Dorothea Baur helps pension funds hone their sustainability strategies. The ethicist tells finews.asia why banks like UBS should keep financing coal producers.
Dorothea Baur, you recently won a mandate to advise one of Switzerland’s biggest pension funds. Why do they need an ethics expert?
Interestingly, we encountered each other at an investor conference where a speaker had said that his pension fund is directed by Swiss democracy. I asked for the microphone and said, ‘how half-baked is that?’
Because it cannot possibly be thought through – for example with last year’s self-determination initiative which sought to set Swiss law over foreign laws and thus impacted human rights law which applies the world over.
And they hired you on the spot?
A representative of the other pension fund was also in the audience that day and they contacted me. They wanted to develop a sustainable investment policy and were looking for independent advice in order to clarify for themselves what sustainability means.
You also find the term murky?
For some people, it means calculating carbon emissions. For others, it includes governance and gender diversity initiatives. For yet others, sustainability is a PR joke.
«If the world is destroyed by climate change, your monthly pension doesn’t mean much anymore»
There’s a lot of confusion among pension funds what sustainability means. My job is to help clients get clarity on what they want to discuss with each other in this respect.
How’s that worked out?
I conducted one-to-one interviews with my clients in order to find out where their consensus was. By that, I mean what they hoped for from sustainability – and what they feared. Many of them are fearful of breaching the duty of care guidelines.
Those who aren’t considering sustainability aren’t fulfilling their duty of care to their policyholders?
This is a huge debate outside of Switzerland too. Here, pension funds need to maintain the standard of living for their beneficiaries. It’s primarily a monetary obligation. But in a world that destroyed by climate change, a monthly pension payout doesn’t have much value anymore.
What does that mean?
Those who invest in firms which foment climate change are putting the value of their pensions at risk. In the U.K. for example pension funds have to actively justify why they aren’t investing along sustainable criteria.
Swiss finance will probably adopt the EU sustainable finance action plan. The price of clear standards and rules?
We urgently need standards. If the EU establishes them, Swiss pension funds won’t be able to get around also being subject to them.
«Today’s young climate strikers are the banking clients of tomorrow»
Personally, I would like pension funds to define and internalize their own values – instead of having these forced on them.
Is finance underestimating the youth climate strikes as well as victories for environmental-focused parties in Europe?
The climate youth have a long-term perspective – ironically, they have that in common with the pension fund world. That’s why I see synergies here. By contrast, the finance industry is frequently short-term focused, so the protests are a challenge for them. We need to clearly recognize that today’s climate strikers are tomorrow’s banking clients and employees.
What Swiss firms are role models – except Alternative Bank, where you are an independent ethics expert?
I don’t want to advertise individual firms. Most banks and many financial technology firms have various sustainable products. The hurdles for even retail clients to invest in them have fallen.
UBS has pledged to double its assets in these strategies by 2020. How sustainable are these industrial-style promises?
Scale is key in order to have an impact, but we need to ask ourselves what exactly we are scaling.
«It gets hypocritical when companies try to conceal these transactions»
That’s why it’s important to clearly delineate what sustainable investing is – and I’m not accusing UBS of anything here.
NGOs like Greenpeace have singled out banks like UBS for financing the fossil fuel industry. Are banks hypocritical?
SAN FRANCISCO, March 21, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — OpenInvest, the asset management platform that enables dynamic custom indexing for financial advisors, institutions and individual investors, announced today that it has bolstered its team with newly-appointed Vice President of Sales Neha Bhatia and Director of Intermediary Sales & Client Engagement Mark Dickinson. OpenInvest created the two new leadership positions to support its recent growth.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Neha and Mark to the OpenInvest team,” said Joshua Levin, co-founder and chief strategy officer, OpenInvest. “OpenInvest has developed a new paradigm of portfolio construction and management, and our innovation helped attract these top sales veterans. With extensive backgrounds in sales and asset management, both leaders will play a critical role in our client growth.”
As VP of Sales, Neha Bhatia will develop and oversee the management of all sales activities at OpenInvest and serve as the executive point person for revenue. Bhatia joins OpenInvest with extensive experience in complex sales and sales management, and holds strong global financial services relationships. The seasoned executive most recently served as the Global Head of Sales & Partnerships at Juntos, a financial conversation platform that helps the world’s newly-banked. Bhatia earned her Masters in Mathematics from Cambridge University (UK) and a Masters in Financial Mathematics from Columbia University (USA).
Director of Intermediary Sales & Client Engagement Mark Dickinson is an industry veteran bringing nearly two decades of experience consulting for wealth management institutions, advising high net worth investors, and specializing in portfolio construction. At OpenInvest, Dickinson will direct sales of the company’s institutional offering for registered investment advisors (RIA’s), Family Offices, Bank Trusts, and fee-only advisors. Dickinson also serves as the Director-at-Large on the Board for the Financial Planning Association of San Francisco. Prior to OpenInvest, he served as the West Coast RIA / Family Office Consultant for Cohen and Steers, and he retired from the US Navy after 20 years of active service as a Senior Chief / Diver. Dickinson received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business from University of La Verne.
