Next-generation engagement essential for more sustainable investing
The next generation are increasingly taking responsible investing seriously and voicing their opinions
12 Feb 2020 | Tom King
Ankit Khandelwal, Maitri Asset Management's chief investment officer
Ankit Khandelwal, Maitri Asset Management's chief investment officer

Maitri Asset Management, originally the family office of the Tolaram Group, has evolved into one of Singapore’s leading home-grown asset management firms dedicated to active responsible investment management.

Leveraging seven decades of heritage in Asia and extensive family networks, Maitri launched its Sustainable Multi-Asset Absolute Return Strategy (MARS) fund at the end of 2019 in response to growing investor demand.

The Asset recently met with the firm’s CEO Manish Tibrewal, its chief investment officer Ankit Khandelwal, and ESG practice lead Edris Boey to inquire about the progress of its MARS fund. 

TA: The MARS fund is meant to match investor’s demand for ESG/Sustainability investment exposure. How has it been received? Have you attracted both institutional and private investors? And were they just from Asia?

MAITRI: We’ve seen a keen interest in the fund from a range of accredited and institutional investors to date, including high net worth individuals (HNWIs), family offices, and sovereign and pension funds from all parts of the world.

This, along with conversations with investors, all point towards the increasing appetite for sustainable investing becoming more mainstream.

TA: Does the fund invest globally or is it Asian focused? And how challenging is it to find suitable investment opportunities that meet your parameters?

MAITRI: The cornerstone of the fund is the high impetus given to risk management, combined with Maitri’s dynamic environment, social and governance (ESG)-focused proprietary asset allocation model that aligns with the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI) and our in-house negative list.

Our investment philosophy precludes us from investing in six negative sectors, among them alcohol and gambling. Within this framework, the fund invests globally across multiple asset classes, including fixed income, currencies and commodities (FICC) and equities.

Taking a long-term view, with active risk management, allows us to help investors mitigate short-term volatility and provide a stable income stream from responsible, high-quality issuers.

The key is taking a constructive approach to sustainable development alongside all our investments. Our team actively drives change across our invested companies and industries through dialogue and education on practices that align with the UNPRI.

This approach allows us to have a wide universe to begin with, but the challenge sometimes lies in a lack of ESG performance disclosures from companies and responses to our ESG engagement efforts.

TA: Last year saw growing investor demand for strategies that captured strong ESG/sustainability exposure. Do you expect this to increase in 2020?

MAITRI: Attitudes toward sustainable and responsible investment in Asia have changed radically in just a few years. And we believe 2020 will be a pivotal year in which we will see an even greater commitment from and meet milestones with the investment community at large. While the last decade has been about ‘the why’, this decade will be about ‘the how’ as ESG continues to dominate the mainstream and rise to the top of agendas.

Last year, in particular, was a big turning point that saw several significant developments, including the EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy being finalised and the membership in the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) more than double to 54 central banks globally.

This year may well be the year that companies are pressured by investors to come clean about their exposure to climate risk. Companies may also start to recognise the impact that climate risk may have on asset values and that outcomes from the Glasgow Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in November 2020 will be key.

TA: Do you think family offices in Asia are leading the way when it comes to investing in ESG/sustainability projects?

MAITRI: Family offices are a unique part of the investment ecosystem and are playing a growing role in facilitating the growing transition to sustainable investing, particularly within the HNW segment. 

Attitudes toward sustainable and responsible investment in Asia have changed radically in just a few years. Looking at Asia’s wealthiest families, we see the next generation increasingly taking responsible investing seriously and voicing their opinions at the dinner table, which is bringing about changes in their family businesses and in the way they are run and will be run in the decades to come.

This engagement will be key to bringing about a more sustainable investing ecosystem in the decades to come.

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