Dominic Webb, Responsible Investor
In the run-up to #HMAwards22, we've been finding out more about our shortlisted rising star journalists. Today, Dominic Webb explains the diversity of the topics on his ESG beat and reveals his fascination with discovering Larry Fink's views and challenges on sustainability issues.
Job-title & media organisation
Reporter, Responsible Investor
What are the main beats you cover?
There's so much going on in the world of ESG that I end up writing about a little bit of everything - over the past month I've written stories on everything from Texas trying to punish financial firms divesting from fossil fuels to the Pope appointing an ethical investment committee!
When we're not scrambling to cover announcements from different sides of the globe I tend to focus on sustainability in fixed income and the rapidly growing ESG-labelled debt market, as well as looking at what investors in the UK and Germany are doing on ESG and what national regulators are up to.
The Responsible Investor team as a whole also has a fine tradition of uncovering greenwashing, making sure that the financial industry is living up to its claims on sustainability.
What was your reaction to making the shortlist?
I was really excited! I've seen previous winners go on to great things and I wasn't seriously expecting to get shortlisted when I submitted my nomination, so even being shortlisted is a great recognition of the work that I'm doing. I did get a bit nervous when I saw who else had been shortlisted as I'm up against some really strong competition.
From your work so far, if you had to pick the story / feature / campaign you are most proud of, what would it be, and why?
The story I'm most proud of is the database of Climate Action 100+ lead investors that I put together. The initiative put together a list of the world's highest publicly-traded emitters with 2 or 3 investors taking the lead on engagement with each firm. However, the initiative chooses not to publish the list of who is engaging with who, meaning that some of the most consequential engagements on climate change are being carried out in near secrecy. I spent several months checking public reporting and asking investors which companies they were engaging with to put the database together, trawling through hundreds of stewardship reports in half a dozen languages! The piece made a strong case for increased transparency at the world's largest collective engagement initiative, holding a $68trn alliance to account. It doesn't hurt that it was also very well read!
What made you become a financial journalist?
I actually tried to steer clear of financial journalism because one of my parents works in finance and I wanted to do my own thing. I did my MA during the 2019 general election and really enjoyed covering the election in Croydon (although the count took so long that we got kicked out of school they were counting votes at because the children were turning up soon!) but entry level roles for journalists are few and far between. I was unemployed for about four months after finishing my MA and when I found out about Responsible Investor it seemed like a really great opportunity. I'm really passionate about sustainability and the opportunity to join one of the leading publications in an area which was (and still is) in the middle of a huge explosion was one I couldn't turn down.
What financial interview would you most like to arrange?
I'd love to do an interview with Larry Fink where he's actually allowed to speak his mind. The man sits at the top of a $10trn empire which is increasingly under fire both from ESG investors and activists who want him to do more to save the planet and solve social issues, and the wave of anti-ESG legislation from Republican legislators. It would be fascinating to dig down into the challenges that he faces and what he actually thinks about sustainability issues. He'd probably get tackled to the ground by the BlackRock press office about 10 seconds in so this interview will remain a dream I think!
2021 was undoubtedly a difficult year for everyone, but what were the particular challenges for you, as a relatively new 'rising star' financial journalist?
It's a lot more difficult to make contacts over zoom than over a coffee or lunch so getting started has been a bit more challenging that it might normally have been. I've also learned a lot from my colleagues when I've been in the office so right when I was starting it was a bit more difficult to learn how to tell my TCFD from my SFDR. Now that the world has opened up again it's been great to start putting faces to names on a conference call, not to mention the free lunches courtesy of PRs!
Finally, if you were up for an award for any hobbies/activities outside of work, what would you be likely to win, and why?
I'm not sure if "most likely to suggest spending the weekend in a pub garden" is a real award but I think I'd definitely be in the running for it.