An interview with Helen Jesse from New Forests

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By Serendis

April 4, 2023

Described in late-March 2023 by the AFR’s Chanticleer as arguably the fastest growing fund manager in Australia that nobody knows, New Forests Asset Management invests in nature for a sustainable future.

We sat down with Helen Jesse, Associate Director, Human Resources at New Forests to hear about their leadership and culture aspirations and challenges for 2023 and beyond.

What are your key business challenges and opportunities for New Forests as you continue to grow at pace?

Because we are a global organisation, growth of the company certainly presents us with geographical challenges and opportunities. For any growing business, it is about replicating what we do well, in terms of being a leading global investment manager of nature-based real assets and natural capital strategies, whilst also being flexible and innovative in regard to new asset classes, new locations and investor expectations.  From an HR perspective, as we grow, it is about attracting the right people at the right time, managing jurisdictional legislative employment requirements, remuneration expectations and market factors, onboarding and employee integration.

What are the challenges New Forest are facing internally from a culture perspective?

Continuing to ensure that our overall culture, as part of our Employee Value Proposition, supports both attraction and retention of our employees. Again it is the balance of ensuring our culture is replicated across our global locations, particularly as we onboard and integrate our new employees, whilst recognising each location should have its own cultural nuance.

What are your leaders wishing to focus on from a leadership perspective in 2023?

We have had a lot of growth and associated change over the last two years, most recently with our shareholding (further investment by Mitsui and the new investment by Nomura) and our CEO (Dave Brand handing over to Mark Rogers). This is in addition to the creation of New Agriculture (New Forests’ agricultural business in Australia and New Zealand) and the establishment of a new office in Nairobi, Kenya. So, there has been a lot going on in New Forests and it will continue!

Aside from the growth agenda, I believe the leadership focus is about change management, good governance and innovation, in the context of growth. From an HR perspective, the leadership focus is continuing to support our people through this “new world” whilst driving forward with HR initiatives such as DEI, flexible working and career development that will best support our employees to “do their best work” whilst being cognisant of what employees value, want and expect from us.

What is the main impact you are seeking?

For New Forests to continue to be a thought and implementation leader in regard to sustainable forestry and land use investment, and to continue to deliver on our ESG commitments for our investors, employees and the communities in which we operate. Again, from an HR perspective, bringing our people on the journey with us by helping them to better understand our business, our vision and mission and how they contribute through not only the work they do but the varied perspectives they bring to the organisation and their teams.

How has Serendis supported you?

Partnering with Serendis across varying programs (including coaching for our leaders within the business, cultural foundations, inclusive leadership and behaviours workshops, for all employees) has enabled us to deliver consistent messaging about our culture, helped bring together people from different global locations (albeit remotely) and enhanced the capabilities of our leaders.