Thursday, January 28, 2010

NEI Portfolio Managers Symposium

by Christie Stephenson, Vancouver correspondent

From Wednesday January 20th to Friday January 22nd, Northwest and Ethical Investing held its annual Portfolio Managers Symposium, bringing together Ethical Funds’ portfolio managers with NEI’s Sustainability Team.

NEI’s Vice President of Sustainability, Bob Walker, held a session on Global Developments in Socially Responsible Investing that covered the growth in assets and ESG mainstreaming. As well, NEI’s AVP & Portfolio Manager, Russell Moldowan presented a Market Scan of Mutual Funds and Socially Responsible Investing in Canada. The day was rounded out with time for the managers to meet with the analyst team, before heading to Whistler.

On the second day, NEI’s Manager of Sustainability Research, Michelle de Cordova, presented the findings of the recently launched White Paper “Lines in the Sands: Benchmarking Oil Sands Companies”. She discussed the research process and findings of the report. NEI’s Manager of Shareholder Action, Jennifer Coulson, overviewed the 2010 Focus List, noting the companies and the issues that would be the subject for engagement this year. Finally, Bob Walker gave a presentation on the Principles and Implications of the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investment (UNPRI). During this session he reviewed the six principles, current signatories, implementation strategies, and NEI’s performance in the UNPRI Annual Report on Progress.

For the third and final day, NEI’s Manager of Sustainability Evaluations, Christie Stephenson, presented on New Developments in Environmental, Social, and Governance Evaluations. She reviewed the processes for eligibility reviews and monitoring for Ethical Funds portfolios, including proprietary Headline Risk Analysis and Management Breach Investigations approaches. She also discussed trends in evaluations including market-time analysis, performance data metrics, integration and materiality.

Members of the NEI team were joined by portfolio managers from Guardian Capital LP, QV Investors Inc., Beutel Goodman & Company Ltd., Manning & Napier Advisors Inc., and William Blair & Company. Guardian’s Sam Baldwin commented that “the annual symposium is a great way to learn about developments in SRI. It also provides an in-depth look into the ESG criteria used for evaluating companies and how a thoughtful approach to engagement with corporate management teams can produce positive change.”

NEI’s Russell Moldowan noted that “Over the years, we have been very successful in imparting the value of incorporating environmental, social and governance criteria in fundamental investment analysis. This event demonstrates the strength of having dedicated portfolio managers and experienced shareholders advocates working together.”

This year marks the fourth year of the company’s Portfolio Managers Symposium. The first principle of the UNPRI is “We will incorporate ESG issues into investment analysis and decision-making processes.” The annual Portfolio Managers Symposium puts this principal into action.

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