Bhatia and Dickinson join OpenInvest’s team of experts in finance, technology and ESG implementation. OpenInvest’s platform seamlessly integrates SMAs, real-time ESG data, and client reporting to generate low-cost, fully customizable investment portfolios tailored at the account-level, while tightly tracking market indices.
For more information on OpenInvest, please visit https://openinvest.com.
OpenInvest (https://openinvest.com) is a registered investment advisor with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and a financial technology startup dedicated to mainstreaming values-based investing through technology. The company was founded by two of the architects of Bridgewater Associates’ portfolio management and trading systems and a sustainable finance expert from the World Wildlife Fund. OpenInvest is backed by some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, including Andreessen Horowitz, YCombinator, and QED, the founders of CapitalOne. OpenInvest now has a team of financial, technology, and environmental, social and governance (ESG) experts across three continents and is recognized as a global thought leader in ESG implementation. OpenInvest’s technology platform supports full customization around investor values, in-depth impact reporting, dynamic divest-invest activity, and easy shareholder engagement, while ensuring investors tightly track specified market indices. To get started, contact your advisor, visit openinvest.com, or download the iOS or Android app. Follow OpenInvest on Facebook and Twitter.
JCUTLER media group
SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Mar 21, 2019–Aura, a mission-driven financial technology company that offers affordable loans to hard-working families, this week completed a $50 million private social bond issuance as part of its mission to accelerate financial inclusion and invest capital into low-income communities in America.
This is Aura’s largest social bond issuance to date, and it will provide the capital needed to fund 32,561 affordable, credit-building loans. This latest bond issuance brings Aura’s total capital raised to over $403 million across 21 bond issuances, which have helped fund 283,469 loans.
Millions of working families in America lack access to safe and affordable loans and are vulnerable to predatory lenders. Working with investors like Varadero Capital, L.P., Aura is able to provide borrowers with affordable loans that have saved borrowers hundreds of millions of dollars in additional fees and interest by avoiding predatory options.
“We have been investing with Aura for the past four years because we strongly believe in the company’s mission and credit culture,” said Fernando Guerrero, Managing Partner and Chief Investment Officer of Varadero Capital. “Not only do these bonds provide compelling returns for our investors, but they support affordable loans to hard-working people who might not otherwise be able to obtain access to capital.By seeing borrowers as more than their credit score, Aura is setting the standard for responsible small balance loan origination.”
“We are proud to have worked with Varadero on two-thirds of our social bond issuances since 2015,” said James Gutierrez, CEO and Founder of Aura. “Our shared values reinforce our mutual investment in building a responsible credit culture rooted in a borrower’s ability to repay.This latest investment will help Aura serve more working families across America and further our mission of expanding access to capital in low-income communities.”
About Varadero Capital, L.P.
Founded in 2009, Varadero Capital is a value-driven alternative investment manager with more than $2 billion in assets under management. Varadero makes investments across specialized credit markets with a focus on achieving capital preservation and delivering uncorrelated risk-adjusted returns. Varadero is an active investor in specialty finance assets, both through securitization markets as well as in whole loan form.
Aura is a technology-powered, Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that provides small, affordable loans to working families in America. Aura’s mission is to build financially healthy low-income communities by providing empowering financial services to America’s 66-million underbanked and unbanked. Aura has pioneered a cloud-based lending technology that enables trusted local businesses to submit credit applications for centralized review and approval by its proprietary scoring algorithms.
Currently available in nearly 1,200 locations across California, Texas, Illinois and Arizona, Aura has provided hundreds of thousands of credit-building, responsible loans to low-income households since launching in 2014. Aura was founded in 2012 by James Gutierrez, Kevin Kang, and Randy Wong. All three founders helped create and scale Oportun, a CDFI and one of Time Magazine’s Top 50 Most Genius Companies in 2018.
View source version on businesswire.com:https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190321005196/en/
CONTACT: Scott Gerber
KEYWORD: UNITED STATES NORTH AMERICA CALIFORNIA
INDUSTRY KEYWORD: TECHNOLOGY DATA MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE PROFESSIONAL SERVICES FINANCE
Copyright Business Wire 2019.
PUB: 03/21/2019 06:00 AM/DISC: 03/21/2019 06:00 AM
The bank is committing $100 million to the charitable organization to extend affordable loans to small businesses owned by women.
“We recognize that women entrepreneurs help fuel economic growth in communities across the U.S., and that access to capital remains a key challenge,” said Andrew Plepler, global head of environmental, social and governance at Bank of America. “Partnering with the Tory Burch Foundation to advance women in small business is one way we invest in the future of local economies.”
The Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, which was launched in 2014 in partnership with Bank of America, strives to increase the number and size of businesses owned and led by women.
Just $1 out of every $23 loaned in the U.S. goes to women-owned businesses.
“We know women pay back loans at higher rates than men, but because of cultural bias, they are denied critical capital to grow their businesses,” said designer Tory Burch, founder of the foundation. “Over the past five years, the capital program has allowed us to reach women business owners at scale, and we’re looking forward to doubling that investment.”
The program helps connect female entrepreneurs with affordable loans administered through local CDFIs, which provide financial services to underserved populations. The CDFIs in the capital program give loans at 2 percent interest to qualifying borrowers.
Bank of America has more than $1.5 billion in investments to 255 CDFI partners across the U.S., making it the largest player in the space.