Is creating an enabling environment for investment compatible with broader environmental and social goals? What is the European Union doing to ensure sustainable growth for the future? To know more, read our interview with this young and ambitious woman leader. This month, we interviewed Florentine Hopmeier, Member of Cabinet of Vice President Katainen at the European Commission and participant in our Women Talent Pool programme to learn more about her career and discuss some hot topics in finance, politics, and women leadership.Originally from Austria, you have extensive experience studying and working abroad. Why did you decide to study in Paris and then work in Brussels?
Having attended the French school in Vienna, I got used to studying in an international environment from a very young age. My parents are Austrian. However, they have always put a lot of emphasis on foreign languages. I am very grateful to them for this decision. I never had to learn French consciously. Instead, I learnt it in the kindergarten, in a very natural way.
By nature, I am a curious and adventurous person. I did not have to think twice about studying abroad and the Franco-German undergraduate programme offered by Sciences Po seemed like a perfect fit.
And once you experience living abroad… you want to see more! I have always dreamt of working for Europe in some way or another, and this is how I ended up working in Brussels for the European Commission.
Once you experience living abroad… you want to see more!
You have several years of experience in the fields of finance and investments, both in the private and public sectors. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues have systematically been integrated in investment decision making. What changes have you observed over the years and how would you assess the emerging role of ESG in investing?
I have observed a positive change over the past few years. The integration of ESG issues into investment decision making is not niche anymore. Sustainable investment is growing fast.
Sustainable investment is also a big priority for the European Union. We have proposed the Action Plan on Sustainable Finance, which would create a unified EU classification system, the first taxonomy of its kind, on what can be considered a sustainable investment. It will ensure more transparency and help investors identify sustainable investment opportunities.
The plan includes many more aspects, such as the creation of EU labels for green financial products and integrating sustainability in investors’ risk management systems. By setting standards, the goal is to create a European market for sustainable finance. This should hopefully also serve as a model for the rest of the world.
Before joining the Cabinet of Vice-President Katainen, you were Team Leader of one of the Commission's flagship initiatives, the Investment Plan for Europe. One of the objectives of this initiative is to improve the business environment in Europe by removing regulatory barriers. What are some of the key barriers to investment in Europe? How can we create an enabling environment for investment while ensuring high social and environmental standards?
Good regulations are a way of ensuring that investment stays in Europe in the long term. We need to cut red tape, encourage innovation, and create a predictable and transparent regulatory environment at both the national and European levels. It is important to be able to attract strategic investment that modernises our economy for instance in RDI, digitisation, sustainable infrastructure, circular economy, social investment and start-ups. This is an essential part of the Investment Plan, which the EU launched in 2014.
At the EU level, we need to ensure a smooth functioning of the single market and promote open, rules-based international trade. At the national level, member states have made remarkable progress in removing barriers to investment. Starting a business has become easier, many countries have improved their justice systems, reformed their labour markers, and facilitated access to finance for start-ups and small companies. However, more needs to be done at both levels. Most importantly, we need to reform our education systems as they are often not responding to the needs of the economy. Education is an investment for a better future!
To attract strategic investment, we need to cut red tape, encourage innovation, and create a predictable and transparent regulatory environment at both the national and European levels.
You are currently participating in the Women Talent Pool (WTP) Programme. Why is it important to enrol in a leadership development programme?
It is always good to try something new that can expand your horizons. This program has given me the opportunity to meet many interesting people, whom I would probably not have met in my usual work environment. I am very grateful for having met a lot of young ambitious women that all want to learn, grow, and exchange ideas. The programme makes you part of a network that helps you grow in a way that you would not be able to grow all by yourself. Last but not least, it is also a lot of fun!
At WIL, we have the tradition of concluding the interview with a question from Proust’s questionnaire. We have picked the following question for you: Which talent would you most like to have? Why?
Sometimes, it would be great to get a glimpse of the future. I am curious about what happens next!
To learn more about Florentine, click here.