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Why interest in ESG investing is set to explode – BNN

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If there’s any silver lining to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that an increasing number of investors are thinking more carefully about the impact their holdings are having on the world.

In 2020, inflows into Canadian-based environmental, social and governance (ESG) funds topped $3.2 billion, while total net assets in ESG funds topped $22 billion, a 37% increase over the year before. The company also found that 12.3% of global asset managers have put a greater importance on ESG considerations since the pandemic began[1].

While interest in ESG investing was on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic, people are paying even more attention to everything from climate change to the treatment of employees to pressing social causes. Combined with a push from CEOs of major corporations to identify ESG risks within their own businesses, and with more regulations – in Europe, but soon elsewhere – around sustainable finance-related disclosure requirements, interest in ESG will likely continue well into the future, says Priti Shokeen, head of ESG Research and Engagement at TD Asset Management Inc.(TDAM).

“There’s an ever-growing awareness about systemic risks that we are facing as a society such as our rapidly changing climate and social inequalities, and an unwillingness to keep the status quo, whether that’s through our personal values or through our investments.” she says. “The industry also reached an inflection point over the last two- three years with maturing ESG strategies and funds showing that ESG does not take away from investment performance. The COVID-19 pandemic was the first true test of that and ESG showed potential for downside protection.”

ESG’s evolution

Currently, assets under management (AUM) in Canadian-listed ESG-focused funds account for less than 1% of AUM in all Canadian funds – $22 billion compared to about $2 trillion, according to ISS – but that number could see a dramatic increase over the next several years.

For one thing, the market continues to evolve from its traditional do-no-harm focus, which mainly involved companies taking action against issues that could hurt their business, to one that’s more purpose focused, where doing something good – for communities, customers and the planet at large – drives business decisions.

With more people wanting to understand how companies they are investing in, are being responsible – that may be reducing their carbon footprint or offering staff at least minimum wage – businesses will need to be more transparent about their ESG risks, says Shokeen.

“Companies will be disclosing ESG risks more systematically, and that information will help people make better investment decisions,” she says.

It also helps that millennials are more ESG minded. Morgan Stanley found that while the interest in sustainable investing among all investors climbed to 85% in 2019 from 71% in 2015, it jumped to 95% in 2019 from 84% in 2015 among millennials[2]. That’s important because this generation will inherit billions of dollars from their boomer parents over the next decade.

Given their interest in ESG, much of that money will go into ESG-related funds and to the advisors who embrace sustainable investing.   

“There is a greater willingness among millennials and increasingly among high net worth investors to act through their spending and investing,” notes Shokeen. “Advisors need to educate themselves so they can talk knowledgeably about these products, especially given the proliferation of ESG.”

More options for investors

As interest in ESG increases, so too will the kinds of products investors can buy. While a number of ESG-focused mutual funds have been created over the years, the ESG ETF market is one area that many investors and advisors are now focused on. ETFs by their nature are low-cost, highly liquid and easy to buy, which is ideal for someone who wants to build any portfolio, but especially one that has a particular focus.

Over the last few years, a number of ESG ETFs have come to market globally with different approaches – some focus on gender parity among executives or technologies that advance renewable energy, others simply remove fossil fuels from existing funds. TDAM, which has long been implementing ESG practices into its various mutual funds, has recently launched three ETFs that incorporate a variety of ESG approaches into one investment vehicle.

The three funds – TD Morningstar ESG Canada Equity Index ETF (TMEC), TD Morningstar ESG U.S. Equity Index ETF (TMEU) and TD Morningstar ESG International Equity Index ETF (TMEI) – give investors exposure to companies with high ESG ratings across a broad number of factors, including alignment of management compensation with shareholder returns, health and safety issues, environmental impact and more. The funds, which follow indexes designed by Morningstar, using ESG ratings provided by Sustainalytics, a Morningstar Company, also stay away from tobacco, weapons and gambling operations, as well as those companies that have been embroiled in controversies, such as bribery, corruption and human rights violations.

