Anuj A. Shah from KKS Advisors will join as Nossa Data’s first advisor

August 26, 2020

By Julianne Sloane, Co-Founder and CEO of Nossa Data

The Nossa Data team is excited to welcome Anuj A. Shah, a Managing Director at KKS Advisors as our first advisor.

To welcome Anuj to the team, we interviewed him on his background and why he is excited to support us as an advisor.

What is your background?

I have 20 years of experience in the investment management industry, the bulk of which was spent at Morgan Stanley where I was most recently the Head of Strategy and Business Management for the Private Wealth Management business unit. I began becoming interested in sustainable investing which eventually led me to leave the firm in January of 2018 to found Linear Impact Partners, a boutique advisory firm that developed sustainable investing strategies and business development solutions aimed at unlocking more capital towards positive social and environmental outcomes. This led me to connecting and learning about KKS Advisors, which I ultimately decided to join in March of 2019. At KKS, I am a Managing Director and lead business development and operational activities in the US with a focus on ESG and impact investing integration, impact measurement and management, corporate sustainability strategy, and product management. I also work with the global KKS team on strategic partnerships, product development, and thought leadership.

What led you to focusing on ESG and Impact Investing?

There is typically a journey to a career in ESG and Impact Investing. My journey was certainly heavily influenced by my parents being immigrants to America from India, working at Lehman Brothers in September 2008, and witnessing the growing inequality in society. Through these lenses, I saw a capitalist system that needed reform and risk management that needed to be improved. In April 2010, I read an article by Paul Sullivan in the New York Times which was the first time I saw “impact investing” (investing with the intent to produce positive impact) mentioned and it just made sense.

Read the article. ‌‌

I started obsessing over this specific subset of investing, and even though it was not specifically a part of my job responsibilities, I consumed everything I could find on it. I also did a lot of networking in the space to expand my knowledge and try to stay current. Eventually I decided that impact investing and ultimately, ESG, was what I wanted to pursue full time and I resigned from Morgan Stanley to focus my energy on solving challenges in the ever-expanding sustainable investing ecosystem.

What does KKS Advisors do?

KKS Advisors is an advisory firm focused on sustainability strategy whose vision is to reshape markets. We were founded in 2013 and work with asset owners, asset managers, corporates, NGOs, think tanks and more on, broadly speaking, “sustainability strategy”. We have offices in Boston, London and Athens. One of our unique advantages is that George Serafeim, a professor at Harvard Business School, is one of our co-founders. He is a widely-known and well regarded authority within the field of ESG. In fact, much of his research has defined the terms we use today. For example, a paper he presented in 2015, Corporate Sustainability: First Evidence on Materiality, spurred a large amount of investor interest in the space. It explained that companies that identify material ESG issues and set a strategy to improve performance on these issues outperform firms that do not improve performance on their material issues.

What types of corporates do you work with at KKS Advisors? How do you help them incorporate ESG strategies?

We work with corporates either directly or via asset management firms working across their portfolio.

  1. From an asset management perspective, we work with firms who make investments directly into companies. We help them analyse portfolio companies, conduct materiality assessments to identify material issues, and define disclosure metrics/KPIs. We can also help show how portfolio companies compare to peers/competitors and benchmark would best practices.
  2. For corporates themselves we essentially do the exact same work. Publicly-traded firms are aware that ESG is important within their organisation but want to know how they should get started at doing a better job communicating the story to their stakeholders. One example is that we have often seen a firm's ESG story wrapped into a CSR program. We will help educate our clients on how to better define ESG by conducting a materiality analysis and creating programs to help them monitor progress on material issues. We also work with our clients to help communicate this progress.

What excited you about becoming an advisor to Nossa Data?

There is still so much work that has to be done in the field. Specifically, we see and hear from our corporate clients how much pain they are encountering when it comes to ESG reporting. There are ways to make this process more efficient for corporations. We also need a way to help corporates identify and disclose material ESG issues, KPIs and metrics in a more streamlined manner. As I have learned about what Nossa Data is doing, I see that their solution is aiming to fill those precise gaps.

The way I see it, technology will be beneficial. First of all, it is cost effective. You can quantify the cost up-front for the corporate and if the digital solution is more cost efficient and the work is better and more standardised than what is currently possible, it is a no brainer. My aim is to share perspectives on pain points we see at KKS and support Nossa Data in developing solutions.

What kinds of discussions have you heard from your corporate clients in regards to ESG reporting?

It is a pain point and a major cost center for organisations! We even see ESG reporting as a problem within the investment management community who are increasingly expected to produce these reports for their clients. In both cases, organisations often don’t have this skill in house, which has led to a significant demand for the type of talent who can do this work.

Overall, I view this as an evolving market instead of a mature market. Corporates are receiving external pressure from investors to disclose ESG information but lack the digital solutions that could help sustainability professionals better perform their jobs. And the lack of standards around disclosures makes the industry the wild west, with the entire process taking too much time and screaming out for more efficiency.

Where do you see the corporate ESG reporting market going in the next few years?

In the investment industry, I believe the skill set needed to interpret an ESG report is becoming as important as analysing the balance sheet or cash flow statement of a firm. From an ESG reporting perspective, that expectation is already there.

Investors are going to continue to move this space forward and corporations need to be prepared for that. I expect corporate strategies to be re-orientated around sustainability. Corporate executives are increasingly seeing sustainability as a way to create value for their organisations. And as the next generation moves up the corporate ladder, the expectations around sustainability will grow even more.

What role do you hope Nossa Data can play in the market as a technology provider to corporates?

I believe Nossa Data can support corporate efficiency around ESG. We are in a time with increasing ESG expectations from stakeholders and a lack of effective technological solutions in place to help solve these demands. Nossa Data is coming when many organisations are already on the path to committing to ESG for the long term. Change is happening at the top and Nossa Data can be the technology provider to support this change.

Getting to know Anuj

I first became aware of Anuj and KKS Advisors last year as part of writing a weekly newsletter about ESG. I frequently featured articles and reports written by KKS Advisors as well as academic papers by their Senior Partner, George Serafeim, who is also a leading ESG researcher from Harvard Business School. I quickly noticed that Anuj was a strong voice industry voice who frequently offered unique perspectives on the world of ESG.

When we launched Nossa Data full time, Anuj was one of the first people we reached out to in order to get his perspectives on the market and ESG technology needs. Our very first call confirmed Anuj's strong grasp of the ESG market and, in particular, the corporate sector where Nossa Data is focused. Following our initial discussions, we received additional valuable feedback from Anuj during follow-up sessions.  Today, we are delighted to have Anuj join us as an advisor as we further develop technology to revolutionise ESG data reporting, utilisation and management.