SNS Asset Management among first houses to launch dedicated impact investing unit

SNS Impact Investing will group the fund manager’s microfinance, agriculture and water funds.

SNS Asset Management (SNS AM), the €26bn Dutch funds house, is to launch a dedicated 10-strong team for impact investment, one of the first asset managers to do so. The team which will be led by Harry Hummels, a member of the board at SNS AM, and Theo Brouwers, director of asset management, will have eight other dedicated staff. It will be formally set up in the New Year under the banner of SNS Impact Investing and will act as the umbrella operation for the Dutch fund manager’s microfinance, sustainable agriculture and water related funds, which SNS has made part of its specialities. Impact investing puts an equal weight on positive social and environmental impact alongside investment returns. Hummels said the new unit would start with $400-500m in assets. He said he hoped that the unit’s assets under management would rise to $650-700m by the end of 2011 and $1bn in three years time. A recent report by JP Morgan, the US bank, and carried out in association with impact investing groups, said it merited the status of new asset class and estimated it could see new capital inflows ranging from $400bn to nearly $1 trillion in the next ten years as it targets segments of the economy typically under-served by traditional business.Hummels said the accent of impact investing at SNS would be on creating market-rate returns with a ‘double bottom line’ where SNS would give equal weight to creating and measuring social and environmental impact, working to do so with organisations like the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and sustainability labelling organisations. He said the SNS Impact Investing team will work with specialist third party managers and act as the guiding investment committee and marketing set-up.
In microfinance, SNS already works with two managers: Developing World Markets (DWM) and Triple Jump, the Amsterdam-based manager set up by Oxfam Netherlands to run microfinance investment funds. In sustainable agriculture in Africa the manager works with United Farmers Fund based in Cape Town, South Africa. Hummels said SNS was currently closing on its first sustainable agriculture fund in Africa investing 50% in South Africa and other African countries including Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana and Namibia. He said the fund had commitments from institutional investors. He said the Dutch manager was also looking to partner on a third microfinance fund, plus a sustainable agriculture fund outside Africa. It could also develop fund relationships in sustainable energy, he said.