Category: News


This year’s research canvassed the the views of leading decision-makers across the industry including pension schemes, charities, investment consultants, fiduciary managers, wealth managers, and wholesale platforms who together oversee more than £2trn of assets.

A presentation of the key findings was followed by a discussion with panellists Emma Douglas, Aviva’s Managing Director of Workplace Savings,  Kieran Harkin, the Managing Director of Redington; Marieke de Roo, Principal Senior Wealth Management Consultant at Mercer; and Simon Partridge, the Head of UK Fiduciary Management at Russell Investments.

The seminar was concluded by an insightful and thought-provoking review of the current UK political landscape by Matthew Parris of  The Times.

If you like to find out more about the latest JPES Asset Management Report, please contact Matt Rogers

 

Lodovico Sanseverino has been promoted to Associate Director. Having joined JPES in 2019, Lodo has played an increasingly critical role in both guiding clients’ communications initiatives and supporting JPES’ broader strategic consultancy services.

In addition, Priti Dey has been promoted to Client Director and Sarah Toubman to Client Manager, reflecting their contributions to the business since joining JPES.

Miles Donohoe, Managing Director, said: “Lodo, Priti and Sarah have made extremely valuable contributions over the course of their time with JPES and it is excellent to have the opportunity to recognise these efforts. These well-deserved promotions come at a very positive time for JPES, with a number of major new clients wins and the progression of important initiatives to strengthen the range of services and insights we are able to provide to clients.”

Nottingham has seen the sharpest drop in its economic vitality rating as the cost of living crisis continues to bite across UK cities – and the threat of recession puts local economies on diverging paths.

The Midlands city now occupies last position in the latest Evaluate|Locate Key Cities Tracker which shows that the decline in economic vitality across 20 UK cities is now accelerating.
During the 12 months to the end of Q3 2022, Nottingham saw a -10% decline in its Economic Vitality Index (EVI). Manchester was the second worst-performing with a -9.6% drop followed by Aberdeen and Swansea which both fell by -8.4%.

By stark contrast and over the same period, Belfast and Glasgow continued to demonstrate their comparative economic resilience as their index ratings both declined by only -3.6%.

Having been arguably more severely impacted by the pandemic than any other UK city, London is now seeing the momentum of its economy reasserting itself. Economic vitality across the capital was down -4.4% year-on-year but this saw it move up three positions in the rankings as other cities saw more severe drops.

Created by JPES Partners, Evaluate|Locate rates every location across the UK – from postcode detail upwards – on the basis of 96 economic metrics which are grouped around business density; labour market conditions; average residential values; and population movements.

Adam Kirby, Head of Data & Insights at Evaluate|Locate, comments: “This is a sombre picture for jobs and prosperity as we head into the final quarter of the year. The speed with which economic vitality is declining across these 20 cities is clearly accelerating. And that’s even before we see the impact of the markets turmoil that followed the recent Budget and interest rate rises.

“Within that trend, economic vitality also continues to diverge across different UK locations. This latest analysis underlines that not all micro-economies are impacted to the same extent by the current stress of the domestic and international situation.”

Charlotte joins JPES from Boscobel & Partners where she advised a range of financial and public affairs clients on profile-raising and corporate communications issues. She has almost 20 years’ experience working in the communications sector including roles at Argentus PR and Maitland where she advised a range of FTSE and AIM-listed companies, as well as leading international businesses. A fluent Spanish speaker, Charlotte is a graduate of the University of Bristol.

In her new role, Charlotte will work to further build JPES’s asset management consultancy business, advising its established client base on a range of key communications, content, sales and distribution issues, and expanding the firm’s activities across a range of international markets.

Julian Samways, Founder and Managing Director of JPES Partners, said: “This appointment comes at an exciting time for JPES Partners, reflecting the strong growth of the business . We continue to see significant demand for our consultancy services and believe Charlotte’s experience and knowledge of the financial services market will be highly valuable as we continue to develop our capabilities and meet the needs of our clients.”

Charlotte Walsh added: “I’ve been impressed by the reputation JPES has developed for the quality of its consultancy services and client base. I look forward to working with the team to support its continued development and expansion.”

Whilst the UK as a whole is moving into recession, new analysis of economic vitality shows that its effects are likely to be uneven as some localised economies prove more resilient than others.

JPES Partners’ latest Evaluate|Locate Key Cities Tracker shows that the decline in economic vitality across 20 UK cities has been up to 4x worse in some locations than others.

During the 12 months to July 2022, Aberdeen saw a -8.8% decline in its Economic Vitality Index (EVI). Hull was the second worst-performing with a -8.3% drop followed by Newcastle (-8.3%), Manchester (-8.2%) and Swansea (-7.8%).

