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UBS launches portfolio to invest in women-led hedge funds – Financial Times

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UBS has launched a portfolio that invests solely in hedge funds led by women, in an effort to improve diversity and spot hidden talent in a traditionally male-dominated sector.

The Swiss bank’s asset management arm launched the Carmen portfolio in recent weeks after trials, said people familiar with the matter. It will aim to pick around 10-to-15 funds globally where a woman has sole or joint discretion over the investment of the assets.

The launch comes at a time of growing investor interest in women- and minority-run funds, with US pension plans and other large allocators increasingly looking to make investments based on environmental, social and governance criteria.

The late Yale endowment fund chief investment officer David Swensen last year wrote to external investment managers, saying it was looking for “a level of diversity in investment management firms that reflects the diversity in the world in which we live”.

Female representation in hedge funds, at 18.6 per cent, is the second-lowest across seven alternative asset classes, according to data group Preqin, and fell marginally over the past year. Women represent 10.9 per cent of senior employees at hedge funds, a slight increase on the previous year.

UBS declined to comment specifically on the launch of the Carmen portfolio but Claire Tucker, senior investment officer at UBS’s fund of hedge funds unit, said women had been “under-represented, particularly on the investment side, despite a lack of evidence justifying that by skill or performance differences”.

Hedge funds run by women were able to limit losses better than those run by men during last spring’s market plunge, while also profiting from the subsequent market rebound.

However, this year they have lagged the wider industry, which has profited from strong gains in equity markets and other risky assets. The HFR Women Access index has gained 6.5 per cent in the first half, while the HFRI 500 Fund Weighted Composite is up 9.2 per cent.

Among those to do well is Leda Braga’s Systematica, whose $4.4bn Alternative Markets fund is up around 14 per cent, according to numbers sent to investors. Lan Wang Simond’s Mandarin Offshore fund is up 3.2 per cent.

“It has been a particularly strong environment for hedge funds in general, with [the first half of the year] reported to be the strongest in history, so it’s not surprising to see the women-run funds which have historically exhibited more robustness in down markets lag slightly”, said Russell Barlow, global head of alternative investment strategies at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

UBS’s launch comes after Aberdeen Standard Investments last year announced it would debut a fund that tracks the performance of an index of women-run hedge funds constructed by data group HFR.

UBS’s portfolio will be actively managed, using quantitative and other analysis to select funds to invest in. UBS has built a database of more than 340 women who are sole or joint managers or, in the case of computer-driven funds, have significant influence over the research behind the fund’s algorithms.

“Women-led funds struggle to attract as much capital as male-led peers,” said UBS’s Tucker, although noting “there has been an increase in client interest in diversity”.

Hedge fund strategies such as macro and fixed income relative value tend to have fewer female portfolio managers, according to UBS.

Tucker said the firm had been “asking more difficult questions [of hedge funds], such as: ‘Why are there no women on the investment team?’” It also plans to help women who run part of a hedge fund but are not the main fund manager launch their own portfolios by providing initial capital.

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UPDATED FACT SHEET: Bipartisan Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act – Whitehouse.gov

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On July 28, the President and the bipartisan group announced agreement on the details of a once-in-a-generation investment in our infrastructure, which was immediately taken up in the Senate for consideration. The legislation includes around $550 billion in new federal investment in America’s roads and bridges, water infrastructure, resilience, internet, and more. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will grow the economy, enhance our competitiveness, create good jobs, and make our economy more sustainable, resilient, and just.

The legislation will create good-paying, union jobs. With the President’s Build Back Better Agenda, these investments will add, on average, around 2 million jobs per year over the course of the decade, while accelerating America’s path to full employment and increasing labor force participation.

President Biden believes that we must invest in our country and in our people by creating good-paying union jobs, tackling the climate crisis, and growing the economy sustainably and equitably for decades to come. The bipartisan legislation will deliver progress towards those objectives for working families across the country. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act:

  • Makes the largest federal investment in public transit ever
  • Makes the largest federal investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak
  • Makes the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system
  • Makes the largest investment in clean drinking water and waste water infrastructure in American history, delivering clean water to millions of families
  • Ensures every American has access to reliable high-speed internet
  • Helps us tackle the climate crisis by making the largest investment in clean energy transmission and EV infrastructure in history; electrifying thousands of school and transit buses across the country; and creating a new Grid Deployment Authority to build a resilient, clean, 21st century electric grid

The President promised to work across the aisle to deliver results for working families. He believes demonstrating that democracies can deliver is a critical challenge for his presidency. Today’s agreement shows that we can come together to position American workers, farmers, and businesses to compete and win in the 21st century.

