Co-Founder & CEO of Saxo Bank
Summary: Interest in sustainable living and minimising the damage we cause to the planet is now greater than ever before and growing by the day. But while many people are actively making choices that reflect their environmental principles, few realise that they already possess a tool that can be leveraged to match their values – their investments.
Most people, however, tend to overlook an area where potentially we can have the biggest impact – our investments. Our savings give us a strong voice and a unique opportunity to influence and deliver real impact in the world that we live in.
Today, global banks and pension funds continue to generate significant profits each year making investment decisions on behalf of their customers. To put the sector into context – at the end of 2017, sustainable investing represented around $12 trillion in U.S. assets, a minuscule fraction compared the total $263 trillion invested in the global public markets and accounting for approximately 4.5%.
It is likely that just a handful of individuals have investments that actually reflect their beliefs and values. It is a shame, and it is time to change this.
A research report has demonstrated that the climate impact is 27 times higher if a person invests his or her savings and pensions in sustainable investments, compared to switching to eating meat once per week or saving on an international flight once a year.
Put your money where your mouth is
A recent report by Deloitte showed that only a few people are aware of the enormous power they have to "vote with their savings". Deloitte points to several possible causes which include excessive complexity and lack of transparency when investing.
The financial sector has a responsibility to enable investors to seize the opportunity to influence and change the world using their savings and pensions. It is a key task for the financial sector to change the perception towards savings and investments by providing customers with better investment tools, competitive pricing and more relevant information and services.
When we invest in companies through equities and bonds, we provide these individual companies with capital to carry out their operations and development. As an investor, you are therefore contributing to how they promote their overall vision and strategy going forward. For example, a share in a company that works with renewable energy is more than just an opportunity to achieve a return on your investments, it is an opportunity to influence their business objectives and (in the case of renewable energy) help combat climate change.
The same dynamics apply if you buy a mutual fund or an ETF that invests in a number of different companies based on certain rules and principles. These can be thematic funds focusing on companies that promote women in leadership, education, clean drinking water or less plastic consumption.
Investing starts with access, transparency and lower costs
It is of course important to not only invest in accordance with your personal beliefs, but also in line with your risk appetite, investment goals and time horizons. Studies have shown that sustainable and responsible investments can deliver solid returns over time. Indeed, sustainable funds, for example, are not only philanthropic or impact-driven, they can be real drivers of profits.
With the right tools, good education and low prices, it does not have to be unnecessarily time consuming for investors to calibrate their savings to match their own values – and this also includes where the bank has pre-selected investments for you.
For Saxo Bank, it is natural for us to take the lead in this area and we see it as an obvious next step in what we call "democratising investments".
When we launched our first digital investment platform in 1998, global capital markets were largely inaccessible to ordinary retail investors, lacked transparency and prices were very high. There was a big difference between what was available for the big banks and professional fund managers and what was offered to the public. By leveraging new technology, we levelled the playing field, providing a greater number of people with the same opportunities to invest in the themes and sectors that matter most to the individual investor.
Investment decisions are some of the most important decisions choices we make, and it is therefore crucial that a larger number of people have access to the tools and information available. We do, of course, appreciate that one size does not fit all, and investments and savings are poised to become more personalised as people realise that their portfolios are an opportunity to deliver a real impact on the world.
With today’s technology, we can make it easier and cheaper for investors to align their savings with the values they want to promote. And it is the industry’s responsibility to enable a much wider audience to make a real difference using their investments.