Growing opportunities for green and ethical fund managers

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Sweden and Norway are rapidly developing a reputation as something of a hub for green and responsible investing, in turn leading to growing opportunities for asset and fund managers, as well as local banks, to carve out a niche within the ethical, environmental and responsible investment arena.

In January Swedish firm BMC announced it was to build a $150m (€109m) bio-energy plant in the US, along with a German partner, while last year saw an estimated SEK8bn (€6.8bn) invested in wind power stations in Sweden.

And at December's climate change summit in Copenhagen, Sweden was one of nine European countries to sign a deal to develop a massive offshore wind power grid in the North Sea and Irish Sea.

Sustainable investment initiatives are becoming increasingly common within company business plans in both Sweden and Norway, agrees Jeanett Bergan, head of responsible investments at Norwegian life insurance company KLP.

"There is demand from investors to integrate environmental, social and corporate governance issues into their investment and ownership activities," she says.

There is also more appetite for analysis and information on responsible and social investment activities, with institutional investors two years ago launching the Sustainable Value Creation initiative in Norway and in 2009 in Sweden, with the aim to influence and encourage listed companies to develop more sustainably.

"Ten years ago there were very few companies involved in responsible investment, now there are probably at least one or two people in every investment house. Investment managers are incorporating responsible investment strategies into their own funds as well as demanding it from suppliers," says Bergan.

"I think this is a trend that will continue and we will see more investment houses offering products and services and people working in these areas," she adds.

Demand for sustainable and responsible investment has been increasing steadily for a number of years in Sweden and is, if anything, now relatively mainstream for most major asset owners and asset managers, says Magnus Furugrd, managing director of Stockholm-based responsible investment firm GES Investment Services.

SEB, DnB Nor, Swedbank, Handelsbank and Nordea are all known to be active within the ethical and green funds market, while Danske Bank in February said its new KlimaTrends fund launched in November, which focuses on investing in firms expected to be well-prepared for climate change, now had fund assets amounting to DKr545m (€73.2m).

"It is, of course, still a smaller market than somewhere like London and you are not going to be getting hundreds of new jobs, but for people specialising within this field or simply looking to combine it with what they are already doing, there are opportunities," says Furugrd .

"A lot of fund managers have been looking to add this to their portfolios and you do get people crossing over from core finance.

"Many fund and asset managers will now have a dedicated person covering this area, whether full-time or part-time, and some of the banks have set up research teams, so there is some demand for research analysts and senior analysts," he adds.

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