Roads, Bridges, and Major Projects

One in five miles, or 173,000 total miles, of our highways and major roads and 45,000 bridges are in poor condition. Bridges in poor condition pose heightened challenges in rural communities, which often may rely on a single bridge for the passage of emergency service vehicles. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will invest $110 billion of new funds for roads, bridges, and major projects, and reauthorize the surface transportation program for the next five years building on bipartisan surface transportation reauthorization bills passed out of committee earlier this year. This investment will repair and rebuild our roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians. The bill includes a total of $40 billion of new funding for bridge repair, replacement, and rehabilitation, which is the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system. The bill also includes around $16 billion for major projects that are too large or complex for traditional funding programs but will deliver significant economic benefits to communities.

Safety

America has one of the highest road fatality rates in the industrialized world. The legislation invests $11 billion in transportation safety programs, including a new, $5 billion Safe Streets for All program to help states and localities reduce crashes and fatalities in their communities, especially for cyclists and pedestrians. It includes a new program to provide grants to community owned utilities to replace leaky and obsolete cast iron and bare steel natural gas pipelines, some of which are over 100 years old. It will more than double funding directed to programs that improve the safety of people and vehicles in our transportation system, including highway safety, truck safety, and pipeline and hazardous materials safety.

Public Transit

America’s transit infrastructure is inadequate – with a multibillion-dollar repair backlog, representing more than 24,000 buses, 5,000 rail cars, 200 stations, and thousands of miles of track, signals, and power systems in need of replacement. The legislation includes $39 billion of new investment to modernize transit, and improve accessibility for the elderly and people with disabilities. That is in addition to continuing the existing transit programs for five years as part of surface transportation reauthorization. In total, the new investments and reauthorization provide $89.9 billion in guaranteed funding for public transit over the next five years. This is the largest Federal investment in public transit in history, and devotes a larger share of funds from surface transportation reauthorization to transit in the history of the programs. It will repair and upgrade aging infrastructure, modernize bus and rail fleets, make stations accessible to all users through a new program with $1.75 billion in dedicated funding, and bring transit service to new communities with an additional $8 billion for Capital Investment Grants. It will replace thousands of transit vehicles, including buses, with clean, zero emission vehicles through an additional $5.75 billion, of which 5 percent is dedicated to training the transit workforce to maintain and operate these vehicles. And, it will benefit communities of color since these households are twice as likely to take public transportation and many of these communities lack sufficient public transit options.

Passenger and Freight Rail

Unlike highways and transit, rail lacks a multi-year funding stream to address deferred maintenance, enhance existing corridors, and build new lines in high-potential locations. The legislation positions Amtrak and rail to play a central role in our transportation and economic future. This is the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago. The legislation invests $66 billion in rail to eliminate the Amtrak maintenance backlog, modernize the Northeast Corridor, and bring world-class rail service to areas outside the northeast and mid-Atlantic. Within these totals, $22 billion would be provided as grants to Amtrak, $24 billion as federal-state partnership grants for Northeast Corridor modernization, $12 billion for partnership grants for intercity rail service, including high-speed rail, $5 billion for rail improvement and safety grants, and $3 billion for grade crossing safety improvements.

EV Infrastructure

U.S. market share of plug-in electric vehicle (EV) sales is only one-third the size of the Chinese EV market. The President believes that must change. The bill invests $7.5 billion to build out the first-ever national network of EV chargers in the United States and is a critical element in the Biden-Harris Administration’s plan to accelerate the adoption of EVs to address the climate crisis and support domestic manufacturing jobs. The bill will provide funding for deployment of EV chargers along highway corridors to facilitate long-distance travel and within communities to provide convenient charging where people live, work, and shop. Federal funding will have a particular focus on rural, disadvantaged, and hard-to-reach communities.

Electric Buses

American school buses play a critical role in expanding access to education, but they are also a significant source of pollution. The legislation will deliver thousands of electric school buses nationwide, including in rural communities, helping school districts across the country buy clean, American-made, zero emission buses, and replace the yellow school bus fleet for America’s children. The legislation also invests $5 billion in zero emission and clean buses and $2.5 billion for ferries. These investments will drive demand for American-made batteries and vehicles, creating jobs and supporting domestic manufacturing, while also removing diesel buses from some of our most vulnerable communities. In addition, they will help the more than 25 million children and thousands of bus drivers who breathe polluted air on their rides to and from school. Diesel air pollution is linked to asthma and other health problems that hurt our communities and cause students to miss school, particularly in communities of color and Tribal communities.