“With these ETFs, investors can access best-in-class ESG companies and also closely track the broad parent index,” she says. “The main idea is to provide a low-cost solution, that provides market-like return while having positive ESG exposure and aligns with your values”

As more companies take ESG into account, and as a greater number of investors seek out more responsible products, there may come a point when ESG will be fully integrated into investing mindset, however, says Shokeen, “the levels of integration within companies, and investment process will provide room for differentiated ESG investment strategies.”

Until then, Shokeen thinks that over the next five to 10 years, ESG related disclosures will remain a focus and we’ll see an increasing push towards standardization, while responsible investing will go even more mainstream.

“At a simple level, this is common sense,” she says. “Companies that negatively impact their environment or people will get penalized, while the ones who take it seriously will get more attention from investors.”

The information contained herein has been provided by TD Asset Management Inc. and is for information purposes only. The information has been drawn from sources believed to be reliable. The information does not provide financial, legal, tax or investment advice. Particular investment, tax, or trading strategies should be evaluated relative to each individual’s objectives and risk tolerance. Certain statements in this document may contain forward-looking statements (“FLS”) that are predictive in nature and may include words such as “expects”, “anticipates”, “intends”, “believes”, “estimates” and similar forward-looking expressions or negative versions thereof. FLS are based on current expectations and projections about future general economic, political and relevant market factors, such as interest and foreign exchange rates, equity and capital markets, the general business environment, assuming no changes to tax or other laws or government regulation or catastrophic events. Expectations and projections about future events are inherently subject to risks and uncertainties, which may be unforeseeable and may be incorrect in the future. FLS are not guarantees of future performance. Actual events could differ materially from those expressed or implied in any FLS. A number of important factors including those factors set out above can contribute to these digressions. You should avoid placing any reliance on FLS. Commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with investments in ETFs. Please read the prospectus and ETF Facts before investing. ETFs are not guaranteed, their values change frequently, and past performance may not be repeated. ETF units are bought and sold at market price on a stock exchange and brokerage commissions will reduce returns. TD ETFs are managed by TD Asset Management Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Toronto-Dominion Bank. Morningstar® Canada Sustainability Extended IndexSM, Morningstar® US Sustainability Extended IndexSM and Morningstar® Developed Markets ex-North America Sustainability Extended IndexSM are service marks of Morningstar, Inc. and have been licensed for use for certain purposes by TD Asset Management Inc. The TD Morningstar ESG Canada Equity Index ETF, TD Morningstar ESG International Equity Index ETF and TD Morningstar ESG U.S. Equity Index ETF (collectively, the “TD ESG ETFs”) are not sponsored, endorsed, sold or promoted by Morningstar, and Morningstar makes no representation regarding the advisability of investing in the TD ESG ETFs. ®©2020 Morningstar is a registered mark of Morningstar Research Inc. All rights reserved. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. ®The TD logo and other trademarks are the property of The Toronto-Dominion Bank or its subsidiaries.

1 SIMFUND Canada, ©Institutional Shareholder Services Canada Inc. (Investor Economics, A Division of ISS Market Intelligence) 2021. All rights reserved. 
2 Morgan Stanley. Sustainable Signals: Individual Investor Interest Driven by Impact, Conviction and Choice

 

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Segregated funds: an often-overlooked option for estate planning – Investment Executive

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Segregated funds may be a lesser-known option for estate planning, but they’re versatile instruments for clients with specific concerns, says John Yanchus, a tax and estate planning consultant with Canada Life.

A segregated fund is an insurance contract issued by a life insurance company. Seg funds have two parts: a pooled investment component (similar to a mutual fund), plus an insurance policy that protects against the loss of the invested capital when a contract matures. By law, a seg fund must guarantee a return of at least 75% of the original capital, and many provide guarantees for 100%. Seg funds are defined as life insurance policies under the Income Tax Act.

Yanchus said segregated funds have numerous advantages over other investments in an estate-planning context — particularly when it comes to avoiding probate and protecting privacy.

“They can provide the ability to determine how your beneficiary gets paid,” he said. “You can bypass the estate, and bypass probate. You can take advantages of liquidity and timing of the payment, protect those funds from creditors, and also accomplish your philanthropy goals, all in one action.”

