Our strength as an institution relies on the expertise of our people. And together, they can do so much more – from strengthening our portfolio to making the world a little more sustainable.
Ten years ago, being an environmentally conscious investor could be a difficult task. If you didn't want to support certain activities or products, you had one easily accessible option – to not invest in companies known to be involved. Fortunately, the world is changing and so are investors' options. Three UBS experts discuss how partnering together and with clients can yield better results.
James Purcell is head of Sustainable and Impact Investments in our Global Wealth Management (GWM) Chief Investment Office. Christopher Greenwald is head of Sustainable and Impact Investing Research in Asset Management. Martin Tobler is head of Client Investment Specialists for Ultra High Net Worth Discretionary within GWM Investment Platforms and Solutions.
What this means is that they each have different ways of looking at a challenge – James designs private clients' portfolios and methodologies for sustainable and impact investing, Christopher focuses on the integration of sustainability in portfolios for institutional clients, and Martin tailors discretionary investment solutions based on clients' needs and investment guidelines. Separately, each is an expert in his field. Together, they are able to do much more.
"A Global Family Office client approached us with very specific exclusion criteria for sustainable investments," recalls Martin. "However, such exclusions are difficult to guarantee when using third-party funds because the strategy of each fund manager may not align perfectly with each individual client’s request."
James explains further that while adopting an exclusionary approach is a good way to align values to a portfolio, "It's not so useful if you want to change the world around you because merely excluding companies won't change their behavior."
Owning shares, however, and using this influence to engage with management, collaboratively helping to improve practices, grow business, and attract new shareholders and clients – this will ensure investments have more impact. So instead of exclusion, they discussed with the client the value of an engagement approach.
"We encourage companies to improve on material sustainability factors that have positive impacts on the environment, society and companies' bottom lines," says Christopher. "By designing a strategic engagement strategy aligned with the investment goals, we can demonstrate both financial and sustainability impacts and thereby the additional benefits of active investments in public equities."
The client wanted to know more about fund activity so James and Martin prepared material showing some of the projects that the World Bank was actively involved in, which included the allocation of World Bank bonds as well as some of the newly issued green bond projects that were reducing water usage and CO2 emissions.
"This offering would not have been possible two or three years ago," comments James. "Because some of the financial market elements such as green bonds would not actually have had the depth of liquidity to make this possible."
In the end, the client, realizing the sustainability potential, was interested in the type of engagement suggested. Not only were two mandates opened (more than originally intended), but the deep client dialogue helped make the entire UBS offering better as understanding this client's needs translated into improvements to the way we communicate after any client invests in an sustainable investing mandate.
This case is just one example of how cross-divisional collaboration works across our firm. For every success we have, there are hundreds of people behind it who make it possible. Sustainable investment is no different. Global Wealth Management (James and Martin) works with clients to understand their needs and how those needs can best be delivered given the current market state and available offering. Asset Management (Christopher) supplies client products and creates bespoke products based on Global Wealth Management requests. Additionally, we work with external organizations like the World Bank, Hermes and BlackRock to ensure we can deliver the best possible offering.
Our wealth management clients in the Americas can now benefit from an innovative banking app that allows them to set personalized and tailored investment and savings goals. The app also features the option to receive portfolio diagnostics and tailored investment proposals as well as personal financial advisor support. This all serves to facilitate the achievement of the set objectives. In addition, financial advisors can leverage social media to engage with clients and prospects in a more meaningful and differentiating way.
Wealth Management Online is a digital offering for clients with a UBS investment solution, fully integrated in UBS Mobile Banking and available for desktop and mobile devices. The content is tailored to clients' underlying investment solutions. Clients benefit from up-to-date portfolio-quality information and notification thereof, and direct execution of investment proposals to optimize the portfolio quality. The hybrid servicing model offers the possibility to involve the client advisor for further advice at any stage.