In contrast, during the same period, Belfast saw a fall of only -2.2% followed by Glasgow at -2.5%, Sheffield at -3.5% and Greater London at -3.7%.

Created by JPES Partners, Evaluate|Locate rates every location across the UK – from postcode detail upwards – on the basis of 96 economic metrics which are grouped around business density; earnings; employment levels; average residential values; and population movements.

Adam Kirby, Head of Data & Insights at Evaluate|Locate, comments: “As we move into recession, it’s clear that the profound economic challenges we’re facing will not have a uniform impact across the country and many of our major cities are now on different paths.

“This mapping of location-specific economic vitality will be of relevance to where the Government deploys its ‘Levelling Up’ initiatives and should also inform where many business sectors choose to place future investment.”

New research shows the economic legacy on Stratford, ten years after the London Olympics opening ceremony, which could provide lessons for future regeneration across the country.

The Evaluate|Locate Economic Vitality Index (EVI) shows that the former Olympic Park has outpaced growth across the whole country by more than two times. Stratford’s E15 postcode district has seen its headline EVI score grow by +24.3% between July 2012 and July 2022. This compares to median growth across the whole United Kingdom of 10.6% on the same metric over the last decade post-Olympics.

Stratford has also outpaced Greater London. While the area in the immediate vicinity of the former Olympic Park has witnessed a profound acceleration after the games, this has not spread to the entirety of the capital. Greater London’s equivalent EVI score has grown by only +9.0% between July 2012 and July 2022, putting the rest of the capital behind the Olympic epicentre and behind the equivalent benchmark for the whole country.

Working from postcode granularity upwards, Evaluate|Locate rates every location across the UK on the basis of 96 economic metrics which are grouped around business density; earnings; employment levels; average residential values; and population movements. These metrics are localised and ‘nowcast’ right up to the present month.

In terms of individual indicators, Stratford’s headline economic acceleration has been driven by a doubling in local businesses (105% growth in local active businesses since July 2012), population growth three times the UK average (+16.4% population growth vs. +5.6% for the UK since July 2012), local jobs up 40.2% since July 2012 (vs. 17.1% for the UK) and unemployment down by six points. Today only 4.6% of Stratford’s E15 workforce are looking for work, compared to a worrying 11% of local residents in the workforce in need of a job in 2012 on Olympic opening night.
Greater London has also seen a broader economic improvement over the last decade. However this has not necessarily outpaced the rest of the UK in the way that may be stereotypically understood about London.

Unemployment across the capital has halved over the last decade, from 8.8% in July 2012 to 4.4% this month. However this leaves unemployment in London higher than the current 3.5% UK benchmark. Meanwhile earnings across Greater London have risen by 18.9% since July 2012 – slower than both the rate of earnings growth across the UK ( up 25.5% in the last decade) and behind inflation (with CPI up 27.1%).

Adam Kirby, Head of Data & Insights at Evaluate|Locate, comments: “It turns out levelling up one postcode is possible, with the best part of ten billion pounds and ten years. Yet that hasn’t stretched to all of the capital’s nine million Londoners and hugely varied business community. It’s also worth remembering that not all Stratford residents will have benefited from a doubling in local property prices.

“Stratford’s legacy raises important questions for the next decade. Levelling up Sheffield and Wolverhampton might not be the same story without the same budget and spectacle, and might have different needs in any case. It’s clear that in such a new economic environment, and a very different global mood, the private sector and local government will need to be at least as important as national initiatives in providing local spectacles, and the economic fireworks of the 2020s.

“Ten years on from the fireworks, the economic embers are still glowing white hot. But that bright light still looks small compared to the scale of the global gaze on Stratford a decade ago – and the much broader hopes kindled for a new national optimism.

“Finally, perhaps the most important lesson is this will take time. Tomorrow’s economic winners will be crowned after a marathon, not a sprint.”

Niels has more than 30 years of asset management, sales and distribution experience having held senior positions at a number of leading international investment firms – most recently as a Partner at Altrinsic Global Advisors where he was responsible for business development and client service activities.

He has also held senior roles at American Century Investments and Franklin Templeton Investments where he led a range of client and consultant relationships. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Niels has also served as Chairman and Director of Perterra Funds plc, in addition to being on the Board of Directors for the Association of Investment Management Sales Executives (AIMSE) in both the US and Europe.

In his consultancy role at JPES, Niels will work with the firm’s Business Development and Strategy team to guide clients on a range of key business initiatives relating to consultant relations, client relationship management, sales and distribution strategy with a specific focus on North America.

