Young professionals who work for ICMA member firms can keep up to date with developments in the capital markets by accessing the wide range of useful resources and services of the association, including a legal and regulatory helpdesk, podcasts, webinars, and various guides and FAQs. 



Market insights

Intergenerational equity and capital – Exploring the links between ESG and millennials as investors and as beneficiaries
By Martina Macpherson, President, Network for Sustainable Financial Markets 
Head of ESG Strategy, ODDO B HF AM

ESG (environmental, social, governance) investing has entered the mainstream and more and more young, female and values-based investors are assessing and asking questions about their sustainable investment options. 

A recent survey found that 73% of respondents said the idea of ESG investing was “very” or “somewhat” appealing. And 76% of individuals said they would be “much more” or “somewhat more” likely to enrol in their workplace benefits if they applied ESG principles, with 60% stating that they would be likely contribute more to an ESG-aligned retirement plan if one were available.1

Millennials are not only worried about the environmental and social impact of the companies in which they invest, but they also believe it’s important to invest in companies that adhere to strong principles and standards in their business activities.

But ESG investing, for millennial and other investors, is not just about “doing the right thing,” but also about meeting expectations around positive performance and investment returns. Academic evidence e.g. by Harvard Business School, has shown that ESG investments have historically outperformed broader markets, particularly in times of market stress. 

And ESG funds have been performing well over the course of 2020. Funds with higher ESG ratings beat their style-specific index on average more often than funds with lower ESG ratings, according to Morningstar (01/2021).2 

When we now look at the next generation as pension fund beneficiaries, we should take note of the fact that fiduciary obligations and ESG investing are complimentary, as ESG factors may help identify material financial risks and opportunities that can drive better long-term investment performance.

Hence, millennial beneficiaries have a key role to play, as consumers mandating sustainable practices, as investors supporting the growth of sustainable investment products, and as future pension fund beneficiaries preserving intergenerational equity and capital.3

For more information and how to start the dialogue with next gen investors and ESG professionals, please visit: 

1. Voya Financial Survey 2020, see Investment Week, Reaching the next generation of investors via ESG, 08/2020  
2. Morningstar, Did ESG Pay Off for Fund Investors Last Year? Yes and No, 05/01/2021  
3. Tobin, James, “What Is Permanent Endowment Income?”, The American Economic Review, Vol. 64, No. 2, Papers and Proceedings of the Eighty-sixth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association (May 1974): 427-432 
Definition: Intergenerational equity was defined by economist James Tobin in 1974. He wrote, “The trustees of endowed institutions are the guardians of the future against the claims of the present. Their task in managing the endowment is to preserve equity among generations.”

Impact of financial technology in primary markets
By Duncan Phillips

Over the past several years, the role that technology could play in primary markets has become increasingly apparent. As volumes increase and transaction times decrease, practitioners have recognised that only a modern technology toolset can meet market needs. Similarly, many now expect to see in their professional day similar solutions to those they use in their personal lives.

Looking back, one of the most significant technological developments in primary markets occurred with the adoption of IssueNet, a solution originally conceived and developed by ICMA, but now owned by IHS Markit. It provides automatic reconciliation of multiple orderbooks and is widely acknowledged to have eliminated lengthy manual reconciliation calls.

The market has also shifted to specialized bookbuilding tools, developed in-house or by a third party. Designed to accumulate thousands of orders from hundreds of salespeople, and create an efficient interface for syndicate, they have saved time and improved adherence to regulation. 

Looking forward, there is ample scope for further technological progress. Solutions with “process-centric” functionality might be expanded to include “data-centric” functionality, which focuses on capture and configuration to allow greater access, interpretation and utilization of the data. A cohort of nascent tech firms are incorporating this approach to automate the production of transaction documents. 

Greater use of artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a role here, although their application in primary markets is still at an emerging stage. Smarter technology could, for example, work with orderbook data (“Which investors are most likely to buy?”, “Which investors are missing from a book?”) or market data (“Are market conditions good or bad?”, “Where is the transaction likely to price?”).

