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Ex-PRI Chairman Engshuber to advise Swiss bank J. Safra Sarasin on sustainability

Senior figure named to Sarasin’s revamped Sustainability Advisory Council

Wolfgang Engshuber, the former Munich Re executive who quit as chairman of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) earlier this year, has been named to a revamped external sustainability council that advises J. Safra Sarasin, the Swiss private bank that is a market leader in sustainable investments.

Sarasin said Engshuber would be joining its Sustainability Advisory Council (SAC) – along with Andreas Hoepner, Associate Professor of Finance at the Henley Business School and Senior Academic Fellow at the PRI.

Elected as Chairman of the PRI’s Board and Advisory Council in early 2011, Engshuber stepped down after only one three-year term due to differences with the PRI over its governance and strategy. He has been succeeded by former Norwegian finance ministry official Martin Skancke.

“I am excited to join J. Safra Sarasin’s advisory council, which has the opportunity to shape the second generation of sustainable investing for one of the pioneering banks in this field.” Engshuber said.

The firm said the panel’s responsibilities would be expanded from just a research advisory mandate “to advising the bank on sustainable initiatives, providing different stakeholder perspectives and acting as an external sounding board.” It said SAC would complement its own new internal Corporate Sustainability Board (CSB) that will be under executive management.This group CSB will help to define and monitor corporate sustainability strategy and commission initiatives on related topics. Although J. Safra Sarasin did not name the members of the CSB, Responsible Investor understands that there will be six people including Eric Sarasin, the bank’s deputy chief executive.

“An external sounding board.”

More than a year after its takeover by the Brazilian banking group Safra, the bank remains the leader in Switzerland for sustainable investments, with a 36% share of the market, which is put at CHF56.7bn (€46.5bn).

Jan Amrit Poser, J. Safra Sarasin’s Asset Management Head, and Pierin Menzli, its Sustainable Investment Research Head, say the bank has recovered from a blow dealt to it by fellow Swiss bank Notenstein last summer – which saw more than 40 staff, including portfolio managers, sales staff and sustainability analysts, defect to its rival.

Yet Sarasin has since replaced most of the staff and even expanded its team of sustainability analysts to 15. In an interview with RI, Poser said the Basle-based bank has retained its clients despite the takeover by Safra and the exodus to Notenstein.

Indeed, during 2013, the bank was able to raise its sustainably managed assets by CHF1.2bn to CHF15.2bn and its responsibly managed assets by CHF1bn to CHF8.6bn.