At WTW, three teams reported to Ms. Nikulina — manager research, led by Chris Redmond; operational due diligence, led by Josh Hall; and asset research, led by David Hoile. Ms. Nikulina then reported into Craig Baker, global CIO. Following her departure, Messrs. Redmond, Hall and Hoile will report directly to Mr. Baker, “as these teams used to do,” the spokesman said.
At IFM, Ms. Nikulina’s new role allows her to continue to focus on several of her passions: the development and offering of private markets solutions that meet the needs of global pension funds and their participants; the importance of sustainability in the money management industry; and the pursuit of investment with a purpose.
In her previous role at WTW — her last day was Aug. 31 — she spent a lot of time on sustainability and systemic risks, considering how the industry can collaborate more to solve some of those risks. Her passion for collaboration was also evident in her role as co-chairwoman of the Investment Consultants Sustainability Working Group, and it has been “incredible to see the power of collaboration,” she said.
That theme of collaboration carries through to her new role at IFM. “I could see that IFM, because of the fact that investors stand behind them, they understand how to collaborate and make it work. For me, it’s an opportunity to continue on the same wave of collaboration that I saw working effectively in other contexts,” with IFM also giving her the chance to enhance that collaboration on a global scale, across different shareholders and markets, she added.
On private markets, there is “essentially an opportunity to do more in this area and also to continue to innovate,” she said. There’s an intersection with climate change, social factors and the decarbonization of the global economy, as well as with the “fourth industrial revolution” — how technology can be used more. “You do need illiquid capital to be able to facilitate this,” she added. Ms. Nikulina developed Willis Towers Watson’s private market capabilities.
Ms. Nikulina said private markets are evolving right now — in private equity, for example, there is more appetite for long-term structures, with the need for innovation there. In infrastructure, there is appetite among institutional investors to move along the curve in terms of the risk spectrum.
The idea of having a “purpose” is also something that attracted Ms. Nikulina to the role — “how important it is for an asset management organization, if they want to be successful in the future, to ensure that purpose is embedded. It goes … beyond buying low, selling high (and) pure financial arguments. IFM’s purpose is to preserve and grow the retirement savings of working people, and it’s because this organization was created by pension funds and these are (…….