Reconnecting Communities

Too often, past transportation investments divided communities – like the Claiborne Expressway in New Orleans or I-81 in Syracuse – or it left out the people most in need of affordable transportation options. In particular, significant portions of the interstate highway system were built through Black neighborhoods. The legislation creates a first-ever program to reconnect communities divided by transportation infrastructure. The program will fund planning, design, demolition, and reconstruction of street grids, parks, or other infrastructure through $1 billion of dedicated funding in addition to historic levels of major projects funding, for which these investments could also qualify.

Airports, Ports, and Waterways

The United States built modern aviation, but our airports lag far behind our competitors. According to some rankings, no U.S. airports rank in the top 25 of airports worldwide. Our ports and waterways need repair and reimagination too. The bill invests $17 billion in port infrastructure and $25 billion in airports to address repair and maintenance backlogs, reduce congestion and emissions near ports and airports, and drive electrification and other low-carbon technologies. Modern, resilient, and sustainable port, airport, and freight infrastructure will support U.S. competitiveness by removing bottlenecks and expediting commerce and reduce the environmental impact on neighboring communities.

Resilience and Western Water Infrastructure

Millions of Americans feel the effects of climate change each year when their roads wash out, airport power goes down, or schools get flooded. Last year alone, the United States faced 22 extreme weather and climate-related disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each – a cumulative price tag of nearly $100 billion. People of color are more likely to live in areas most vulnerable to flooding and other climate change-related weather events. The legislation makes our communities safer and our infrastructure more resilient to the impacts of climate change and cyber-attacks, with an investment of over $50 billion. This includes funds to protect against droughts, floods and wildfires, in addition to a major investment in weatherization. The bill is the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history.

Clean Drinking Water

Currently, up to 10 million American households and 400,000 schools and child care centers lack safe drinking water. The legislation’s $55 billion investment represents the largest investment in clean drinking water in American history, including dedicated funding to replace lead service lines and the dangerous chemical PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl). It will replace all of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines. From rural towns to struggling cities, the legislation invests in water infrastructure across America, including in Tribal Nations and disadvantaged communities that need it most.

High-Speed Internet

Broadband internet is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care, and to stay connected. Yet, by one definition, more than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds – a particular problem in rural communities throughout the country. The legislation’s $65 billion investment – which builds on the billions of dollars provided for broadband deployment in the American Rescue Plan – will help ensure every American has access to reliable high-speed internet with an historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment, just as the federal government made a historic effort to provide electricity to every American nearly one hundred years ago.

The bill will also help lower prices for internet service by requiring funding recipients to offer a low-cost affordable plan, by requiring providers to display a “Broadband Nutrition Label” that will help families comparison shop for a better legislation, and by boosting competition in areas where existing providers aren’t providing adequate service. It will also help close the digital divide by passing the Digital Equity Act (which creates new grant programs for digital inclusion), by requiring the Federal Communications Commission to adopt rules banning digital redlining, and by creating a new, permanent program to help more low-income households access the internet. Over one in four households will be eligible for this new Affordable Connectivity Benefit.

Environmental Remediation

In thousands of rural and urban communities around the country, hundreds of thousands of former industrial and energy sites are now idle – sources of blight and pollution. 26% of Black Americans and 29% of Hispanic Americans live within 3 miles of a Superfund site, a higher percentage than for Americans overall. Proximity to a Superfund site can lead to elevated levels of lead in children’s blood. The legislation invests $21 billion in environmental remediation, making the largest investment in addressing the legacy pollution that harms the public health of communities and neighborhoods in American history, creating good-paying union jobs in hard-hit energy communities and advancing economic and environmental justice. The bill includes funds to clean up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land and cap orphaned gas wells.

Power Infrastructure

As the recent Texas power outages demonstrated, our aging electric grid needs urgent modernization. A Department of Energy study found that power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $70 billion annually. The legislation’s roughly $65 billion investment includes the single largest investment in clean energy transmission in American history. It upgrades our power infrastructure, including by building thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy. It creates a new Grid Deployment Authority, invests in research and development for advanced transmission and electricity distribution technologies, and promotes smart grid technologies that deliver flexibility and resilience. It invests in demonstration projects and research hubs for next generation technologies like advanced nuclear, carbon capture, and clean hydrogen.

