Impact Investing – wie der Finanz-Mainstream einen Nischenmarkt entdeckt

von Stefan Fritz, Investmentfonds & Research, GLS Bank.

Impact Investing ist in Mode. Viele Fondsanbieter beschwören diese Art des Investierens als einen Königsweg, um eine nachhaltige Welt im Sinne der Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) zu erreichen. Internationale Investoreninitiativen wie die PRI oder UNEP-FI weisen den Weg. Sie schaffen Impact Investing Market Maps oder formulieren Principles for Positive Impact Finance, an denen sich Fondsanbieter orientieren sollen. In kurzer Zeit ist eine Vielzahl an neuen Produkten, Anlagestrategien und Reportings entwickelt und am Markt platziert worden, mit denen Fondsanbieter in aller Deutlichkeit ihren positiven Impact demonstrieren wollen.

Impact Investing kann eine sehr wichtige Rolle auf dem Weg in eine nachhaltigere Wirtschaft spielen. Aber wie es so häufig ist, sollten Anleger*innen kritisch sein, wenn ein Thema am Kapitalmarkt hochgejubelt wird. Denn Impact Investing heißt übersetzt erst einmal nur wirkungsorientiertes Investieren. Ob dieses positiv oder negativ ist, verrät das Wort selbst nicht. Wie ist es aber dann dazu gekommen, dass sich Impact Investing diesen positiven Ruf erworben hat? Ist es tatsächlich zu einem starken Anstieg an wirkungsvollen Investments gekommen, wie der Markt vermuten lässt oder werden alte Nachhaltigkeitskonzepte lediglich unter einem neuen Namen verkauft?

Die ursprüngliche Idee des Impact Investing

Wer den Grundgedanken von Impact Investing verstehen will, wird beim Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) fündig. Die Referenz am Markt hat eine allgemein akzeptierte Definition veröffentlicht. So sei für diese Art von Investments die Absicht entscheidend, eine messbare, positive soziale und ökologische Wirkung neben der finanziellen Rendite zu erzielen. Die Investitionen sollen dazu beitragen, die drängendsten Probleme auf der Welt zu lösen, von nachhaltiger Landwirtschaft, erneuerbarer Energien, oder Mikrofinanz bis hin zu erschwinglichen und zugänglichen Basisdienstleistungen wie Wohnen, Gesundheit oder Bildung.

Um die Absicht und die Messbarkeit der sozial-ökologischen Wirkung geht es also. Dafür haben Impact Investoren als geeignete Investmentobjekte viele Jahre lang vor allem Alternative Investment Fonds (AIF) angesehen. Denn hier wird das Anlagegeld dem Unternehmen oder Projekt in Form von privatem Eigenkapital, Darlehen oder Mezzanine-Kapital direkt zur Verfügung gestellt. Bei Publikumsfonds (OGAW) tauschen dagegen in der Regel nur zwei Investoren ihre Anteile. In den Portfolios der AIFs befinden sich häufig kleinere Unternehmen und Projekte. Denn mit ihnen kann eine individuelle Messung bestimmter Kennzahlen vereinbart werden. Aufgrund des hohen Risikos und der häufig geringen Handelbarkeit richten sich diese Anlagen an professionelle Anleger. Privatanleger bleiben – mit Ausnahme von Mikrofinanzfonds - von diesem Markt weitgehend ausgeschlossen.

Das traditionelle Impact Investing stellte damit jahrelang nur eine kleine Unterkategorie im dynamisch wachsenden Markt an nachhaltigen Anlageprodukten dar, der von OGAW-Publikumsfonds dominiert wird und gemeinhin unter dem Begriff „Socially Responsible Investment“ (SRI) bekannt wurde. Eine 2015 entwickelte Grafik der Investmentfirma Bridge Venture macht diesen Gegensatz deutlich. Die Grafik vergleicht unterschiedliche Investmentstrategien miteinander. Je weiter rechts man auf die Grafik schaut, umso höher die positive sozial-ökologische Wirkung.