Julian Samways, Founder and Managing Director of JPES Partners, said: “We have seen extremely strong growth and demand for our consultancy services globally over the last year, reflecting the highly competitive nature of the asset management industry in which we operate. Niels’ experience complements the existing skillsets that we have developed in recent years, with his insights into sales, distribution and client relationship management in the US market providing a particularly valuable addition to our capabilities, which we believe will be of substantial benefit to our clients”.

Niels Andersen added: “JPES has developed a strong reputation for the quality of its consultancy services and its ability to provide insights and support that tangibly add to asset managers’ business development activities. I have been impressed by the quality of the consultancy team the firm has developed and look forward to working with these individuals to further build this area of JPES’s business”.

A panel comprising Jas Chahal, Head of Strategic Change at LGIM;  AXA IM Head of Leasing James Goldsmith; Bozena Jankowska, the Global Head of ESG at Slate Asset Management; Gravity Co-living co-founder,  Susanna Rock; James Watson of Tritax Asset Management; and Related Argent Chairman, David Partridge; looked at how cities are emerging from the pandemic and where they offer investment opportunities.

JPES Head of Property, Duncan Lamb, reports: “It was a far-ranging and fascinating conversation which touched on just about aspect of urban living and working. And it was great to be able once again to hold an in-person event which brought together so many people from across our industry”.

 

Tech companies are proliferating across the UK as a new breed of tech cities push past older tech hotspots, according to new research from Evaluate|Locate.

Comparing the number of tech firms in May 2022 with a decade ago in May 2012, the rise of new names among the technology capitals of the United Kingdom is clear.

Major movers include Leeds which now is now the UK’s third technology city. This contrasts with a decade ago when Edinburgh was in a dominant position in third place and almost rivalling Birmingham for second slot. Leeds is now home to 1,706 tech firms, surpassing 1,534 that call the Scottish capital their technology hub. Both cities have seen growth, but a ten year growth rate of 48% in Leeds represents double that of 24% in Edinburgh.

The new figures show that Leicester has beaten Bristol into fifth place. The largest city in the East Midlands and home of the National Space Centre is now also home to 1,520 active tech companies. This is just enough to beat the more established technology hub of Bristol which is home to 1,519.

And while victory for Leicester vs. Bristol for fifth place is currently by a hairsbreadth, a 52% growth rate for Leicester over the last 10 years far surpasses 34% for its south-western rival – leaving Bristol likely to trail further in the wake of Leicester’s white-hot tech growth.

On sheer weight of existing numbers, London can claim a wide lead and strong growth, with 46,188 tech companies active in the capital. This is up 58% in a decade. However, more than two-thirds (71%) of the UK’s tech companies are now based  outside of London.

As of May 2022, the Evaluate|Locate model is tracking 158,091 technology firms across the entire UK, which compares to a nationwide total of 116,896 a decade ago. This represents 35% growth across the country in 10years, or an average compound growth rate in the number of UK tech companies of +3.0% per year.

Adam Kirby, Head Of Data & Insights at Evaluate|Locate, comments: “Tech cities seem to both benefit and suffer from the same mystique and rumour of tech companies themselves – with the best-known not always the most innovative and the up-and-coming often remaining under the radar for a surprising length of time.

“Leeds, Leicester and Glasgow are accelerating up these rankings by beating even the rapid growth of tech companies in other key cities. That’s an impressive feat given the speed of the pack.

“Tech cities in this leaderboard tend to see higher overall earnings for their workforce and residents, suffer lower unemployment and are home to a higher than average ratio of working age people. Some of these factors are likely ‘pull factors’ that cause tech firms to gravitate to a city, while others are more clearly linked to the positive benefits of hosting tech jobs and associated spending in the wider local economy.

“Leicester is something of an especially exciting exception as a rising tech hub. The East Midlands city doesn’t have the same co-dominance of media or finance firms that we see in other tech cities – nor does it yet have wages that far surpass its region. This could bode well if Leicester is able to keep up momentum, retain its tech talent and further funnel its technology-leader status into broader economic growth in a difficult climate.

“Overall, this changing tech landscape highlights the importance of increased investment into the UK’s digital infrastructure which is currently lagging behind that of many developed countries. If delivered, this could prove to be a real driver in the ‘levelling up’ process.”

Only two other key UK cities saw positive growth during the same period: Glasgow stands in second place with vitality growth of +2.7% while Sheffield saw positive growth of 1.7%.

At the other end of the scale, Manchester was the worst performing out of the 20 key cities tracked, with a -6.1% annual decline in its index score while Aberdeen and Edinburgh jointly occupy second-last place in the table having both seen an index drop of -5.8%. in the year to Q1.

With international tourists – and many office workers – yet to return to London in substantial numbers, the capital’s vitality index rating also fell by -2.4%.

