Karin Nemec is the CEO and co-founder of Grünfin.
She’s seen the world of finance up close – close enough to be capable of drawing up a complex system like a bank from scratch. She loves to improve things, which is just one of the reasons for committing her time to serve the sustainability goals of the planet.
Originally from Estonia, she has lived for five years in the bustling city of Shanghai together with her Canadian husband, whom she met at the IESE Business School. They now have two children and are settled down for more than five years in Frankfurt, Germany and the Austrian Alps.
What’s your role at Grünfin?
Grünfin is a sustainable investment platform for people who care about their impact.
My role is best described in the company’s mission: to make it super easy for everyone to contribute to a sustainable future by investing sustainably and based on their values.
I’m happy to be working with a great group of talented people. Together, we hope to bring down the level of expertise needed for sustainable investing. Today, it’s still a pretty obscure world.
Given that the world is on an unhealthy track, it’s critical to make it easy for people to invest in sustainable solutions and companies.
Why is it so important?
Most of us know that our carbon footprint depends on what we eat, how much we fly, how we act as consumers in general. But our finances are one of the biggest blind spots we have.
Some studies show that moving your pension over to impact-focused sustainable funds can have more than 20 times the impact compared to other choices.
So if you’re already taking the bicycle over your car and recycling your trash, you shouldn’t overlook your finances.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have thousands or tens of thousands in investments. It still has a major impact.
What did you do before Grünfin and what was your path to founding the company?
My time working at Swedbank in the financial markets division taught me a lot about how the world of finance works.
It also taught me that financial markets mainly consider risk and return and are ignorant about impact.
Since finance was both a job and a passion, I started to learn more about global problems and how my financial expertise could serve society better by solving the challenges.
I came across impact-focused investing and taught myself the principles of sustainable investing by managing our family portfolio based on our values. I also did an expert certificate course on sustainable finance at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
The deeper I got, the clearer it became that it would not be an easy shift for the world of investing.
For one, even though there are more than 3000 sustainable funds around the world today, only 3.6% of those set impact as an actual objective.
Filtering out the ones that I felt were making a difference was difficult for me as a professional in finance – it’s nearly impossible for a regular person.
Founding Grünfin, although it wasn’t intentional all the way, was eventually the logical step. Putting together the knowledge, a network of people and capital to try and change the system for the better felt good and almost inevitable.
How does a typical day look like for you?
I’m usually up at 6 am and try to make my mornings as stressless as possible. I like to get deep work done early in the day and take walks or run in the afternoon to re-energise. Usually, running helps to surface creative ideas as well.
I also love to read and try to make it a habit to read at least 15-20 minutes a day. It adds up to 30-40 books a year. I also enjoy listening to podcasts while I’m out. Learning new things is the best way to expand our view of the world.
Weekends are family time and we like to spend it outdoors – running, hiking, ski slopes in the Alps or skating in the ice arena. Little moments of gratitude every day are also something that I try not to forget.
To set the focus on the right things, I like to imagine living for 115 years. It gives you a different perspective on physical and mental health and what is meaningful in life.
With sustainability constantly at the top of your mind, are there any areas of your life where you feel you have room for improvement?
Indeed, focusing on sustainability has had a big effect on how I approach purchases. I try to make everything last as long as possible, at least for five years.
I’m very fond of the minimalist “less is more” train of thought. I feel it gives you lightness and clarity of thought.
My biggest struggle is flying. Grünfin is a remote-first organisation, but occasionally we still need to meet between Germany and Estonia. To date, flying is still the fastest and most convenient way to cover these 2000 kilometres.
I genuinely hope for breakthroughs in aviation or land transport to give us better, cleaner alternatives.
What’s your ambition for Grünfin?
I’d love for Grünfin to be the best – not the best in the world, but the best for the world.
I hope to see the day when conscious investing – based on values, considering the impact of choices – has become a mainstream approach.
It would help more capital to flow towards sustainable solutions and companies. Eventually, it would mean that humans would again start living within the boundaries of the planet.
And hopefully, it would mean that Grünfin’s community of investors have contributed their fair share in making our societies, including our businesses, climate-neutral.
Karin’s book and podcast recommendations
- A Sustainable Future (podcast): an insightful podcast by Jason Mitchell, Man Group’s Co-Head of Responsible Investment, who interviews a range of experts in sustainable finance.
- The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis (book): UN negotiators for the Paris Agreement of 2015, Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, have written a cautionary but optimistic book about the world’s changing climate and the fate of humanity.
- Grow the Pie (book): Alex Edmans writes about how great companies can deliver both purpose and profit.
- Making Money Moral (book): Judith Rodin and Saadia Madsbjerg offer first-hand stories of how investors of every type and every asset class invest in world-changing solutions.
Start your sustainable investment with Grünfin. We help you invest your money where your values are.
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