Wie der Impact-Gedanke die „SRI“-Szene aufmischt

Vor dem Hintergrund der strengen Anforderungen dümpelte der Markt für Impact Investments in den vergangenen Jahren vor sich hin. Die GIIN-Marktstudie 2016 ermittelte für Ende 2015 anhand einer Befragung von Impact-Investoren ein Volumen von knapp 50 Mrd. US-Dollar weltweit. Zum Vergleich: laut BVI beträgt das Fondsvolumen 2018 allein in Deutschland 2.954 Mrd. Euro. Bei der dynamischen Marktentwicklung nachhaltiger Investments spielte Impact Investing lange nur eine Nebenrolle. Dies bezeugt auch die Eurosif SRI-Studie 2016. Von allen nachhaltigen Anlagestilen lag das verwaltete Vermögen bei Impact Investments am geringsten, wiewohl sich bereits Wachstumspotenziale andeuteten.

Seit Verabschiedung der siebzehn Sustainable Development Goals Ende 2015 hat sich die Wahrnehmung von Impact Investing am Kapitalmarkt fundamental gewandelt. Mit siebzehn bunt bebilderten Piktogrammen bieten die SDGs das ideale Narrativ für die Finanzindustrie, um Anleger*innen von der ökologischen und sozialen Sinnhaftigkeit ihrer Anlageprodukte zu überzeugen. Auf Veranstaltungen, in Initiativen, Ratings, Produktbroschüren, Marketingauftritten von Websites – überall wird die Relevanz der Ziele sowie die Bemühungen zu ihrer Erreichung hervorgehoben.

Bei näherem Hinschauen zeigt sich, dass neue Ansätze nicht der traditionellen Definition des Impact Investing folgen. Statt AIFs werden vor allem Publikumsfonds (OGAW) mit einer Impact-Strategie versehen. Neben der Auflage neuer Fonds wird auch verstärkt der Impact bereits vorhandener Nachhaltigkeitsfonds hervorgehoben. Die Grenzen zwischen ursprünglichen Nachhaltigkeitsprodukten und Impact-Produkten verwischen dabei zunehmend.

Doch wie viel „Impact“ steckt tatsächlich in diesen neuen Produkten? Können sie den Anspruch des klassischen Impact Investing erfüllen? Und falls ja, wie gelingt dies ihnen? Schließlich unterliegt der Markt für Alternative Investments ganz anderen Gesetzmäßigkeiten als der Markt für offene Investmentfonds (OGAW).

Diese Fragen stehen im Mittelpunkt des zweiten Artikels zu Impact Investing, der ab Ende Mai auf der Homepage von altii verfügbar sein wird.


Stefan Fritz arbeitet als Spezialist Investmentfonds im Angebotsmanagement des Investmentfondsgeschäfts der GLS Bank. Zuvor war er für das französische Researchunternehmen Novethic mit Sitz in Paris tätig, von wo aus er die Entwicklung des europäischen Marktes für nachhaltige Investments begleitete.

Bei der GLS Bank ist Geld für die Menschen da. Die Genossenschaftsbank mit Sitz in Bochum finanziert und investiert nur in sozial-ökologische Unternehmen. Ihre Geschäfte macht sie umfassend transparent. Im Investmentfondsgeschäft bietet sie drei eigene Fonds im Gesamtvolumen von mehr als 350 Mio. Euro sowie zwei Partnerfonds (B.A.U.M. Fair Future Fonds und FairWorldFonds) an.

Weiterführende Informationen

www.gls-fonds.de
investmentfonds@gls.de

Why ESG trends matter

by François Millet, Head of Strategy, ESG & Innovation – Lyxor ETF.

Spices, silks, and porcelain are just a few of the things people associate with the Dutch East India Company. But the firm was also the first to be targeted by activist shareholders. In the 1600s, its investors filed a petition against the company and lobbied the public to push for better governance and for its finances to be managed more effectively.

Four centuries later, shareholders have become much more active and powerful. The perception is that active managers are the ones taking the activist lead and that passive funds may be “silent” when it comes to tackling firms on governance and ESG factors, but is that fair?

Can passive really be active?

One reason for this perception is that active managers have the power to offload stocks of companies with poor governance or ESG records. However, passive managers lack this exit strategy as they need to invest in the same securities as their benchmarks. Likewise, active managers may prefer stocks of well-governed and responsible companies, which can in turn motivate companies to do more in these fields, so that they are chosen by these funds. But traditional passive managers lack this power, so, in theory, even companies with low ESG ratings could attract investments from these funds, simply by virtue of their inclusion in a benchmark.