Offsets

In the years ahead, the legislation will generate significant economic benefits. It is financed through a combination of redirecting unspent emergency relief funds, targeted corporate user fees, strengthening tax enforcement when it comes to crypto currencies, and other bipartisan measures, in addition to the revenue generated from higher economic growth as a result of the investments.

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Church’s Chicken Acquired By Investment Firm High Bluff Capital Partners – Forbes

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High Bluff Capital Partners is adding Church’s Chicken to its growing roster of restaurant brands under its REGO Restaurant Group platform, established in 2018.

The company has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Church’s from FFL partners for an undisclosed amount.  FS Investments led a structured capital investment in support of the acquisition out of its FS Tactical Opportunities Fund along with other affiliated investment funds. The transaction is expected to be completed in Q3.

Atlanta-based Church’s Chicken has more than 1,500 locations in 25 countries and territories. The nearly 70-year-old brand generated systemwide sales of about $1.2 billion in 2020, including its most profitable performance in “many years,” by leveraging a strong demand for chicken and bundled meals, as well as drive-thru and off-premise channels.

This momentum is what attracted High Bluff founder Anand Gowda to the brand.

“At a time when the entire restaurant industry has faced unprecedented challenges, Church’s has stood out as a notable bright spot, having emerged from the pandemic with considerable tailwinds that strongly position the brand for tremendous growth geographically as well as in the overall chicken category,” he said.

Despite those tailwinds, however, Gowda acknowledges that Church’s needs a bit more agility to better compete in an intensifying space.

“My perspective is that situations that appear to be challenged on the outside–like having a dated brand–have tremendous loyalty from the customer base and if you can invest some capital in the physical assets and technology, that’s interesting,” he said. “Church’s has performed very well through Covid, but there is still so much untapped value here. It’ll take some simple blocking and tackling to energize the customer base and that’s what we intend to do.”

Those blocking and tackling efforts include bringing innovative menu offerings to market more quickly, elevating the tech platform, improving the point-of-sale system and getting a loyalty program in place as soon as possible.

Essentially, Gowda wants to bring a faster mindset to the system, which has been under the same ownership since 2009.

“They took a long time to make decisions like implementing price changes. They were late to the chicken sandwich wars. It shouldn’t take two years to develop a loyalty program,” he said. “You have to be quick in this industry–especially now. We have a small group of owners and that gives us the ability to make decisions quickly. Our ownership is narrow and I think that will be a strategic advantage with the brand.”

Taking over a legacy brand at a sprint’s pace has its risks, however. Namely, it could turn off loyal franchisees who have been with the system for a long time. Gowda isn’t worried about this so much, however.

“We all have the same goals. If we’re not working to increase their margin, we shouldn’t be in the market. Our objective is to bring more sales to franchisees in a more agile way and give them more opportunities at growth and more flexibility with technology. They’re in acute alignment with that objective,” he said.

If that alignment is sustained, Gowda expects big things for the Church’s brand. He wants to grow its footprint, including in nontraditional ways such as ghost kitchens–a plan he’s deploying with REGO’s other brands.

Further, consumers have proven their appetite for chicken is boundless and he believes there is plenty of room for Church’s Texas-style chicken alongside the Kentucky-style chicken of KFC and the Louisiana-style chicken of Popeyes (both of which are on a significant upswing, by the way). He also likes the momentum Church’s has with its international business, its strongest driver of growth throughout the past two years.

“We have this wonderful international business and we can take all the flavors that we put into those businesses and import them here that are in high demand. International is one of our strongest assets and it will help us bring forward great products that will generate great sales. Our operators are thirsty for this type of innovation,” Gowda said. “We recognize we’ll fail sometimes but we’ll win big sometimes. In two or three years, we’ll be leading this category versus following in this category.”

With the acquisition of the chicken chain, REGO Restaurant Group diversifies its portfolio that already includes sub chain Quiznos and Mexican concept Taco Del Mar. Gowda would like to get to at least 10 brands and double its EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) to north of $100 million in the next few years. REGO plans to continue taking advantage of the mergers & acquisitions market while it remains hot.

“It took us a little while to get the snowball going, but now we have a scalable platform with Church’s. That was our goal–scale to get to scale. Now we focus on buying bigger assets, financing them in a cost efficient way and accelerate opportunities that are either undermanaged, poorly capitalized or growing well but in the mid-to-early stages of growth that we can accelerate,” Gowda said. “We’re just getting started.”

