Philippe is working on an initiative to mobilise investment to address rising socioeconomic inequality. She is also a keen advocate of the Just Transition debate.
"This year Amundi plans to publish some high-level guidance on what the Just Transition means. It is our duty to participate and give our point of view because, in the end, we will provide the product that investors can buy. We must be involved in the market evolution so that we can meet the needs of issuers and investors," she says.
In response to winning the Personality of the year award, Vic-Philippe commented: "I am very grateful to win this award. What I do on the ground is important to me. However, I am just one part of these initiatives. In the end, it comes down to teamwork."