Stay on trend

When governance goes bad, portfolios can suffer. One of the most infamous cases of recent times concerns Carlos Ghosn – former Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi consortium – and his arrest under suspicion of financial misconduct in November last year. Long perceived as a successful and charismatic business leader, it came as a shock to the business community. Corporate governance and the dangers of leaving too much power unchecked in too few hands have been in the spotlight ever since. So, what can you do to try to get a more rigorous grip on governance in your portfolio?

Putting the G in ESG

If you hold a fund with hundreds – if not thousands – of stocks, you’d be forgiven for not having the time or expertise to carry out a thorough due diligence of each and every one of them based on their ESG metrics. The good news is, there are experts who have that kind of know-how. When choosing the strategy underlying our broad ESG ETFs, we chose to partner with index provider and ESG research specialist, MSCI.

MSCI has over 40 years of experience in collecting, cleaning and standardising data on ESG policies. In building their ‘best-in-class’ ESG Leaders benchmark series, their goal is to include companies with the highest ESG rating in each sector, with a 50% sector representation vs. the broad parent index.

At this level already, neither Nissan nor Mitsubishi Motors made the cut for the ESG Leaders indices. They both had an MSCI ESG Rating of CCC – the worst possible ranking. In Nissan’s case, this was mainly to do with weak governance practices, safety, and emission falsifications. Mitsubishi Motors’ score related to similar issues around poor business ethics, fraud, and a fuel test manipulation controversy.

Why it’s worth going the extra mile

Here’s where things get interesting. Renault, according to MSCI1, still scores well in areas like safety and clean tech. So, while not securing the top AAA rating, it still fares relatively well with an A – which is enough for it to feature in European MSCI ESG Leaders indices.

It is possible to take it further however and adopt the MSCI’s ESG Trend Leaders series. Not only do these benchmarks require a high ESG score, they also take that score’s trend into account. If a company has improved its ESG score over a one-year period, it is more likely to be included in one of these indices. A downward trend reduces that likelihood.

Renault, as we’ve said, has a decent ESG score and was in fact rated AA at one stage, but because of “concerns over potential conflict of interests in the role held by the Chairman, Mr. Carlos Ghosn”, and additional concerns over governance practices linked to its complex ownership structure, MSCI downgraded its rating before news of the scandal actually broke.

The key single risk factor identified by MSCI’s ESG research was corporate governance. The downward trend meant Renault was not present in the MSCI ESG Trend Leaders benchmarks tracked by the Lyxor World ESG and EMU ESG ETFs, meaning they were not exposed to the ensuing share price tumble. That’s not to say using Trend is a perfect way to avoid issues of poor governance and there is always the risk that something could slip through the net. It could however give you a head start.

Engagement is everything

It’s not just about how Lyxor ESG funds operate; we also have a broader duty to the world around us. Unlike most other passive managers, we engage directly with companies to induce them to improve their sustainability practices.

We also look to influence companies to become more responsible by using the voting rights given to us as large shareholders. We are committed to promoting sound governance, so we work in tandem with Institutional Shareholder Services, one of the world’s largest proxy organisations, to make our voice heard more often than we otherwise could.

To date, we have voted on more than 2,600 resolutions and, from an AUM perspective, we have voted on €14bn+ of equity positions. We have cast negative votes in 22% of resolutions and voted “against” at least once in 77% of the general meetings we have attended. Most of those votes have involved executive pay as well as board composition, remuneration and issues of transparency. We plan to become even more activist still2.

To sum up, passive managers don’t have to be silent; far from it. We can be as loud as active managers – if not more so – when it comes to keeping watch over companies and influencing management to act in the best interests of shareholders, society and the environment.


