F&C re-launches responsible investment business six months after Bank of Montreal takeover

New names for sustainable funds and new Advisory Council

Nearly six months after it was acquired by the Bank of Montreal (BMO) for £708m (€878m), UK asset manager F&C Investments has announced a re-launch of its responsible investment business, to include a re-branding of its ethical and sustainable funds and the creation of a new council to advise it on sustainable investing.

F&C’s fund offering includes UK and global equity products, thematic investments, screened bonds funds and sustainability-orientated emerging market equity products. It manages £1.5 (€1.8bn) in ethical funds and £1.9bn in sustainable ones. F&C said the re-branding “in line with the consistent and recognisable F&C Responsible Funds brand” would happen once it got regulatory approval.

The UK asset manager, which launched Europe’s first ethical fund in 1984, also said it was creating an external ‘Responsible Investment Advisory Council’ to advise it on sustainable investing. Currently, F&C relies on an internal committee for the advice, but a spokesman for the firm said it had decided to have this done independently to strengthen the integrity of its investment process.

London-based F&C employs 13 sustainability analysts who work alongside the 17 managers of its ethical and sustainable funds.The analysts are led by Vicki Bakhshi, who is Head of Governance and Sustainable Investment. It’s the latest iteration of the team that was headed until the end of 2012 by Karina Litvack. Other departures have included Director of Corporate Governance George Dallas earlier this year.

F&C said its Responsible Engagement Overlay (REO) was now used by investors which, together, had £90bn in assets. Last year, F&C said it engaged with more than 700 companies in 47 countries to improve their ESG performance.

Said Bakhshi of the re-launch: “Our research shows that in today’s market, robust ethical and sustainable screening is just one element that clients are looking for. Our new ‘responsible’ fund positioning recognises how expectations in this area have grown over the years – today it’s not just about what you own, it’s also about how you own it.”

F&C Chief Executive Richard Wilson added: “These are exciting times for F&C, and today’s announcement is just the first step in growing our market-leading responsible investment business. Our new parent company recognises our expertise in this area, and envisages strong demand in a number of their key markets.”