Evaluate|Locate is an economic index which continuously rates every location across the UK on the basis of key economic metrics and gives insights into how they are progressing over time. By accessing pre-verified data sets dating back to January 2010, its Economic Vitality Index assess the economic characteristics and ‘direction of travel’ of a given location whether it is a neighbourhood, town, city or region.

Adam Kirby, Head Of Data & Insights at Evaluate|Locate, comments: “UK cities are facing a particular squeeze when it comes to the cost of living. We’re tracking earnings which are struggling to grow more than a few points – while inflation is flirting with double digits.

“In some city centres, the number of active businesses is in decline and unemployment is already high. There are also signs that such pressures are beginning to be felt in residential property values – and in time, potentially in city population trends too.

“Belfast is so far resisting this trend by maintaining growth in new active businesses, stable employment, and positive earnings growth that’s almost matching inflation. Cities that can do the same will be best placed to weather a gathering storm for the UK economy – in which urban areas may feel the strongest headwinds.”

For more information on Evaluate|Locate, please contact Adam Kirby

Fergus joins JPES following a 22-year tenure at global communications firm FTI Consulting, where he was a Senior Managing Director and led the Private Capital team. He brings 30 years’ experience in corporate, marketing communications and issues management, with particular expertise working in private equity. Over the course of career, Fergus has advised clients on over 50 major transactions across Europe ranging in size from over €1bn to under €100m. Well versed in working with blue-chip companies as well as private capital firms and portfolio businesses, he also has significant expertise in crisis management and public affairs.

In 2022, he founded Fergus Wheeler Consulting to provide strategic communications advice to private capital firms and family offices, as well as their investors and advisors.

In his new role as an Advisory Board Member, Fergus will advise JPES on a range of corporate and commercial considerations within the marketing communications sector, working with the firm’s management team to expand its footprint both in terms of sector diversification and product innovation.

Julian Samways, Founder and Managing Director of JPES Partners, said: “Having spent over 30 years at the forefront of the investment communications space, Fergus brings unparalleled insight and experience from a global consultancy perspective which we believe will be crucial as JPES Partners seeks to build on a strong recent period of growth. We believe his expertise in private equity in particular will be especially beneficial to our clients seeking to grow their presence through offering reals assets-based investment solutions.”

Fergus Wheeler commented: “JPES has developed an outstanding reputation for successfully aiding clients’ business development through sophisticated, insightful communications programmes. I look forward to working with the management team to build on the strong growth the firm has experienced over the last two years and supplementing their insights and knowledge for the benefit of clients.”

The Evaluate|Locate economic vitality index shows that since the start of the first lockdown – March 23rd 2020 – Glasgow’s rating has risen by 12.2%. The next best performing cities were Liverpool and Southampton with rating rises of 7.3% and 4.9%.

Of the 15 key city economies analysed in the Evaluate|Locate Key Cities Tracker, London was ranked seventh and saw its rating fall by -0.7% during the past two years.

Adam Kirby, Head of Data & Insight at JPES Partners – which created the index – comments: “Since the first lockdown Glasgow has led the UK in terms of overall economic vitality, driven in large part by the strength of many local businesses through the Covid era and a relatively resilient jobs market.

“Our new Key Cities Tracker illustrates stark differences between the post-pandemic fates of UK cities. It’s also beginning to highlight the next challenge – a cost of living crunch that is afflicting the whole country. But this too isn’t the same everywhere. We’ve seen earnings struggling to keep up with inflation in many locations during the past six months but less so in others such as Glasgow, Liverpool and Southampton.”

Working from postcode granularity upwards, Evaluate|Locate rates every location across the UK on the basis of 96 economic metrics which are grouped around business density; earnings; employment levels; average residential values; and population movements. Its data set and index dates back to January 2010.

Adam Kirby adds: “Looking ahead, economic divergence will likely accelerate further. As the UK moves through this period of inflation, higher interest rates and the ramifications of conflict in Eastern Europe, the ability to assess economic vitality on a detailed locational basis will become increasingly important for a growing number of business sectors.”

Debbie joins JPES having recently retired from her role as Global Head of Investment Research at Mercer, a position she held for more than 15 years. In this role, Debbie was responsible for manager and strategic research, leading a team of over 100 investment professionals working across all major asset classes and sustainable investment. Debbie currently serves as a Non-Executive Director of a number of BlackRock’s legal entities in the UK and has also held senior roles at Watson Wyatt and F&C Asset Management.

Regularly recognised as one of the most influential figures in the asset management industry over the last decade, Debbie has worked with some of the world’s largest asset owners across all major financial centres in Europe, the US and Asia, advising them on a range of critical investment issues. She is currently a member of the CFA UK advisory council and was an independent trustee to one of the UK’s most prominent pension schemes until the end of 2020.

