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Why we’re all in on responsible investing for 2020

Feb 19, 2020 | Michael Armstrong


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For many, responsible investing is about aligning investments with values.

close up wind turbine against blue sky

Against the backdrop of what seems to be a daily barrage of bad news, a growing number of clients are looking for greater ways to make some sort of difference in the world.

Some are volunteering. Some are turning to civic involvement. But more and more, I see people seeking to influence change with their dollars.

Where once philanthropy was their primary outlet, responsible investing is emerging as another effective way for investors to have an impact on things they care about, whether that’s the environment, diversity and equality in business, geopolitics or the like.

Responsible investing is something large asset managers, institutional investors and foundations have been doing for years. But it hasn’t quite found the same level of enthusiasm among investors – even high-net-worth (HNW) investors – yet.

2020 could very well be the tipping point.

The growth of responsible investing

In the U.S., responsible investing assets have skyrocketed to US$12 trillion as of 2018, a 38 percent increase in two years, according to The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment. That’s projected to grow exponentially, especially with big money managers like BlackRock announcing they’re making sustainability the “new standard for investing.”

And then there are the returns. While many still question the “doing well by doing good” mentality behind responsible investing, data increasingly show the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, Barron’s newest annual ranking of big-cap equity mutual funds found those that rank high on sustainability are outperforming the market.

Growing inflows and positive returns are the kinds of things that pique the interest of HNW investors. But are wealth managers ready to serve them?

Understanding what clients want

In response to what we believe will be a surge in attention from our clients in responsible investing, we’ve launched three model investment portfolios that employ various responsible investing strategies. Interest in those funds is already strong, particularly among women, and we expect to add more offerings in this space.

But a wealth manager’s role is much bigger than making sure we have the right products in place.

For many, responsible investing is about aligning investments with values. Wealth managers that really want to help their clients successfully navigate responsible investing should be more proactive and intentional about understanding their values, how they might want to make a difference in the world, and then weave those values into their short-, mid-, and long-range plans.

That’s why, beginning this year we are asking advisors at RBC Wealth Management-U.S. to incorporate a discussion about responsible investing into the everyday wealth planning process.

For us, it’s not that big of a stretch.

Creating impact in our communities

RBC is a leader in sustainability, another key area of focus for responsible investors. Our approach to sustainability is central to our business and to our stated purpose: to help clients thrive and communities prosper. That’s a large part of why RBC is also often listed as a holding in several responsible investing indexes, including Pax Ellevate Management’s Impax Global Women’s Leadership Index and the FTSE4Good Index. We also believe capital can be a force for positive change, clearly demonstrated by a new business target: $100 billion in sustainable finance by 2025.

This commitment supports our enterprise climate strategy, the RBC Climate Blueprint, aimed at accelerating clean economic growth through our strengths in finance, investment, risk management, innovation, economic research, and community investments. This strategy includes RBC Tech for Nature, a multi-year commitment to new ideas, technologies and partnerships focused on finding solutions to shared environmental challenges.

As our global CEO, Dave McKay so eloquently wrote in our 2019 annual report, “We are proud of the contributions we make in the communities where we work and live – our long-term success depends on it.”

It makes sense that we would also be convinced of the merits of responsible investing.

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Wealth planning