Investment world pays tribute to impact pioneer Simon Smiles

Former UBS managing director has passed away aged 43.

Simon Smiles

The sustainable finance industry has been paying tribute to Simon Smiles, a former impact investment pioneer at UBS, who sadly passed away last week aged 43.

During his 16 years at the Swiss bank, Australian-born Smiles established sustainable and impact investment teams within its wealth management division. He stepped down from his role as the division’s managing director in 2020 following a cancer diagnosis.

A regular contributor to Responsible Investor, Smiles was a thoughtful and committed champion of impact investing, and one who never shied away from deep discussions about creating change in the investment world. He brought with him unrivaled knowledge of ‘conventional’ wealth investing, enabling him to push the sustainable finance agenda in a meaningful and effective way.

“He was a visionary and a pioneer whose intellect, passion, and connectivity significantly advanced the field of sustainable investing,” said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, in a statement. “Simon was a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, an architect of UBS’s Oncology Impact Fund that has raised more than $1 billion for projects seeking cures for cancer, he created UBS’s Global Visionary programme that connects clients to individuals and projects that are truly creating a better world, he was a lead author of UBS’s landmark whitepaper Mobilizing Private Wealth for Public Good, and he was the brains behind a blueprint that saw UBS raise more than $5 billion to fund investments specifically addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals at a time when the average impact investment was in the region of $1-3 million.”

Speaking on LinkedIn, Vinay Pande, CIO of Tractutus Investment Research, described Smiles as “a force of nature driving change at a staid Swiss Bank”.

Many noted Smiles’ devotion to his family. Long-term friend Mark Pollard noted that “every single conversation” with Smiles in recent years “involved his wife and daughters plus impact investing”.

His brother Andrew Smiles said he had “lived a meaningful and impactful life… both professionally and personally”.