In her consultancy role at JPES, Debbie will work with the firm’s Marketing Consultancy team to advise clients on a range of key issues relating to business and product positioning, client engagement and research to support their long-term business development efforts.

“As one of the most senior and influential individuals working in the asset management sector, Debbie brings a combination of experience and practical insight which we believe will prove hugely beneficial to our clients”, comments Julian Samways, Founder and Managing Director of JPES Partners. “Her appointment will provide an invaluable additional perspective to our consultancy services and reflects the key role that marketing communications has to play if investment businesses are to be successful, particularly in a post-COVID era.”

Debbie Clarke adds: “I very much look forward to working with JPES Partners and its clients, helping asset managers articulate their investment proposition to the benefit of their underlying clients and overall business development activities. In addition, I also look forward to contributing to broader proprietary research initiatives which can bring greater understanding of the longer- term trends driving the asset management industry and consequently how individual firms can best meet the needs of investors.”

Data from Evaluate|Locate – which rates every location across the UK on the basis of 96 economic metrics – shows that in the period from 1st March 2020 to 1st October of this year the economic vitality index (EVI) rating for Wales grew by +1.1%.

During the same period, England’s rating slipped by -1.3% followed by Scotland (-1.9%) and Northern Ireland (-3.8%). Across the whole of the UK, the economic vitality index was down by -1.5%.

Duncan Lamb of consultancy, JPES Partners – which has created the index – comments: “The economic vitality performance of the home countries during this period are relatively tightly grouped and, to a large extent, reflect how the Government’s fiscal and other measures have softened the economic blow of the pandemic.

“However, in the past month, the model is already showing an accelerated deterioration of economic vitality as those pandemic measures are withdrawn.

“When you drill down to the town-by-town, city-by-city detail, it becomes clear that lockdown had an uneven impact and this trend is becoming more accentuated.”

During the study period, analysis of all UK towns and cities shows that St Helens in Merseyside saw the highest index rise of 14.8% with its rating increasing from 94.2 to 108.1. This was largely fuelled by a rise in active new businesses; demand-led growth in house prices; and strengthening workforce statistics.

In stark contrast, the index for Greater London rose by only +0.3% from 223.6 to 224.4. This reflects the commercial hit that the capital has taken from the absence of tourists and also the loss of the economic activity normally generated by the millions of commuters who were absent from London during lockdown.

To a varying extent, the UK’s other major cities struggled with similar problems. Only Liverpool with an index uplift of +9% together with Birmingham (+7.4%) and Glasgow (+6.6%) showed index increases of substance. Elsewhere, there were modest uplifts for Edinburgh (+2.7%) and Bristol (+1.5%).

Newcastle remained virtually unchanged at +0.1% while Leeds fell by -2.0%. And while Wales as a whole led the home nations in terms of economic vitality during the first 18 months of the pandemic, the Welsh capital did not fare so well. Cardiff’s vitality score dropped by -8.4% as it also struggled with diminished commuter and visitor activity.

 

Change between March 2020 and October 2021 in the Evaluate Vitality Index (EVI). Green represents an improvement in local economic conditions since the local situation pre-pandemic, and red a deterioration.

 

The Evaluate|Locate index took three years to build and brings together millions of data points from sources including ONS, Companies House, HMRC and the Land Registry into a model which continuously analyses economic vitality across 2,816 postcode-defined UK locations from January 2010 to the present day.

It is powered by metrics centred around business density; earnings; employment levels; average residential values; and population movements. Because it works from postcode granularity upwards, its analysis is entirely scalable.

JPES’s Adam Kirby – who led the team which built the model – comments: “Comparable and consistent tracking of precise locations which encompasses more than one metric is a difficult technical challenge. Previously, economic analysis of UK locations has been very fragmented and has often hinged on an inconsistent and vague interpretation of statistics for broad regions. These ultimately only reflected a moment in time and could be out of date as soon as they were published.

“Accordingly, there has often been frustration among both private equity and institutional investors with subjective ‘narrative’ locational analysis which does not align with a data-driven approach.

“Our index gives a more dynamic, constantly evolving picture of any UK location’s economic direction of travel and enables index-rated comparison of different towns, cities or regions.

“We believe Evaluate|Locate – and the economic vitality index it generates – have a valuable practical application for a large number of UK business sectors, and also to overseas entities who don’t have first-hand knowledge of this country.

“In terms of the UK economy, as the Build Back Better and Levelling Up initiatives progress, we’re also excited about the role that the model can play in enabling national and local government to track the effect of stimulus and policy on a location-by-location basis.”

