UN PRI needs to “raise its game” says Robeco CEO Munsters

Netherlands working on a version of UK Stewardship Code.

The United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI), the 808-member and $22 trillion in assets investor initiative, needs to raise its game as membership becomes more mainstream, says Roderick Munsters, chief executive of Robeco, the Dutch fund manager. Munsters, a former chief investment officer at Dutch pension funds ABP and PGGM, said there now needed to be more independent external monitoring of what PRI signatories “do and what they communicate”. The PRI is currently a ‘voluntary and aspirational framework’, although it is mandatory for signatories to complete its annual Reporting & Assessment survey.
Munsters’ comments, in an interview with Responsible-Investor.com, follow the PRI’s latest progress report showing that environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are now integrated into investment decisions covering some €5trn of institutional assets worldwide. They also come ahead of the PRI’s main annual conference, PRI in Person, which kicks off in San Francisco today. The PRI has succesfully reached out beyond an initial take up by SRI-focused investors to attract mainstream asset management firms such as T.Rowe Price and Legal & General Investment Management. Robeco, part of Dutch banking group, Rabobank, is a signatory to the PRI.

On a related ESG issue, Munsters also broadly welcomed the UK’s planned new Stewardship Code for Investors, but said a “troublesome” aspect was the cost to investors. “Who pays for it?” he asked.
He suggested the UK pension industry could consider creating a collaborative body similar to Eumedion, theDutch corporate governance group.
Munsters’ colleague, Robeco executive vice president Ronald Florisson, who is also vice chairman at Eumedion, confirmed that work is in progress on developing a Dutch version of the UK Stewardship Code. He said there was no deadline for its creation, but that it could emerge in the fourth quarter this year. Although expected to be similar to the UK code, it will likely have more emphasis on stakeholders, he said.
Munsters also revealed that Robeco will run its European equities team out of Zurich with its SAM sustainable funds arm. This would consolidate teams previously based in Paris, New York and Rotterdam and offer one European equities product with more scale. Munsters said he saw SAM as a “centre of expertise” on ESG within the group. As for Robeco itself, Munsters said he was optimistic about the firm’s future after a period where he had to “select, cut and grow” offices, funds and people. That process saw the departure of Robeco’s chief financial officer, Constant Korthout, and Swiss subsidiary SAM’s chief executive officer, Sander van Eijkern, and chief operating officer, Roman Binder, as well as the arrival of Munster’s former colleague at APG, Tom Steenkamp, as co-head of investment solutions.
Munsters said a net loss of €9m at the fund manager in 2009 should turn into €150m profit on an EBIT basis for 2010. He has set a target of €225bn in assets under management by the end of 2014 from the end-2009 AUM of €135bn. Of the new AUM, 60% aims to be institutional and 40% retail.