In advance of the event, Delano spoke with Ophélie Mortier, head of responsible investing at Degroof Petercam. She speaks on the “Sustainability – an Asset Manager’s duty?” panel, Wednesday at 9:30am.
Aaron Grunwald: What do you want the audience to get most from the “Sustainability” panel?
Ophélie Mortier: There are increasingly regulation and initiatives regarding adoption and integration of ESG factors. It has evolved from good willingness from some asset managers and niche players to mainstream and even compulsory requirements. This is a positive evolution to accelerate sustainable finance, if this is done smartly and does not lead to an administrative reporting burden, a tick the box exercise and a unique investment wave in the same companies. ESG is not an investment preference but [are] economic factors which may have material impact on companies.
What ESG issue do you think European fund firms are not paying enough attention to? What should they be doing about it?
The E is integrated in the majority of cases. It is tangible and measurable. The G has been largely integrated by asset managers well before the existence of the acronym ESG. Nevertheless we would mention the game changer in tax regulatory framework, still underestimated in the investment world. The S is more complex and could be quite intangible and difficult to measure. The responsibility of a company through all its supply chain is requiring increasing attention.
In a recent blog post, you mentioned that “non-financial data” and “extra-financial data” were different. What precisely is the difference, and why is this important?
ESG factors are generally regrouped under “extra financial information”. These factors could be highly material with big economic impact for the issuer. These could therefore be financial factors. I deplore that the European directive refers to non-financial information reporting. This term seems to suggest that this information has no economic impact. Carbon illustrates well this. It is an environmental issue, which could have major economic impact.
Aside from your own talk at the ALFI event, which speech or panel are you most looking forward to hearing, and why?
Minding the gap diversity in asset management [editor’s note: Tuesday at 2:30pm]; we must pursue efforts here. Except this specific panel, looking at the pictures of the speakers over the two days speaks for itself.