DekaBank and Union Investment depart from embattled German SIF

FNG loses two of its largest members after board disputes and arguments over fund label at the end of last year.

Two of the largest members of Germany’s embattled SIF, the Forum Nachhaltige Geldanlagen (FNG), have left the group following turmoil towards the end of last year.

Spokespeople for DekaBank and Union Investment confirmed to Responsible Investor that they left the FNG at the end of 2023.

DekaBank said its departure was for “fundamental reasons”, but declined to elaborate. Union said that “FNG membership and the FNG [fund label] have become less relevant for us and our customers due to the more specific regulation in the area of sustainable investment”.

Both firms are among the largest asset managers in Germany – Deka’s asset management wing has €373 billion in assets, while Union manages €424 billion. Florian Sommer, head of ESG strategy at Union; and Marianne Ullrich, head of ESG client solutions at Deka Investments, were both members of FNG’s board until 2022 when they stepped down.

Despite the departure of Deka and Union, the FNG retains the membership of some of the German-speaking world’s largest financial firms. DWS and Allianz Global Investors – two of Germany’s biggest asset managers – are still members, as is Union’s parent organisation and Germany’s second largest bank DZ Bank.

The FNG, which acts as the sustainable finance industry body for Germany, Austria and some Swiss institutions, has been in turmoil since Autumn last year. Infighting on the board led to a series of resignations as well as one board member being thrown out.

There were also concerns over the financial future of Germany’s sustainable fund label, the FNG Seal, after disputes between the board and the label’s management. The labelling dispute was solved at a member’s meeting in December, but other issues will remain unresolved until a second meeting set to be held this year.

Sascha Görlitz, the FNG’s CEO, told RI that the FNG had both added and lost members in 2023, and that the group “very much regrets” the departures.

“The last few weeks and months have shown that some changes need to be made at the association,” he said. “This process has already begun and I look forward to the upcoming member’s meeting where a new board will be elected. We want to again concentrate on our task: promoting a financial system that pushes the social-ecological transition of the real economy within planetary boundaries.”

Two of Deka Investments’ equity funds were awarded the FNG Label in its latest round of awards, which is not dependent on membership of the FNG itself. The two Article 8 funds were awarded a two-star rating, the second highest on offer.