Distributed ledger technology also remains relevant. While there has been a gradual rationalization of its applicability, increasing rhetoric from central banks regarding central bank digital currencies and several serious projects sponsored by well-regarded institutions demonstrate how the technology has a place in the wholesale market. 

Accompanying these developments, market practitioners are adjusting how they think about technology. There is more emphasis on ensuring clients share the benefits of new solutions, with the technology becoming a conspicuous service differentiator, and DCM practitioners are often taking more of a lead role within their organizations to design new paradigms, including the underlying tech and its market roll out.

ICMA has taken several steps to support this increasing emphasis on financial technology. The ICMA Primary Markets Technology Directory compares the key features and capabilities of technology solutions available to automate all or part of the process of issuing debt securities, and complimenting this is the FinTech Advisory Committee which has a wide remit to provide advice on potential market improvements and lead a dialogue with vendors.

ICMA Education has been looking at ways to incorporate technology-related content into its suite of courses in 2021 with the launch of a course on Primary Market Financial Technology, which will provide delegates with an accessible review of the current role of technology in the primary market while looking forward at its potential applications in the future. The course will be livestreamed in six morning sessions (CEST) on June 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25.

Register now for ICMA’s NEW Livestreamed Primary Market Financial Technology Course in June 2021, developed by Duncan.  

Career growth in the time of Covid: Problem or opportunity?
Larry Wallace, Wallace Partners 

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, here we are in lockdown number two. All those memories of the first lockdown come rushing back – working from the same room you sleep in; getting your completely uninterested kids to appreciate your new-found talent for home-schooling; coaxing the cat to get off your desk and move away from the camera during that really important Zoom meeting. When will it end? I wish I could tell you.

In the meantime, your days continue to start at 7:30 in the morning and don’t end until bedtime. You’re exhausted, maybe a bit anxious, certainly fed up. And because of this, you aren’t finding time for things that might not have the same urgency as your day-to-day work but in the long run are equally important. Like your career.

You’re a person who’s loaded with potential, you’re ambitious and have talent to spare, so I would encourage you not to waste an entire year ignoring your career. Here are some things you can do:

YOUR NETWORK: Networks establish your presence – and your personal brand – with people who matter. They provide absolutely critical support when you want to change jobs. But even in ordinary times, most people under-attend to their networks. If you’re concerned about your career, you can’t let this happen. Everyone should have at least ten people externally, and perhaps twice as many people internally, with whom they maintain regular contact. The contact needs to be substantive. Don’t confuse the occasional text message or a Linked-In hello with real communication. These do little more than let people know you’re still alive. Don’t type – talk! Pick up the phone. Ask people how they’re doing. Share ideas. Gossip a little. In other words, make a real connection.

  • Tip: Be disciplined about staying in close touch with people. Set a goal to spend at least an hour every two weeks on a call specifically dedicated to networking. That’s twenty-five calls a year.

YOUR MENTOR: Your mentor is someone who can be extremely helpful on any number of career-related issues: a sounding board if you’re thinking about changing jobs; someone who can make important introductions; a source of ideas about how to be more fulfilled in your current role. Don’t suffer in silence. Go to your mentor and seek advice, especially during a time like this. But remember, the best mentors sometimes tell you things you don’t want to hear. Listen to them carefully. They can prevent you from falling off a cliff.

  • Tip: If you don’t have a mentor, find one. Or rather, recruit one. Your future mentor – a former boss, a senior person you highly respect, someone you’ve gotten to know well in a client organization – is just waiting to be asked.

YOUR CREATIVITY: Paradoxically, the COVID era can be a time of creativity and opportunity. You have a choice: you can either get mired in the tedium of the day-to-day or you can look at how the world is changing and invent new ways to meet those changes head-on. Brainstorm with colleagues, start a task force, pitch your ideas to management. There’s no doubt that opportunities are there. The only question is whether you will see them and respond to them. For those who do, this is a time of invention and growth. Your current employer will reward you for your initiative and future employers will seek you out.