 

Evaluate|Locate economic vitality index rating for selected UK locations

March 1st, 2020 – October 1st, 2021

 

For more information please contact Adam.Kirby@JPESPartners.com  

The survey, The Air That We Breathe, canvassed the views of 200 people aged between 25 and 55 who work in offices across a variety of UK business sectors.

JPES Partners Head of Property, Duncan Lamb, comments: “The survey responses made it clear just how much the pandemic has focused people’s thinking on the issue with 86% of respondents saying that the issue of air quality in the workplace is now more important to them.

“Accordingly, it’s now a factor which is influencing people’s willingness to return to the office environment and needs to be addressed by all businesses – and not just those which are office-based.”

“It’s a substantial challenge for the owners of existing buildings that will need to be adapted if they are to meet higher expectations around air quality”

Currently, there is little evidence that employers are actively engaging with issue: less than a third of those surveyed reported that their employer had taken measures to improve the air quality of their workplace during the past year.

Duncan Lamb comments: “Examples of basic measures which had been taken included employers who have simply put more space between workstations with some even moving to larger buildings to make this strategy possible.

“Of the more positive comments, one respondent noted that their employer had added filters to the air conditioning units while another reported that air quality levels were now tested daily.”

The presence of air quality monitors would go some way to reassuring workers:  88% of those surveyed said that air quality measurement at workplaces should become mandatory.

The effects of poor air quality has been scientifically proven to be linked to life-reducing illnesses and lowered cognitive function. Air quality is measured with an Air Quality Index which shows changes in the amount of pollution in the air and particularly the presence of airborne particulate matter which is measured on the PM scale.

It is also becoming an issue for property landlords and developers. Whereas occupier attitudes to their environment previously focused predominantly on temperature and light levels, the quality of air in a workplace or, indeed, any publicly shared enclosed space is fast becoming a matter for scrutiny.

Duncan Lamb comments: “It’s a substantial challenge for the owners of existing buildings that will need to be adapted if they are to meet higher expectations around air quality. For new developments, the issue is perhaps more straightforward but for all types of asset there is likely to be an additional layer of cost as more intensive and sophisticated systems have to be put in place.

“However, on the upside, it’s clear that engaging with the issue can contribute positively to the marketability of a workplace and also its long-term asset value.”

For more information, or to get a copy of the report, please contact duncan.lamb@jpespartners.com

JPES Partners’ Donohoe: Investment industry faces a perfect green storm

Industry under greater scrutiny than ever before

Climate-tilted funds are misaligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement, 2050 net-zero goals already seem outdated and ex-employees are publicly questioning their former employers’ true ESG credentials.

The investment industry is facing far greater scrutiny than ever before with regards to ESG.

All of which has set the industry up for a perfect storm – and that was before a third of asset managers failed to meet the Financial Reporting Council’s criteria for being a signatory to the UK’s revised Stewardship Code.

JPES Partners’ fourth annual Asset Management Trends Report, which surveys changing perceptions among asset managers who collectively manage $12trn of assets, has shown that a fear of greenwashing – or rather of being seen to greenwash – runs deeply through these firms.

One firm, who did make the shortlist of signatories for the UK’s Stewardship Code, said they simply do not have the same desperation to be relevant anymore.

“We are ticking the box like everyone else but we have slowed down because we do not want to greenwash and we want to be better aligned. We do not want to be pioneers and get it wrong – I have seen competitors backtracking already.”

That does not detract from wider concerns about greenwashing by the industry, however of those surveyed, 76% of asset managers said they were concerned about greenwashing by peers; albeit that this is a near-20 percentage point drop from the 94% who said the same last year.

One of the reasons provided for this fading concern about greenwashing was the introduction of the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) regime in March 2021, which imposed transparency requirements on asset management companies, which some felt would limit any manager’s ability to greenwash in the future.

Since the regime was introduced, however, several asset managers and industry bodies have claimed that the SFDR rules have created more confusion than clarity.

In fact, a Morningstar paper, SFDR: Four Months After Its Introduction, found that different approaches taken by firms to self-classification had resulted in a wide range of similar ESG approaches being represented in both Article 8 and 9 funds.

 

Regardless of how these products are classified according to SFDR, it has not stopped money pouring into sustainable and ESG-related funds throughout the pandemic.

Total assets in these vehicles climbed to $2.3bn by the end of June 2021, according to Morningstar, largely due to demand from European investors.

Yet after five consecutive quarters of growth, second quarter flows directed to these funds were down on the previous two quarters, suggesting that investors may have, at least temporarily, reached a saturation point.

The very idea of there being a tipping point for ESG will be anathema to most managers who have banked on it remaining a sure fire hit with investors.

