‘Under represented’ Swiss institutions plan sustainable finance group

Swiss Sustainable Finance will be parallel to German-speaking SIF

Leading Swiss investment institutions are setting up their own sustainable investment industry group, in a move that will create a parallel body to the existing German-speaking social investment forum, the Berlin-based FNG.

RI understands that around 50 representatives from Switzerland’s sustainable finance industry are coming together to launch the body, to be called “Swiss Sustainable Finance.” Among the representatives are several current FNG members, including J. Safra Sarasin, Switzerland’s market leader for sustainable funds, private bank Vontobel and responsAbility, the microfinance funds specialist.

The FNG, the Forum Nachhaltige Geldanlagen [‘Forum for Sustainable Investments], currently covers Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Just like the FNG, the new Swiss grouping will promote sustainable investing in the public and lobby the government in Berne.

An informed Swiss market source told RI: “The impetus for the Swiss SIF is that the players in Geneva and Zurich have decided to cooperate. Until now, those in [French-speaking] Geneva have felt under-represented by FNG due to its German-speaking focus and want to go in another direction.”

It comes a year after sustainable finance associations for Zurich and Geneva produced a white paper that called for industrywide cooperation.The new organisation will be headed by Sabine Döbeli, who stepped down earlier this month as FNG’s deputy head for Switzerland.

Döbeli’s other job is Head of Corporate Sustainability at Vontobel, and it is still unclear whether the new assignment will be full or part-time. Döbeli, who has prepared a detailed presentation about the new body, could not be reached for further comment. Her assistant said, however, that a formal announcement was planned for the end of August.

The FNG, meanwhile, aims to continue its activities in the Swiss market and plans to name a replacement for Döbeli at its annual meeting in July. FNG has around 40 members from Switzerland and it says that all of them, including Sarasin and Vontobel, have made no indication that they are leaving the organisation.

“There will of course be overlap once the new lobby is launched, but we have no plans to pull out of the Swiss market,” FNG Chairman Volker Weber told RI. Weber also admitted to being slightly surprised by Döbeli’s involvement in the project, noting that while she was at FNG, she favoured a more “passive lobbying approach.”

Weber also said a key difference between the FNG and the new Swiss-specific group will be the FNG’s direct connection with the European Sustainable Investment Forum (Eurosif), the pan-European body.