  • Tip: Be a leader. Don’t be a bystander. High-potential people take the bull by the horns and make the world a better place. If you can figure out how to do this, your career will take care of itself.

Take advantage of the ICMA Mentoring Platform!

Designed for professionals in the debt capital markets, the platform connects people across the industry and across regions with access open to staff at all 600 of ICMA’s member firms in more than 60 countries. 

Join 207 mentors and 698 mentees already signed up to the platform (open only to ICMA Members)

Adaptability in a capital market career
By Tim Skeet, Senior Adviser at Bank of China, UK and Vice Chair of the ICMA Committee of Regional Representatives

The combination of Covid, Brexit and other industry changes has been a potent and disruptive set of forces in our working lives. At past Future Leader events, when discussing work in the capital markets, some of you will have heard the view that relentless, sometimes, dramatic change is a permanent feature. ‘Expect the unexpected’ should always be a guiding principle, or - watch out for that incoming formation of black swans. Covid and Brexit are good examples of largely unpredictable events.

Uncertainty and underlying volatility in debt markets, which ebb and flow on the back of geopolitical and economic events, are constant features of our work. But despite this and the increasing application of technology and industry rationalisation, large numbers of people remain critical and central to this high-end, vibrant service industry. 

Some areas have, however, been more impacted in recent years by technology and rationalisation than others. Trading has been automated in parts. Heavier regulation and less human judgement and instinct has robbed parts of the traded market of natural shock absorbers. Bond Sales likewise has experienced some disintermediation, as platforms open new pathways between investors and sources of bonds through virtual connections. Nevertheless, across great swathes of the cash and derivatives markets there are still many real people- brokers, traders and salespeople, not machines.

In DCM/ Syndicate, some would argue that these jobs are still broadly resistant to automation. Old fashioned judgment, relationships and trust remain anchors of what remains a people intensive part of the business. Transaction management, another aspect of the primary market, continues to require people and expertise to deal with the diverse documentation and listing requirements. True, there is a big push to simplify and automate much of the execution aspects of new deals. Nevertheless, as this process advances, increasing levels or supervision, regulation and reporting have multiplied the needs for business-familiar compliance and in-house legal staff.

What might this mean for you as you navigate your way through a capital markets career? For me it was all about spotting emerging trends before everyone else gets on board. Early in my career, I worked on pioneering UK mortgage securitisations before the industry took off, a bit later I mugged up on and got involved in designing Tier 1 bank capital instruments in the very early days, before involving myself next in early work in a globalising covered bond market. I became something of a product specialist in covered bonds for a while. 

Other initiatives included, at one point being a bit of an expert in the area of capital portfolio management under Basel II and more recently I worked with ICMA on rolling out early ESG training programmes before the juggernaut of the green finance industry started to roll. Each of these moves ensured I was well placed to offer some insight and expertise to colleagues and clients even as other avenues shut down and jobs changed. This created optionality. Today, this continues as I work on Panda bonds in China and increase my training and lecturing across the industry. In this way each of us can remain relevant, fresh and employable.

The endless inventiveness and imagination of the capital markets has ensured that it has endured and indeed flourished for decades, even as technology has changed how and where we work. There will be more changes and difficulties ahead, along with dislocations to the global model arising from geopolitical tension and populist politics. Nevertheless, the capital markets, with its truly global standards, vision and crucial role in directing vast flows of capital, remains still one of the truly exciting and fascinating places to work. As we all examine our career paths, plan for the changes, remain adaptable and look forward with optimism. My own career has been one of constant evolution, pragmatism and being constantly alert to opportunities and change.

How can ICMA help you?

Take a look at ICMA’s quick reference guide – a one pager explaining the essentials of the Securities Financing Transactions Regulation (SFTR).

Watch out for the next ‘cheat sheet’: What’s a buy-in?