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Montreal investment fund sued over use of founder's great-great-grandfather's name – Coast Reporter

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MONTREAL — Brendan Holt Dunn said he wanted to invoke the legacy of his great-great-grandfather, pioneering Quebec industrialist Sir Herbert Holt, in the name of his Montreal-based venture capital fund.

Now, he may have to go to court to keep the name.

His fund, The Holt Xchange, which invests in early stage financial technology startups, is being sued by international bank Credit Suisse for trademark violation. 

In a statement of claim filed last year with Federal Court in Edmonton, Credit Suisse subsidiary CSFB HOLT said it owns the right to use the brand “HOLT” when offering financial goods and services in Canada and that the branding and offerings of the Montreal venture capital fund — known as the Holt Accelerator when the lawsuit was filed — is too similar.

The bank, which is seeking at least $100,000 in damages, argues that similarity “will cause confusion amongst Canadian consumers” and reduce the value and reputation of its trademark.

Dunn said he doesn’t think there’s a risk of confusion.

“We’re in different areas, the financial sector as a whole is very broad,” he said, adding that he’d never heard of Credit Suisse’s HOLT brand before being sued.

“I think what they’re worried about is that our name, our family’s name is better known than them in Canada,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “There is absolutely no overlap.”

Elisabeth Laett, managing partner at The Holt Xchange, said the decision to use the Holt family name when the fund launched in 2018 was a reference to the history of Montreal’s financial sector and the fund’s ambitions to help make Quebec a hub for a new generation of financial technology companies.

“We were the financial hub of Canada, in Montreal, at one point,” she said. 

When Herbert Holt died in 1941, he was described as the richest man in Canada. A railway engineer who helped build the Canadian Pacific Railway, he was knighted for his work planning railways in France during the First World War. He later consolidated several power companies in the Montreal area — which would eventually be expropriated to create Hydro-Québec — and was president of the Royal Bank of Canada from 1908 to 1934. 

Holt was also a controversial figure in Montreal at a time when many French-speaking Quebecers resented the city’s English-speaking business elite.

In court filings, The Holt Xchange maintains the Holt name has been used by generations of family members when offering financial goods and services in Canada. It has also filed a counter claim seeking to have Credit Suisse’s HOLT trademark struck down.

Credit Suisse’s HOLT brand comes from the name of a United States-based financial consulting firm acquired by the bank in 2002 and is an acronym based on the letters of the last names of consulting company’s founders. The bank, which filed an application to register the “HOLT” trademark in Canada in 2006, sells software used to value companies, as well as offering consulting services and investment products, under the HOLT name.

Whether consumers would interpret “Holt” in the name of the Montreal venture capital fund as a reference to the Holt family is one of the issues being disputed in court filings.

Teresa Scassa, the Canada Research Chair in information law and policy at the University of Ottawa’s law faculty said the courts look at several factors when evaluating the possibility of confusion in trademark cases “including how long each name or mark has been in use, and how similar the goods and services goods or services are, and the way in which they’re marketed or sold.”

While the Trademarks Act allows people to use their own names as trade names, she said that defence has “been interpreted fairly narrowly,” 

“For example, someone named McDonald is not prevented from using their name in business and if they open a burger stand, they’re not prevented from using their name in their family business to sell burgers, but they can’t just call it McDonald’s,” she said. Instead they have to make it clear it’s a different business.

Credit Suisse spokesman Jonathan Schwarzberg declined to comment on the case, saying the bank can’t say anything publicly beyond what’s in court filings. No trial date has been set. 

Dunn said the fund entered into negotiations with Credit Suisse after the lawsuit was filed and changed its name from Holt Fintech Accelerator to The Holt Xchange in the spring, a move he said he thought would satisfy the bank.

He noted there are other companies using the name Holt.

“I don’t understand it,” he said. “It’s insulting and we’re obviously feeling like we’re being bullied. We’re a very successful family, but no family in the world can go up against a financial institution.”

Laett said the Montreal fund has built an international brand around its name, attracting interest from startups from around the world. “We’ve received roughly 3,000 applications to be part of Holt,” she said. “There is a tremendous momentum.”

Dunn said he’s not open to dropping “Holt” from the company’s name. 

“It is my personal name and my family’s name and our family’s history and reputation in Canada,” he said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 2, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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