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Feeling the pulse of the German market

onValues recently conducted a systematic search and selection process for German banks and asset managers that offer investment strategies based on sustainability criteria. The outcomes show that the German market still lags behind other European markets in terms of the quality of the strategies and services offered, although we were able to identify 2-3 institutions that meet our quality standards. Assessment criteria included: institutions’ strategic commitment to responsible business practices, the role of sustainability within their asset management as well as the risk-return characteristics of their main investment offerings. The analysis lead to the following main observations: Most financial institutions market sustainable services but only few demonstrate strategic, top management commitment to sustainability investments. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria are rarely integrated into the overall investment process and in most cases added as an extra filter during the security selection process. There seems to be a certain standardisation of processes for using ESG criteria during security selection driven by the consolidation trend in the sector for independent ESG-research. Performance differences within asset classes are small, but vary significantly for balanced strategies, leading to the conclusion that asset allocation is a key driver of performance.

Using scenario and contingency planning to prepare for the future

onValues has developed a set of long-term (20 years) and mid-term (3 years) scenarios as an input for developing investment strategies and contingency plans for clients. The long-term scenarios are used for strategy development and capacity building, the mid-term scenarios for implementing capital protection (and enhancement) strategies in the event of expected market dislocations. Whereas most investment advisors and asset managers focus only on economic data when defining investment strategies, onValues takes a broader view. Its long-term scenarios include assumptions on geo-political, economic, trade, innovation, demographic, social and environmental developments whose interaction then leads to certain outcomes at the level of the economy and of specific asset classes. The mid-term scenarios focus on turning points in market cycles that are triggered by economic realities and by the behaviour and perceptions of market participants. A system to monitor changes in market state that includes dimensions such as asset valuations, investor sentiment and internal market dynamics is used. onValues then works with clients to define measures aimed at protecting capital which is particularly important given the current risk of asset bubbles.

A different approach to financial market analysis

onValues has recently strengthened its macroeconomic and financial market research capabilities. The company now provides guidance on financial markets outlook based on a multi-dimensional analysis framework. Its approach aimed at better understanding mid- to long-term developments differs substantially from the short-term (3 to 6 months) focus of ‘market outlooks’ provided by banks and traditional advisors. This is in line with onValues’ focus on long-term orientated clients. Therefore onValues relies on the use of long-term data and valuation methodologies which have been proven to be robust over many investment cycles, i.e. decades. As an additional layer the framework monitors behavioral aspects of market participants thus capturing valuable information usually unrecognized in traditional financial market analysis. The onValues framework’s main goal is not to ‘time’ markets but to help clients identify ‘preventable surprises’ that can lead to substantial wealth destruction or unrealistic financial expectations.

Strengthening mission alignment of endowments at Swiss foundations

onValues has in the past months continued its work in support of the foundation sector in Switzerland. Besides providing advice to several foundations for developing and implementing mission aligned investment strategies, onValues is also engaged in sector wide capacity building efforts. Ivo Knoepfel is an independent advisor of SwissFoundations' (the national association's) working group on Finances which regularly deals with mission investing matters. In the Swiss Foundations Report 2015 (only available in German and French), Nathalie Moral from the Arcas Foundation and Ivo Knoepfel present results of their recent survey of Swiss foundations and a feasibility study for program related investments in Switzerland. Ivo Knoepfel was also a speaker at the Swiss Foundations Symposium held in Zürich on 3 June 2015.

Engaging leading families and their nextgens

onValues is active in several international networks supporting leading families invest their wealth according to their values and for positive impact. In April, together with one of our partners, we organised for the second time a workshop on sustainable investing for 'next generation' wealthholders from six different European countries.  On 20-21 April, Ivo Knoepfel was a speaker at the pymwymic Family Days. He briefed a group of 30 family principals and over 50 family office representatives on strategies to better align family wealth with sustainability drivers and impact goals. pymwymic is one of the leading family networks in the field.

Peter Wüthrich joins onValues

onValues is pleased to announce that, as of 1st of January 2015, Peter Wüthrich has joined onValues as a Senior Advisor and Member of the Management Board of the company.

onValues and Peter’s former company, Wüthrich, Henz & Co. Ltd., have been working together and sharing experiences in advising asset owners for a while now. Peter has also been a member of the advisory board of onValues. Over time, it became clear that the respective skills, networks and customer groups complement each other very well and that joining forces made sense.

Peter graduated with a Master's Degree in economics from the University of St. Gallen (HSG) and is a CFA- and FRM-Charterholder. With his long and successful track record in the Private Wealth Management industry, Peter is a seasoned investment specialist who will add value to our advisory services.

European foundation meeting marks growing interest in mission-aligned investing

onValues continues its work with European foundations in this area. After the Brussels and Zurich meetings, onValues recently helped organise and moderate a third European foundation roundtable dedicated to sharing best-practices in better aligning foundations' capital management to their mission. The roundtable was sponsored by the Foundation for Future Generations and Fondation de France and consisted in two meetings: one dedicated to overall investment strategies and governance issues (13-14 March 2014 in Brussels) and another one focussing more on venture philanthropy and impact investing approaches (3-4 July 2014, also in Brussels). 20 foundations from eight countries participated in the meetings.

Reports on the two meetings (including presentations) can be found at:
March report, and July report

onValues founding member of Swiss Sustainable Finance

Swiss Sustainable Finance (SSF) aims to promote Switzerland as the leading centre for sustainable finance. More than 60 organisations – financial service providers, investors, research organisations, public sector entities and others – have joined forces to foster social and environmental aspects in investment and financing solutions. onValues has for many years supported this vision and participated in the working group that has prepared the launch of SSF.

Today, sustainable assets of CHF 57 billion are managed in Switzerland, a significant proportion of which is for international clients. Switzerland is also a hub for innovative impact investing strategies. A third of global microfinance investments, for example, are managed by Swiss players.

More information at www.sustainablefinance.ch

Network of independent investment consultancies launched

onValues has teamed up with other leading independent investment consultancies to launch Advisornet. Members of this network share similar values, i.e. professionality, integrity and independency in their work for asset owners (HNWI/family offices, foundations, pension funds etc.). One of the goals of Advisornet is to support research and foster a public dialogue on the role of and criteria for independent financial consulting.

Members of Advisornet currently include InvestorsDialogue (financial planning), Wüthrich&Henz (investment consulting), FourA (asset allocation), INREIM (real estate investing), onValues (investment consulting). The network is expected to grow to a level of about a dozen firms in the course of the next year.

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