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Rethinking wealth: how an Asian family office successfully aligned its investments to its mission

RS Group, the Hong Kong based family office, has just released a detailed report describing its six year journey in building a 100% sustainable and impact investment portfolio with the support of onValues. The report shows that, in addition to tangible social impact contributions, such a portfolio achieves financial returns and risk levels that are absolutely in line with traditional portfolios. In the introduction to the report, RS Group’s principal Annie Chen explains how important it was for her to align her wealth to her values and to use all forms of capital (grants and investments) in support of sustainable development in the context of a so-called total portfolio approach. onValues supported (and continues to support) RS Group at different levels: in defining a long-term strategy and asset allocation for the whole wealth, in selecting the best investment managers globally for each asset class, in regularly monitoring and reviewing the portfolio, in consolidating financial and impact information. During the launch event for the report, Annie Chen expressed her hope that by sharing her experience other family offices and investors throughout Asia will be motivated to engage in similar initiatives. More information can be found at the report's website.

Working with peers on best-practice advisory standards

The global wealth advisory industry is booming. Armies of banks, insurance companies, (multi-) family offices and asset managers now compete for the attention of asset owners, offering an unprecedented number of investment consulting services with varying degrees of quality. Disappointing investment performance and unappropriate advice have led to a lack of trust in financial consultants during a phase where unbiased advice is most needed. In collaboration with the consultant network Advisornet (co-founded by onValues), we recently organised a public workshop to discuss and further develop best-practices for the financial and investment consulting profession. About 40 practitioners took part in the event and shared their experience in striving for excellence in their profession. Prof. Dr. Thorsten Hens of the University of Zürich presented the academic state-of-the-art in investment consulting and compared this with the current offerings available at Swiss banks. He concluded that science offers robust guidelines for advisory processes which are currently only partially adopted by banks. This was followed by a panel discussion with experienced practitioners focussing on frequently encountered dilemmas during the advisory process and how to deal with them. How can we cope with weak governance at a client’s family office or institution? How do we react if a client is not prepared to cover the full cost of quality advice? How do we deal with well-known behavioural biases of clients? These were among the many issues discussed at the event which will be further explored in the context of our Advisornet engagement.

Applying an impact lens to the entire portfolio

Ivo Knoepfel recently spoke at Pymwymic Impact Days*) about onValues’ experience in applying positive impact considerations to the entire wealth of clients, across all major asset classes. He stressed the importance of purpose and intentionality at different levels: at the level of single investments, of investment managers in charge of different parts of the portfolio, and when defining the strategy for the whole portfolio. In public markets, contributions to positive impact are often of a more systemic nature. Equity managers actively allocating capital to companies providing solutions to societal challenges and engaging with company management on these issues need to better report on the rationale and expected outcomes of their activities – Ivo Knoepfel stressed. He showed examples of asset managers and rating agencies that have developed frameworks to do so and reported on the experience of RS Group, a family office client of onValues, in applying an impact lens to their entire portfolio.
*) Pymwymic Impact Days is the leading European gathering of family investors and family offices engaged in the field of impact investing. This year it took place in Amsterdam on April 19 & 20.

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.

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