1) Source: MSCI, November 2018. Past results are not a reliable indicator of future results.
2) Source: Lyxor International Asset Management as of 31 December 2018. Included €19.6bn of Assets under Advisory

About François Millet

François Millet is Head of Strategy, ESG & Innovation. He joined Lyxor in 2009 as Head of Index and Quantitative Fund Development. Prior to Lyxor, he was Director of Index Funds & ETF at Societe Generale Asset Management AI, where he developed the index management business including passive funds, ETFs, index-enhanced and alternative beta products since 2004. He introduced in 2005 the first range of structured ETFs in Europe (leveraged, short and capital protected). Prior to this, he worked for 14 years with SG Corporate & Investment Banking, holding various executive and management positions within the Equity Capital Markets business line.

Über Lyxor ETF

Mit dem Listing des ersten ETF an der Pariser Börse im Jahre 2001 bereitete Lyxor ETF vor 18 Jahren den Weg zur Erschließung des europäischen ETF-Marktes und ist heute mit 69,4 Milliarden US-Dollar der drittgrößte ETF-Emittent in Europa (Lyxor, Stand: 31. Dezember 2018). Mit mehr als 200 Fonds, die stringenten Qualitätskriterien hinsichtlich Performance, Risikokontrolle, Liquidität und Transparenz unterliegen, deckt Lyxor ETF alle Anlageklassen und -stile ab. Weitere Informationen unter lyxorETF.de

Zerofication: fees, funds and feelings

Asset managers have engaged in a race to the bottom in recent years, with providers competing to offer increasingly low fees, explains Fadi Zaher, Head of Product Specialist: Index, Asset Allocation & Factor Based Investing, Legal & General Investment Management. But what is the true cost?

The concept of ‘zero’ is age-old — it can be traced back to the Babylonians and the Ancient Greeks, who debated how ‘nothing’ could simultaneously be ‘something’.

Humans often make decisions in relative terms, by focusing on the advantage of one thing over another. But most people like getting something for ‘free’. In fact, it triggers an emotional, almost irrational excitement. The concept is embedded in our day-to-day lives, including;

  • 'Buy one, get one free' promitions in the supermarket – two items for the price of one
  • We are more likely to go to a museum when it is free despite the overcrowding and queuing, instead of being a paying visitor who saves time
  • An individual’s decision to buy one car brand instead of another may be impacted by the services that are ‘included’ with the purchase, such as free repairs for the next three years

When it comes to money, how we react to ‘free’ is less clear – and even less so in the fund management industry. How we process information and make decisions can get lost in the intricacies of financial product jargon, especially where fees are baked into the price. For example:

  • Foreign exchange  it is not uncommon to exchange travel money for a holiday with 'zero commission'. Yet the exchange rate for converting the cash in your wallet to another currency can be absurdly high
  • Structured products – the price to purchase these could be higher than the selling price
  • Zero-fee mortgages (where you pay through an administration fee). Although these may look attractive to many, the real total cost may exceed that of the non-zero-fee product

Zero-fee-cation?

In an asset management context, if you are offered a zero fee for someone to look after your money, it is a no brainer, right? However, we often fall into the trap of buying something we may not really want due to the perception of it being ‘free’.

 

Management costs have been falling for several years. Many index managers are able to charge low or no fees on the back of associated activities such as securities lending or the indirect investment of their fund’s assets into other funds that are not zero-cost – even though the annual management charge of their fund is zero.

Securities lending involves the owner of an asset temporarily passing the title of the asset to a borrower in return for a fee, backed by collateral. It can aid greater market liquidity and allows a fund manager the opportunity to earn additional return. For an index manager, securities lending can be quite appealing. An index fund is unlikely to sell a stock unless it is falling out of the index. This means the fund can lend those shares to someone – for a fee – and enhance returns. However, there are risks involved in the process, requiring some scrutiny by investors to see what is under the hood.

Understanding the answer to questions about the factors that facilitate zero-cost has implications not only on the product choice, but for some of the biggest issues facing an investor: explicit costs, implicit costs and the effectiveness of the investment strategy.

The ‘free’ concept makes us feel good — and forget the potential downside. Because we think we are starting at zero, anything we get feels like a bonus. By contrast, we may feel the loss of a high-quality but expensive service. However, “there is always a third possibility, as long as you have the ability to find it” – as Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf once said. The answer to this is finding something which is ‘good value for money’. Often, that means an upfront, transparent price tag. The bottom line is that not even ‘zero’ works for nothing!


This article has first been published on futureworldblog.lgim.com.