Stockholm (NordSIP) – While five years ago the argument still had to be made about the validity of sustainable assets, the rising popularity of this investment theme has created so much supply that institutional investors now struggle to find the right asset managers for their mandates.
Global Fund Search (GFS) is an independent Danish company that helps institutional investors finding the best asset managers for their mandates. The company is based in Copenhagen and was founded in 2012 by brothers Kasper S. Andersen and Kristoffer Andersen. On the occasion of his appointment as GFS’s Head of Institutional Clients for the Nordic region, NordSIP reached out to Björn Edlund-Persson (pictured) to hear more about the company’s effort to bridge the gap between institutional investors and sustainable asset managers.
Bridging the Gap
“At GFS we match institutional investors with asset managers, anonymously, free for the investor, and with the latest data,” Edlund-Persson explains. “By reaching out anonymously to asset managers globally, GFS can create relevant long lists, all within the outlined guidelines. GFS simply gathers and displays the relevant data, available to review on our online platform. After this stage, the client takes over to start the actual analyses. By using this process, I’m confident that GFS can provide great value to institutional investors focusing on equities, fixed income or alternatives. Our mission is to help investors to focus their time on the strategies that are relevant to them.”
Prior to joining GFS, Edlund-Persson spent over 6 years at Legg Mason in London, starting as a Client Relationship Manager and culminating as Director of Business Development for Nordic sales. He joined Legg Mason in the summer of 2012 after working as a Financial Advisor and a Broker Account Manager at Söderberg & Partners and Länsförsäkringar, respectively. He has a Master’s degree in Business and Economics from Stockholm University.
Discussing the appeal of this new position, Edlund-Persson pointed to insights he gained while at Legg Mason. “A big part of this sales job, based in London, was to contact and meet fund selectors across the Nordics, many of them with busy schedules. As with any professional fund manager, we sometimes had exactly the type of solution that the fund selector was looking for, but in other cases, we did not fit all the guidelines for that particular ‘search’. This could be because of quantitative and/or qualitative measures.”
“I realized that, as a complement to this sales process, there must be a way of matching institutional investors with relevant funds/ strategies. During this time I got to know Global Fund Search (GFS) and quickly became a supporter of their business idea,” he adds.
ESG and GFS
Discussing GFS’s ability to assist institutional investors to find the best sustainable investment option, Edlund-Persson was keen to highlight the processes underlying the company’s service, and the rising weight of ESG.
“It’s important to clarify that we, GFS, will always follow the guidelines of our investors. We will gather the data relevant to them. What we can say is that sustainable investments have become the industry standard within institutional investing in the Nordics,” he says. “We are also seeing much more detailed questions around ESG and sustainable investing. A few years ago, one out of 20 questions related to ESG. Today it can be 7 out of 20.”
Sorting the Chaff from the Wheat
According to Edlund-Persson, one of the main issues for sustainable institutional investors is the absence of a standardised reporting approach for sustainable investments. “I think ESG reporting is one of the most interesting themes for many asset owners today.”
“This is partly because they have to report ESG back to their stakeholders, but also because it is still early days when it comes to the standardisation and quality of ESG reporting. We know that many investors find that challenging. If you look at carbon intensity alone, there are many ways to report this, and the underlying data is still not easy to process,” he adds.
“While frameworks such as the SDG’s are helping in this matter, quite many asset managers,” Edlund-Persson says noting that “even some of the ESG leaders, are finding it challenging to provide a reporting flow in the same way that they can do within the classic disciplines like performance reporting, risk reporting, etc.”
“The ability to provide strong risk-adjusted returns (that still applies to all investors), combined with a powerful reporting package is, therefore, a competitive offering in this space.”
The challenges underlying reporting for sustainable challenges create hurdles to institutional investors’ ability to distinguish between the leading sustainable asset managers and those that merely follow the trend. “Investors today are faced with a difficult task, trying to determine whether a proclaimed ‘sustainable asset manager’ is truly dedicated to sustainable investments, whether it’s in the DNA of the firm, or whether they simply changed their product offering because of changing investor demand. In this area, I hope we can be of great value to investors,” Edlund-Persson concludes.
Image courtesy of Björn Edlund-Persson / NordSIP