An industry insight into the importance of the Responsible Asset Owners Global Symposium
Q. Do you think there is a demand for Major Fund events in the industry?
A. Major Funds such as Sovereign wealth funds are growing in size and in number, yet their role, ambitions and how they deploy capital are relatively poorly understood. The landscape of major asset owners is not only changing globally but also domestically. In the UK – we have the incoming “mini SWFs” in the form of the pooled Local Government Pension Schemes and calls from various industry and political quarters for the creation of a UK SWF. As major asset owners continue to grow in influence and become more vocal about their goals – particularly in terms of their impact in an ESG context – it is important that there are forums which build broader comprehension of their activities.
Q. With the impending Brexit deadline do you think the City should be hosting more events around Responsible Asset Ownership?
A. London, and indeed the UK more broadly, is already an attractive destination for FDI but, clearly, there will be intense scrutiny on our ability to retain this position post Brexit. If there is a short or medium term hit to the economy, foreign investment becomes all the more crucial, as evidenced by the plethora of international trade delegations to various countries, such as China and India, in recent years. Much of our infrastructure is already owned by major overseas asset owners – probably to an underappreciated extent. Hosting large scale events which highlight the investment potential of the UK to these types of investors can only be a helpful initiative.
Q. As a communications professional, what do you see as the biggest communications challenges for Asset Owners?
A. Transparency. The social purpose and the investment objectives of different types of sovereign investors are varied – for some it is about making investments of strategic importance across the world, for some it is about income, for others it is about long term capital growth. This means that how they choose to invest is necessarily heteronymous and it is difficult to conform to a single standard. That said, whilst Norway blazes a trail for transparency, some of the world’s largest funds are viewed as fairly opaque. This, in turn, exacerbates fears that they could be used to wield geopolitical influence or that they could even destabilise global markets. The challenge, in short, is demonstrating that they are a force for good – even though this “good” might be manifested in a divergent collection of ways.