Shifting sustainable gears

Panorama 06 Dec 2021 2 min read
by Barry Gill

Amid ongoing inflation concerns and the need to move towards a more sustainable world, what role will investors play in 2022 and beyond?

The turn of the year is always a good time to look forward and consider what the enduring trends are and what tail events might derail our baseline thinking. 2021 serves as an important reminder that sticking with a trend, in this case the activity post the shock of COVID, is a powerful way to compound returns.

Sure, there are always tests along the way, but as time passes so does our sensitivity to them – it is the destination, not the journey that matters!

At some point, the trend is fully discounted, at which point new risks and opportunities become the dominant driver of returns.

Asia was first out of the virus-driven slump, but market performance was derailed by policy changes in the world’s second largest economy. This became the newly dominant factor in the region.

It is a cliché to say that successful investing is all about discounting and not about forecasting, but it is also true. The best performing sector this year has been energy, precisely because capital flows into the industry have been so weak; with supply not able to respond to the rapid spike in demand that came with the economic reopening.

Few industries have generated as poor a return on capital in their history as energy (the returns instead accrued to human prosperity), but when an extended bear market converges with a global mega trend like climate change, it is the perfect recipe for a pronounced volte-face.

When an extended bear market converges with a global mega trend like climate change, it is the perfect recipe for a pronounced volte-face.

As American billionaire investor Charlie Munger observes, investing is akin to a liberal arts education: the learning and insight is drawn from multiple parallel tracks. It is the unpredictability, the range of outcomes, the ever-evolving landscape that makes investing so challenging but also so intoxicating.

Which brings us to this year’s Panorama Investing in 2022: putting our discounting hats on we try to think about 5 potential developments in the year ahead that are not well reflected in current asset prices. Maybe we are being influenced by the fact that a pandemic was, to use the words of Donald Rumsfeld, ‘a known unknown,’ as we include here another extreme event but with seismic consequences for how we all go about our daily lives.

One of the risks, that of structural inflation, is picked up by our Solutions team in their discourse on investment trends for 2022, but for the rest of this edition we stick with the enduring trend of sustainability. Every year that goes by, sustainability has a broader impact on the investing landscape; our contributors examine the topic in the context of investing in China, and also consider how it is manifesting in the real asset sector.

Our O’Connor team discusses how to seek out winners and losers from the shift to the low carbon economy, while our multi-asset team explores the incorporation of ESG and the efficient frontier.

Understanding the problem of using imperfect ESG data in the investing process is covered before our most experienced in-house ESG expert concludes with an examination of the regulatory landscape through a seasoned investor’s eyes.

We trust that you find this edition of Panorama to be a helpful guide on your investment journey. As always, please reach out to your trusted UBS Asset Management partner for any further advice.

We look forward to our continued partnership with clients throughout the next year.



Explore analysis across themes and asset classes


Investment outlook 2022

As we work towards building a more sustainable future and continue to face global supply chain and inflation challenges, what role will asset managers play, and how will this reshape the economy?

About the author
  • Barry Gill

    Head of Investments

    Years of investment industry experience: 29

    Education: B. Commerce (Intl) with German from University College Dublin

    Barry Gill was appointed Head of Investments in November 2019 and is a member of the Asset Management Executive Committee.

    He was Head of Active Equities within UBS Asset Management from early 2016 and, before that, joined O’Connor in 2012 as a member of the management group where he ran a concentrated long/short strategy.

    Prior to joining O’Connor, Barry was head of the Fundamental Investment Group (Americas) for nearly six years within UBS Investment Bank, investing and trading the firm's principal capital.

    Barry moved to the US in 2000 from London to rebuild the long / short principal investing effort within Equities following the creation of O’Connor as a hedge fund business.

    In his five years in London at SBC and UBS, he was co-head of Pan-European Sector Trading, a proprietary book, and co-head of European Risk Program Trading for two years, preceded by two years as the head of the French trading book. Barry joined SBC's European derivatives desk as a graduate trainee in 1995.

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