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Swiss private bank Sarasin excludes controversial weapons

Swiss move comes as UK investors reportedly impose “blanket ban”

Swiss private bank Sarasin says it is taking a hard line on companies that make controversial armaments such as cluster bombs, saying it will neither invest in nor offer any banking services to them.

Beyond cluster bomb manufacturers, the exclusion policy stretches to makers of chemical and biological weapons as well as anti-personnel mines. The policy, spelled out in the bank’s latest Sustainability Report, means that Sarasin even refuses to accept shares in these arms makers as collateral for loans.

It comes as asset managers in the UK such as Aviva Investments, Scottish Widows Investment Partnership and the Co-operative have reportedly imposed a “blanket ban” on investing in cluster munitions firms.

Sarasin’s move comes almost a year after the Swiss parliament agreed a ban on direct and indirect funding of cluster bombs. At the time of the ban, Swiss banking giants UBS and Credit Suisse said they too were withdrawing from related investments.Elsewhere in the report, UN Principles for Responsible Investment signatory Sarasin said assets managed sustainably totalled CHF12.3bn (€10.2bn) at the end of 2011, down CHF1.1bn from the previous year. Sarasin said a negative market performance and a stronger Swiss franc were the cause for the drop, as inflows were positive. As of December 31, sustainably run assets accounted for 29.7% of total assets. Another highlight mentioned in the report was the offering of sustainable investments to private clients in Asia.

Sarasin also reported – for the first time – that it has ‘responsibly managed assets’ of CHF4.7bn.

The number of sustainably managed discretionary mandates for private clients rose by 5% in 2011, although their total asset volume fell 4%.

The report also reveals that Sarasin aims to increase its sustainable assets under management to CHF25bn by the end of 2012 and complete the international roll-out of its sustainable approach.