86% of the asset managers we spoke to are expecting to launch new ESG-related products in the next 12 months, up considerably on 78% last year.

This plethora of solutions means it is hard to find an organisation that does not have some form of sustainable investment offering in place, yet increasingly more questions are being raised about what impact these products are truly having on the issues they purport to be tackling.

When asked what subset of the ESG debate they were focused on, climate was overwhelmingly the top response given by over 40% of asset managers compared with just 17% of respondents doing so in 2020.

Ahead of the COP26 Conference in November, it is perhaps not a surprise that climate remains top of mind. Of those who cited climate as a key area of focus, however, an astonishing 90% said they believed they were moving the needle on the ESG debate.

While the interviews were carried out prior to the publication of the IPCC report on climate change in August, the warning that the world is still not doing enough to limit global warming to 1.5°C, served as a stark reminder that even with the liberal adoption of 2050 net zero targets this year, we are simply not moving fast enough.

It is clear that some progress is being made by the industry collectively on turning words into action but for complicated issues such as climate change, the loftier the claim, the bigger the risk.

As one firm pointed out: “There are challenges and we need to be grown up about them… but if you brag about it then be prepared to be knocked down too. It is all about reputation, and the risk goes up the further out you go.”

JPES MD, Julian Samways, comments: “Digital communication is one of our specialisms and we’re involved in producing a wide range of content for clients and also for our own research projects.

“The new studio is a perfect facility for these, and will also be available for the use of clients and for one-off projects. The scope for this type of content to be deployed for engagement with mainstream and social media channels is huge, and we’re increasingly seeing clients using it for corporate communications, business development initiatives and fund launches.”

If you are interested in digital content projects or using the JPES studio, please contact Faith Garrett

 

Roger brings more than 30 years’ asset management, sales and distribution experience to his role at JPES, having held senior positions at a number of leading UK and global investment firms including Kleinwort Benson Investment Management, Insight Investment, Pioneer Investments (now Amundi) and BNP Paribas Investment Partners.

Most recently, he held the role of Head of UK Institutional and Global Consultants at Aviva Investors, having previously spent four years at Pictet Asset Management where he was Head of UK and Ireland Institutional Business.

In his consultancy role at JPES, Roger will work with the firm’s marketing team to guide clients on a range of key business initiatives relating to consultant relations, client relationship management, sales and distribution strategy.

“Roger’s experience complements the existing skillsets of asset ownership and investment consultancy we have developed in JPES in recent years, with his expertise in sales, distribution and client relationship management providing an important additional perspective to our Marketing Consultancy capabilities that will be of substantial benefit to our clients”, comments Julian Samways, Founder and Managing Director of JPES Partners. “We see this as a key area of our business moving forwards, and Roger’s insights will be invaluable as we seek to help asset managers meet their long-term business objectives in a post-COVID era.”

 

A comprehensive study across global English-speaking media titles (including national and international press, specialist trade publications and newswires), the Asset Management Agenda seeks to identify those themes trending upwards in the media and therefore most likely to drive news agendas. In parallel to this analysis, JPES also assesses the views of leading journalists to gain a clear sense of what topics they expect to be most prominent in the year ahead.

Our 2021 research identified diversity and inclusion, generational change, greenwashing, recovery from recession conditions and social responsibility as key areas for the asset management industry over the next twelve months.

Matt Rogers, Director and Co-Head of Investment Communications, comments: “While ESG has been arguably the driving force in the asset management industry for the last decade, we are increasingly seeing stakeholders take a more granular view of the subject, putting individual elements of industry practices under scrutiny. Asset managers will have to factor this into their business and communications activities moving forwards and, critically, will have to clearly demonstrate that they are meeting best practice standards themselves, and not simply demanding these of their underlying investments.”

Investment Week’s coverage of the Asset Management Agenda 2021 can be found here.

For more information, or to receive a copy of the report, please contact matt.rogers@jpespartners.com

The Asset Management Trends Report 2020 surveys the perceptions among asset managers who collectively manage €8.6trn of assets, looking at attitudes towards a range of issues driving industry debates, marketing, sales, communications and product development efforts. This year’s research shows asset managers adopting a realistic approach to ESG, reflecting the ever-increasing competition in this segment of the market.

Miles Donohoe, Director and Co-Head of Investment Communications, comments: “While product proliferation looks set to continue, it is clear that asset managers are taking a more pragmatic stance towards ESG issues. Just 17% of managers surveyed now claim to be pioneers in ESG, compared to 40% last year, with a growing understanding that past credentials and achievements will only take businesses so far.”

Investment Week’s coverage of JPES’ Asset Management Trends Report 2020 can be found here.

