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UBS Appoints Socially Responsible Investing Head

April 5, 2017

UBS Wealth Management Americas is making a push into socially responsible investing, appointing a long-time UBS economist to oversee the effort, ThinkAdvisor writes.

Stephen Freedman, who first joined UBS in 1998 as a policy analyst and economist in Switzerland, will now head the unit’s Sustainable Investing Solutions, according to the publication. As well as expanding UBS’s products in the space, Freedman is tasked with educating the wirehouse’s advisors about socially responsible investing, with a view to expanding UBS’s client base, according to ThinkAdvisor.

About 35% of UBS’s clients’ worldwide already invest in sustainable products, although they have only grown from $932 billion in 2015 to $972 billion, according to the publication.

Earlier this year, UBS said they’ll direct at least $5 billion more toward sustainable and socially responsible investment products in the next five years.

UBS’s asset allocation in the space is already larger than the global average. Such investments currently account for 26% of all assets managed professionally worldwide, according to the most recent data from Global Sustainable Investment Alliance cited by ThinkAdvisor. From 2014 to 2016, socially responsible assets grew 25%, according to the alliance.

Environmental, social and governance investing may end up soaring as a direct result of President Donald Trump’s deregulation agenda, Financial Advisor writes. That’s according to Ben Webster, CEO of OWLshares, an ETF sponsor focused on ESG investing.

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Advisors are already discussing ESG investing as something demanded by clients, Leo Zerilli, head of investments at the wealth management arm of John Hancock Financial Services, tells Financial Advisor.

The Trump administration’s stance probably can’t change the tide, he says. Even in 2015, 73% of portfolio managers already took ESG factors into account when making investment decisions, according to data from the CFA Institute cited by the publication.

ESG mutual funds have also broken the general investment trend away from active management; while actively managed equity funds had $127 billion in outflows in 2016, ESG funds attracted $3 billion, according to Morningstar data cited by Financial Advisor.

By Alex Padalka
  • To read the Financial Advisor Magazine article cited in this story, click here.
  • To read the ThinkAdvisor article cited in this story, click here.