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Make advisers discuss ethical options: Coates

Financial advisers should be "obliged" to discuss ethical and responsible investment preferences with their clients, the founder of a new responsible investment platform says - but one adviser isn't so sure.

Tuesday, July 23rd 2019, 6:00AM 3 Comments

Barry Coates

Barry Coates,  former Green Party MP and creator of Mindful Money, a tool which reviews the ESG credentials of KiwiSaver funds, says New Zealand should follow other jurisdictions in making ESG a default part of advisers' discussions with clients.

ESG is not covered by the new code, which takes a high-level approach to guidance on how advice is provided.

"A simple thing would be to make it an obligation," Coates said. "Advisers should ask their clients about their ethical preferences and that should be part of the process of providing advice."

The comments come as jurisdictions around the world push policy measures on ethical investing.

The European Commission's action plan on financing sustainable growth recommends financial advisers including ESG as part of any investment advice.

"That would be important for New Zealand," Coates added.

"It would help to provide more information to the public and issues the public are concerned about. The number of advisers who are RIAA members is relatively small. It would be great to see more advisers who understand responsible investing and provide that information to clients."

Coates expects the formation of the Sustainable Finance Forum to lead to more policy changes in New Zealand over the coming years. 

"It is one area where this subject can be taken forward. It's important to look at how finance can support a move towards societal goals of sustainability and greater equality," Coates added.

Adviser Jordi Garcia, of New Zealand Financial Planning, said it was already something he raised with clients as part of the options open to them. "As it happens, our own investment approach with our clients incorporates an ESG framework. However, I would hesitate to make it a compulsory requirement, certainly at this stage given wide definitions around what constitutes ESG."

Angus Dale-Jones, chairman of the Code Working Group, said it was not the code's role to say what should or should not be in advice scope.

"That said, the suitability and client understanding standards in the code are very broadly written to ensure that the client gets proper explanations, so the advice giver must nonetheless keep in mind the client's circumstances. And for some clients, ESG will be an important need."

Mindful Money, which launched last month, compares different KiwiSaver funds on ESG. Coates wants to broaden this to investment funds offered by fund managers in New Zealand, and information on impact investing in the next year.

 

Tags: ESG KiwiSaver responsible investing

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Comments from our readers

On 23 July 2019 at 11:20 am Michael Chamberlain said:
This is a great idea. We should also make it compulsory that they raise eating (preferably healthy) and lifestyle practices, and also strategies to bring up children and look after older close relatives. This would be a significant improvement to the current policy of dumping responsibility for these things on teachers and the education sector.
On 23 July 2019 at 11:24 am John Milner said:
There is so much I could say about this but reading the phrase “should be obliged” and the name “Green Party” really says it all.
There is nothing wrong with ESG or SRI in itself. But they are so very generic and wide spanning subjects with every man and his dog having an opinion on the subject. Contrary to popular belief, some of us can think and act responsibly without be strong armed into being so.

On 25 July 2019 at 12:17 pm Graeme33 said:
Is Michael Joking??...or is this real..I read 3 times...and still not sure..Bizarre..Do we hold their hands at Pedestrian crossings also? Graeme Adams

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