ICMA Future Leaders Events

The Swiss arm of ICMA Future Leaders recently held a webinar to discuss how the pandemic is reshaping the way we work (Are offices becoming irrelevant?) and how young professionals today can build their careers in this ‘new normal’. The two polls conducted during the webinar found that a majority of the respondents expect to return to the office later in the year and that the biggest risk to careers as a result of working from home was losing touch with their network and the lack of visibility with colleagues and senior management.

In case you missed the event, watch the recording of ICMA Future Leaders: Professional life in and after the COVID-19 world.

Sign up now for this live virtual event!

ICMA Future Leaders: Professional life in and after the COVID-19 pandemic, from the perspective of the capital markets lawyer, 10 March

After a year of unprecedented change to the way we work, there has been much discussion around how professionals more generally will need to adapt going forward. We bring together a panel of highly experienced capital markets lawyers, both private practice and in house, to give their insights on this subject.


ICMA Education

Securities Operations Foundation Qualification (SOFQ)

I signed-up for ICMA’s Securities Operations Course to improve my knowledge of operations, the role of middle office and syndicate processes. My role as an in-house lawyer involves assessing the impact of various regulatory and market practice initiatives across the bank so it is essential that I have a thorough understanding of the life cycle of a securities transaction and clearing and settlement. 

I took the online self-study course so that I could fit studying around my working day and took advantage of the wide range of resources (e.g. pre-recorded videos, reading materials, practice tests, discussions boards) to work through the content. There were quizzes at the end of each chapter which I used to check my understanding of the content before progressing to the next section. There was also no limit to how many times we could take these so I revisited them a number of times throughout the course to help me recap the material and prepare for the final exam.

I found the videos on calculations on equities and bonds (for example, accrued interest) particular useful. They used diagrams to break down the calculations into smaller parts which made them easier to understand. In addition, they walked us through some examples which will help me to apply them in practice. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the course – it was interesting and engaging – and I now have a strong understanding of the securities operations concepts and processes.

Annabel Ballance, Vice President & Senior Counsel, Citi 

Sign up now for the online self study course and start learning on 1 March.

Check the full listing of our livestreamed and self-study finance courses.


ICMA Media Library

Check out ICMA’s media library featuring webinars and podcasts on a variety of current issues and themes relating to capital markets, including sustainable finance, the transition to risk-free rates, repo & collateral and the effect of COVID-19 on markets. 

ICMA podcast      

ICMA Briefing on the global transition from LIBOR to risk-free rates in the bond market
4 February 2021 The adoption of risk-free rates, the active transition of legacy LIBOR bonds, legislation on tough legacy contracts and the transition to risk-free rates in Asia-Pacific.

ICMA podcast  

ICMA AMIC - Lessons from the COVID 19 crisis from a fund liquidity perspective
21 January 2021 A panel of asset managers and market regulators look at how investment funds performed during the COVID-19 crisis.

ICMA podcast  

Climate transition finance – new guidance for issuers
9 December 2020 The launch of new guidelines on the disclosures to be made by issuers on their climate change strategy when raising funds in debt capital markets.


ICMA FinTech Forum - Digitisation in bond markets against the backdrop of COVID-19
26 November 2020 A look at the advances in digitisation of global bond markets in 2020, including regulatory developments, notably the EU’s Digital Finance Package. 


Most popular episodes last month

ICMA podcast      

ICMA’s post-Brexit podcast: implications for capital markets
ICMA colleagues provide an overview of the implications for international capital markets from the end of the post-Brexit transition period.

ICMA podcast  

Kāinga Ora and sustainable finance in New Zealand
Sam Direen, Treasurer of Kāinga Ora, the public housing agency of New Zealand discusses their Wellbeing Bonds, aligned with the Green and Social Bond Principles.

ICMA podcast  

The future of electronic trading in bond markets with Neptune Networks
Byron Cooper-Fogarty, Interim CEO, Neptune Networks on how electronic bond trading is evolving and whether regulation is helping or hindering technology innovation.



Keep up to date by following the ICMA Future Leaders LinkedIn page or following us on Twitter @icmagroup




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