Navindu Katugampola honed his interest in ecology and the environment while studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge University. But it was a summer internship at Morgan Stanley's London offices in 2003, leading to a full-time job offer with the bank a year later, that put him on a path to giving investors a way to support sustainable and eco-friendly projects around the world.
It wasn't a calculated move for Katugampola, whose family is from Sri Lanka and who was born in the UK and grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, before moving back to London for schooling at age 10. His current role on the green bond team at Morgan Stanley evolved from of a series of positions he has held over his 15 years with the firm, primarily in the Debt Capital Markets group.
“I try to be open to the possibility of change rather than being prescriptive in planning my career,” he says, noting how he has hopscotched through several jobs at the firm, each affording him new skill sets and insights, before landing in his current role.
Now Morgan Stanley’s Head of Green and Sustainability Bonds—as well as the Head of Sovereign and Supranational Agency Origination—Katugampola has helped put together a number of groundbreaking deals, including a $1 billion green bond, then the biggest of its kind, for the World Bank Group's International Finance Corporation, and a €7 billion deal for the Republic of France, the largest single issuance of green bonds and one Katugampola considers a watershed. “It paved the way for more sovereigns to issue green bonds and was a catalyst for creating an ecosystem around sustainable finance.”
Katugampola recently took some time to talk about his experience at Morgan Stanley. He shares his insights on The Business Case for Green Bonds in this Morgan Stanley Minute.
I have two roles at Morgan Stanley. The first is talking to sovereign and supranational clients about prosecuting their financing and their risk management. The second is to advise any of our clients looking to raise money in the capital markets about how they can do so through issuing green and sustainability bonds.
When we first started this practice, green bonds were very much a retail-driven product. There was a relatively small market and it focused on climate-change projects, like renewable energy. What we've managed to do since then is broaden the issuer base beyond development banks to corporate issuers, financial firms—including Morgan Stanley—and even sovereigns, and to cover a much wider spectrum of themes. So it's not just renewable energy and climate change now, but housing, education, healthcare—a whole range of different things. It's created a vehicle whereby companies can think about their sustainability objectives and then try to define ways in which investors can support those objectives with their capital.
I already had a personal interest in the area, and ecology and the environment were part of my academic studies at Cambridge.
Certainly from talking to development banks, because a huge amount of what they do is so focused on sustainable development, we realized that there was an opportunity, and we started to hear about this growing interest among institutional investors, as well as retail investors, to support the same type of projects that development banks were financing in the field of sustainability.
Morgan Stanley has been committed to this for over a decade now. How did the firm’s impact investing business help you find buyers for green bonds?
Our starting point was the existing Morgan Stanley Investing with Impact platform.
The Global Sustainable Finance group had already gone through institutional investors and found those who were offering funds that had a sustainability focus, and it had those on the platform available for our Wealth Management advisors and their clients.
So it was a very easy step for us to try to engage with some of those people as well. Morgan Stanley also had strong institutional relationships with sustainability analysts at large money managers, so we were able to understand their approach to integrating sustainability considerations into their investments. That helped us design green bonds that the market would actually be interested in buying.
As far as my work on green and sustainability bonds goes, the most gratifying thing is meeting heads of companies for the first time and seeing them realize that they have something within their organization that they could use in this market. Every organization is unique. You realize that they have unique selling points that perhaps they're not getting credit for, in terms of their own sustainability initiatives. As sustainability has become deeply entrenched as part of an investment philosophy among asset managers, more and more companies have been thinking to themselves, “Well, we'd love to do something, yet we're not sure how." So helping companies to navigate that is gratifying.
Trying to stay on top of everything, because this landscape is evolving so quickly. The market for green bonds has only been around for around 10 years. Since 2015, it's quadrupled to more than $200 billion issued annually, and it could end up being close to $300 billion this year. The sheer speed of development makes it a challenge to keep on top of the market and advise clients.
But that challenging part is also the most exciting part. It is an opportunity for someone like me and an institution like this to actually become an expert advisor to clients, because it's not something that's been around forever.
You've spent your whole career at Morgan Stanley. What is it about the firm that you find appealing?
It's small enough that you can be entrepreneurial, that you're encouraged to think beyond the confines of your day job and think about what else you can do. It's collegial enough that you can leverage a broad network of expertise within the organization. And it's still large enough that you have the power of a comprehensive franchise.
What I like about my job is the variety of clients and topics that I talk about in any given week,
For me, there’s never been a reason to go anywhere else. I have the opportunity here to explore things that I’m passionate about, and that’s hugely rewarding. If you’re doing a job you not only enjoy, but you deeply believe in, it gives you a huge motivation to keep doing it and to keep doing it as well as you can.