When it comes to privacy, clients may not realize that wills are considered public documents, and anybody can obtain a copy for a small fee. Segregated funds, on the other hand, generally do not become public documents.

“Your affairs will remain private,” he said, but noted that in Saskatchewan, the provincial government must be made aware of life insurance policies and segregated funds that are handled by an estate executor.

Charitable donations can also be easily accommodated and dispersed through seg funds by naming a charity as the beneficiary of the policy.

Yanchus, who called seg funds one of estate planning’s best kept secrets, added that seg funds can allow the owner to name up to 20 beneficiaries.

He also explained that a seg fund can be structured as an annuity, allowing a beneficiary to receive scheduled payments instead of a lump sum after the insured dies.

Yanchus said estate planning can be a complicated process, and without a clear plan for avoiding pitfalls, clients usually end up creating more headaches than they solve.

“I think of probate planning as one of those areas where clients willfully engage in self-destructive hell,” he said. “Many, many people love the idea of avoiding probate. The problem is they lack the knowledge on which avenue to use.”

Yanchus said that using seg funds’ beneficiary designations can be quite powerful.

“You have the ability to name the estate, if that’s where you want the funds to flow for liquidity purposes. Or you have the ability to pass these assets outside of the estate, thereby avoiding probate, avoiding contestation, and avoiding other potential creditors of the estate,” he said.

“It’s almost a way to control from the grave.”

**

This article is part of the Soundbites program, sponsored by Canada Life. The article was written without sponsor input.

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RBC Dominion Securities fined $350K for supervisory failings – Investment Executive

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The friend — referred to as SC — acted as SK’s accountant and had trading authority over SK’s accounts. According to IIROC, Benson placed undue reliance on communications with SC as SK’s trading authority, rather than ensuring the account parameters were appropriate for SK.

SC went on to open margin accounts at RBC DS for himself and his spouse. The margin accounts were guaranteed by SKL, a business owned by SK that had a corporate account with RBC DS.

As with SK’s accounts, SC was the sole trading authority for SKL. SC signed the guarantees for his and his spouse’s margin accounts on behalf of SKL — representing a conflict of interest that Benson failed to address, IIROC noted.

“Benson did not take adequate steps to ensure that SK understood the nature, significance, and financial implications of the guarantees, and RBC DS failed to sufficiently supervise Benson in regard to confirming the extent of her direct communication with SK,” the settlement agreement read.

The use of margin in SC’s and his spouse’s accounts was several times their stated net worth, according to IIROC. SC’s most heavily traded account was almost always in a negative equity position, and his spouse’s account was always in a negative equity position.

When RBC DS inquired about the spouse’s account, Benson adjusted the spouse’s investment knowledge upward on a KYC form without undertaking the due diligence to support such a change, according to IIROC.

Following SK’s death in October 2014, SC began transferring money from SKL to his and his spouse’s margin accounts, beginning in December 2014. RBC DS approved three transfers totalling more than $3 million following discussions with Benson. The transfers amounted to “a substantial part of the assets of SKL,” according to the agreement.

Although Benson became aware of SK’s death shortly after it happened, she didn’t inform RBC DS of her client’s death until January 2015. When the transfers were approved, RBC DS had not been provided a copy of SK’s will or received instructions from SK’s estate trustees.

RBC DS did arrange a meeting with SK’s estate trustees and alerted them to the transfers from the SKL account. RBC DS also made a voluntary payment of $500,000 to SKL. IIROC considered both of these actions to be mitigating factors.

Nonetheless, IIROC said RBC DS “placed undue reliance on Benson’s representations regarding her knowledge and discussions with the clients at issue, when heightened supervision or direct contact with clients was required.”

In addition to a $350,000 fine, RBC DS agreed to pay $50,000 in costs.

In a separate settlement hearing, Benson agreed to a $30,000 fine and a five-year suspension from IIROC. She also agreed to pay $10,000 in costs. Benson retired from RBC DS in March 2016 and is no longer a registered representative.

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RBC GAM names new global infrastructure head – Investment Executive

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