ESG Investing  

R&M boss: It is ‘critical’ fund houses double down on ESG

R&M boss: It is ‘critical’ fund houses double down on ESG

It is “critical” asset managers focus on environmental, social and governance investing and double down on their sustainability work in order to survive, according to River and Mercantile’s top boss.

James Barham, chief executive at the fund house, told FTAdviser that ESG investing was on track to play a “big role” in everyone’s future and it was vital the industry “took the lead” on the movement.

He said: “ESG is something we won’t talk about in the future because it will be so embedded in everything we do. I think it is critical that fund houses focus on ESG and focus on the sustainable trend. 

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“We are being more explicit about it and making our strategies available to a wider audience — those asset managers that don’t do this will struggle.”

His comments came as River and Mercantile appointed Roger Lewis, previously of Aviva, in a new role as its group head of ESG.

Mr Lewis will be responsible for implementing and overseeing the group’s ESG philosophy and core principles both in its investment practices and within its own corporate responsibilities. 

Mr Barham said: “This is not a knee jerk reaction to ESG’s growth over the past year. ESG has been part of how we have invested for some time.”

River and Mercantile already manages specific ESG capabilities within its fiduciary business, but will make certain strategies available to both institutional and retail clients as part of its work on expanding its ESG range.

Mr Lewis said: “River and Mercantile is extremely well positioned to capitalise on the opportunities, while mitigating risks, that ESG presents. 

“This is [...] an exciting time to be joining the group and I look forward to working with its talented team of investment professionals as they continue to seek opportunities to deliver sustainable, positive returns to investors.”

Mr Barham told FTAdviser that the hiring of Mr Lewis tied in with River and Mercantile’s strategy to grow its investment distribution and capabilities over the next few years, a move the fund house has previously stated it hopes will double its assets over five years.

Mr Lewis was the second hire from Aviva in as many weeks, with Aviva’s former head of infrastructure Ian Berry moving to River and Mercantile to establish an infrastructure investment business.

It was the latest in a string of growth pushes from the fund house. Last year, it announced it was to invest in its distribution with a £3.8m warchest across its UK, Australia and US businesses. 

It has also been on the hunt for fund managers in a bid to expand its expertise and the firm has already hired James Sym from Schroders to develop its European equity strategy.

Earlier this month, industry veteran Martin Gilbert joined the River and Mercantile board as deputy chairman.

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