For more information, or to receive a copy of the report, please contact miles.donohoe@jpespartners.com.

Evaluate|Locate, analyses millions of verified data points regarding business density; population trends; employment; and residential property values to provide ratings back to 2010. It then generates an Economic Vitality Index which ranks locations and gives insight into their economic ‘direction of travel’.

JPES Partners Head of Property, Duncan Lamb, comments: “Property is essentially an investment in a local economy, and we can now measure this ‘location factor’ in way that is comparable, consistent and benchmarked.

“The model was originally built to bring more precision to the location sections of investment reports and a wider economic perspective to portfolio reporting. However, the impact of the pandemic is accelerating a revolution in the way investors and developers now need to assess locations.

“The model is already showing us the economic impact of the pandemic and some of the resultant anomalies. For example, of the 180,000-plus new businesses that have become active since Lockdown, more than three quarters of them have been created outside of major cities. This would appear to bear out the theory that business will, for the present at least, be increasingly attracted to localised, suburban locations.

“Similarly, the model is showing unemployment spiking at more than 10% in some locations whereas others have yet to see any rise.”

Evaluate|Locate characterises every location in the UK across more than 50 economic dimensions. This includes metrics such as a detailed breakdown of a location’s businesses community, unemployment rates and average earnings as well as population growth and residential property values. The model also generates an overall index rating for each selected location, based on monthly data collected since January 2010.

Locations can be compared in a consistent way with an all-locations benchmark or as part of a specific group.

JPES Partners Associate Director, Adam Kirby – who built Evaluate|Locate – comments: “The model is powered by postcode locations and is consequently completely scalable. So it can analyse everything from a single postcode district through to a whole town, city, region or a bespoke area. It enables you to track local economic performance in locations already of interest – or even ask for suggestions of new locations.

“Successful property investment and development often pivots on spotting themes, gaps and anomalies which produce opportunity. Anecdotal evidence about an area is no longer enough, so we believe Evaluate|Locate can help to power a more evidence-led approach.

“For asset managers, it brings science to the process of location analysis and reporting. This approach can be particularly relevant when reporting to overseas investors who do not have first-hand knowledge of the UK.”

For more information, please contact Duncan Lamb or Adam Kirby

Listen to an EG TechTalk podcast about Evaluate|Locate here

The JPES research – “A Brave New World? ESG and Asset Owner Expectations in a COVID-19 Paradigm” – interviewed key decision makers from 20 UK pension schemes, charities, investment consultants and fiduciary managers responsible for £250 billion of assets.

The report identified a number of key social and governance issues gaining substantial prominence, with demonstrable action expected by asset managers on these as a result. In particular, a majority of respondents indicated that they expect managers to sign up to the UK Stewardship Code and adhere to the voluntary guidelines (due to come into full force in March 2021) or risk being excluded from future tender processes.

Julian Samways, Managing Director, comments: “Our research indicates that asset owners are taking a much more granular view of ‘E’, ‘S’ and ‘G’ issues, and increasingly expect managers to demonstrate their credentials in these individual areas. This means that approaches adopted by asset managers to date will need to evolve significantly to meet the requirements of discerning institutional decision makers.”

For more information or to discuss the findings of the JPES report, please contact matt.rogers@jpespartners.com

Early in the lockdown period, Matt Rogers analysed the mood amongst investors and Angela Docherty looked at key considerations for clients in the face of the pandemic.

As businesses started to reconnect with the markets, Miles Donohoe wrote on the need for sensitivity in communications at this time, and most recently Philip Robinson has assessed the challenges facing investment businesses and the critical considerations that need to be met if they are to retain clients and ultimately survive.

And with so many usual business communications channels disrupted, Faith Garrett has shared some tips about taking an effective approach to using LinkedIn.

Matt Rogers comments: “We hope these papers will provide useful, practical perspectives and help with meeting the challenges that we all face. We’d be happy to discuss any of the issues that they explore”.

JPES Managing Director, Julian Samways, commented: “These are obviously extremely difficult times for all areas of businesses, but we have continued to grow as a consultancy and have recorded a number of asset management, fiduciary manager and commercial property instructions.

“Without question, the coming months will continue to be unpredictable and likely bring further challenges. Communications at all levels – professional and personal – will be vital in order to provide clarity, reassurance and maintain relationships.”

JPES is currently carrying out an analysis of best practice communications responses to the disruption of markets: “In order to enhance our support to clients we have undertaken research to identify best client and marketing communications practices in this period of crisis and will also be extending our insight to cover the clarity and impact of responsible investment policies in the rapidly changing environment ahead”.

If you would like further details of this analysis, please contact Miles Donohoe