Large financial firms have dedicated research teams that construct portfolios. Individuals or even sub-teams dedicate to different factors, and smaller firms previously had a hard time competing. However, technology is shifting the balance, as tools like machine learning and artificial intelligence can augment current labor to boost productivity. These measures can enhance productivity without increasing one of the largest input costs in finance: labor. Magnifi’s powerful artificial intelligence can amp up your research department by providing detailed analytics, and powerful search features that navigate thousands of portfolio opportunities without the large teams. Technology is leveling the playing field and giving small firms the edge in labor output.
Energy prices are rising from the U.S. to Europe, and while that might spark a good upside for energy companies it’s causing a crisis for those reliant in Europe. BSF SE and Aurubis AG are the continent’s number one producers in chemicals and copper respectively, but energy prices are eating at their margins. Major U.K. fertilizer companies are shutting down plant production in Norway. Gas prices are up nearly 200% in Europe and input costs have doubled as a supply crunch ravages the West. This shortage is painful on the frontside with high input costs but on the sell-side as well. Higher energy costs are eating up a larger percentage of home budgets and curtailing retail spending. Goldman Sachs expects the calamity to continue into the winter and warns of blackouts if consumption isn’t curbed. Finsum: This is the time to up the stakes in American energy prices. Energy shortages aren’t good for anyone but oil and gas are release valves.
Congressional Democrats are pushing for more ways to increase taxes on wealthy Americans, and their newest mechanism is closing a loophole on Roth IRA contributions. Currently, people making in excess of $400,000 can convert pre-tax retirement saving accounts into a Roth IRA. Technically, individuals can’t contribute to their Roth if their income exceeded $140,000, but the ‘backdoor’ loophole allowed you to convert the pre-tax contributions into a Roth IRA. Additionally, House Democrats are trying to end the ‘mega backdoor’ Roth’s which were saving up to $38,500 for wealthy individuals. The Democratic proposal also is requiring minimum reporting for certain balances and further Roth restrictions. These are significant changes to the potential tax code for the wealthiest, and if implemented these provisions would all come into effect Dec. 31, 2021.
FINSUM: Democrats are also considering automatic enrollment in Roth retirement vehicles in order to boost retirement savings on the lower-income spectrum. These are some of the largest changes to the tax code in recent years, all in an attempt to boost the tax base and pay for a $3.5 spending bill.
By Liz Su, CFA and Kevin Hart, CIMA of Boston Common Asset Management
Responsible investors have long believed that investing with embedded consideration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors is a compelling approach to identify investment opportunities: well-run, thoughtfully managed companies built for the long term, ready to foster societal transition and dynamically adapt to our rapidly changing world. This belief is simple enough to justify: identification, application, and integration of ESG risks and opportunities can provide investors with additional, independently derived insight into a company’s management quality, strategic positioning, operational efficiency, and potential risk exposure.
The broader investment community has caught on. In 2020, ESG funds saw greater inflows than in any year prior, a nearly 140% increase over 2019 and nearly ten times greater than in 2018. Corporations have responded to this shift, with a record number of companies appointing their first Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) in 2020, a year that saw more CSOs recruited than in the previous three years combined.
SUSTAINABLE FUND ANNUAL FLOWS AND ASSETS
Source: Morningstar. Data as of 12/31/2020
Includes Sustainable Funds as defined in Sustainable Funds U.S. Landscape Report, Feb. 2020.
Includes funds that have been liquidated, does not include funds of funds.
The transformative potential in the hands of ESG investors has grown by orders of magnitude. This exponential growth has brought an increasingly crowded field with a variety of approaches to ESG, creating ambiguity in the marketplace over what it means to be intentional as an impact investor. An authentic, intentional, and holistic approach relies on aligning active ownership strategies (e.g., shareholder resolutions, public policy participation, voting proxies) with stated investment goals, an ESG-led research process, and impact-oriented themes and targets.
Dispelling a Persistent Myth
There has been a widespread misconception among investors that ESG factors are non-financial. This is not entirely accurate. ESG factors can instead represent unpriced externalities and unmanaged risks that are uncorrelated with traditional financial metrics. By incorporating ESG factors into security analysis, investors can identify a host of material issues core to business fundamentals, enhancing the ability to recognize patterns that are not already priced in.
In addition to risk-mitigation, businesses that proactively accelerate the adoption of positive ESG practices and the development of solutions-oriented products have a unique opportunity to exceed revenue expectations and thus be rewarded with higher ratings over time. These companies may see an improving competitive position versus peers, while those that are on the wrong side of this transition may see changes in their cost of capital and an accompanying deterioration in their competitive position. Investing in the transition to a more just, sustainable world gives investors access to solutions-fixed revenue streams while altering the trajectory on climate action and racial equity among a host of other vital issues.
Identifying strong business fundamentals and ESG process leadership — underpinned by the belief that businesses with forward-thinking managements are higher quality — combined with insights gained from global, proactive, and sustained shareowner engagement can together form a positive feedback loop for better investment decision-making. Managers with the knowledge and experience to employ this holistic approach understand the need to incorporate the product dimension into impact and support companies whose products and services are solutions for societal, environmental, and human rights problems.
ACTIVE OWNERSHIP STRATEGIES
The Way Forward
We are at an inflection point where ESG is transitioning from niche to mainstream. True to the original spirit of the movement, we should hope not to build a new investment establishment in the image of the old, but instead to forge a dynamic, holistic, evolved approach, generating positive impacts by holding companies accountable as stewards of people and planet. As investors, holding ourselves to the same high standards we demand of portfolio companies will go a long way toward making these impacts sustainable.
We hope that you will join us on the journey.
Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Investing involves risk including possible loss of principal.
This does not constitute investment advice or an investment recommendation.
This represents the views and opinions of Boston Common Asset Management. It does not constitute investment advice or an offer or solicitation to purchase or sell any security and is subject to change at any time due to changes in market or economic conditions. The comments should not be construed as a recommendation of individual holdings or market sectors, but as an illustration of broader themes.
Applying ESG investment criteria to investments may result in the selection or exclusion of securities of certain issuers for reasons other than performance, and may underperform investments that do not utilize an ESG investment strategy. The application of an ESG strategy may affect an investment's exposure to certain companies, sectors, regions, countries or types of investments, which could negatively impact performance depending on whether such investments are in or out of favor. Applying ESG criteria to investment decisions is qualitative and subjective by nature, and there is no guarantee that the criteria utilized or any judgment exercised by an investment manager will reflect the beliefs or values of any particular investor.
AMG Funds LLC (“AMG Funds”) is a wholly-owned subsidiary and U.S. retail distribution arm of AMG. AMG Funds offers long-term investment strategies through a unique platform that includes a family of funds and separate accounts managed by a selection of AMG's investment managers.
N.B. This is sponsored content and not FINSUM editorial.
For the most part, regulatory risk is understood well before it becomes a reality. There is a lot of uncertainty around the final rule, but generally you can prepare long in advance. That said, Reg BI may be about to cause a big problem in publicly traded markets. In particular, there is increasing speculation that Reg BI may soon be applied to everyone’s favorite darling (or the opposite), Robinhood (HOOD). The company has been under intense scrutiny for most of this year for its monetization strategies as well as its gamification of trading.
FINSUM: And this would not just be limited to Robinhood but all online trading platforms. This could lead to some significant volatility.