UBS Forum – Finance as a Force for Good – Impact investing and the economic power of millennials and women take centre stage

Key influencers from UBS presented their review and predictions to an audience of over 100 private investors and intermediaries at the 2018 UBS Forum, held at the Royal Yacht Hotel on the 22nd January.

The UBS Forum was opened by Tom Hill, Group Country Head, UBS Wealth Management in Jersey. The four speakers, Dean Turner, Caroline Simmons, James Gifford and James Mulford, then presented key analysis of global economic trends, how they are expected to influence the financial markets and the likely implications for different asset classes.

Economist Dean Turner, from the UK Investment Office at UBS Wealth Management, assured investors that the political instability of 2017 – including Brexit, Donald Trump’s first year as President and North Korea’s missile tests – had resulted in little impact on the global economy.

Mr. Turner said: ‘Political impact has proved to be very slight. In fact, it looks like 2017 is going to be the best year for the global economy since 2011. The era of austerity ended in Europe and it’s the first year that every country in the G20 experienced economic growth. A recession in 2018 is highly unlikely but we should still be braced for some change. One change is likely to be the banks introducing monetary tightening and the end of easy money. Additionally, we should expect a stronger euro and a weaker dollar.’

For UBS, 2017 saw the company perform ahead of its peers, due to a focus on globally diverse portfolios and good conditions for hedge funds. With a resource of over 900 analysts, UBS could support clients in being pro-risk. Current data places UBS’ performance in the top quartile.

James Gifford, Head of Impact Investing at UBS Wealth Management, spoke of a new generation of investors. ‘With the median age in the world now being 26 years old, there has been a huge transfer of wealth to the millennials. The economic power of women is also on the rise. Both groups are really pushing for investments that not only deliver commercial returns but match their ethical values and ideals.’

Impact investing was highlighted as a significant investment opportunity for the next decade. The sector encompasses investments made into companies, organisations and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return. Projects include water security, clean air, affordable housing, energy efficiency and emerging market healthcare.

Mr. Gifford explained: ‘Your investments have an impact on the world for better or for worse. What’s interesting is you can have financial wealth and sustainability – financial returns are virtually the same over the long term as with a conventional portfolio. In education and water efficiency there are incredible opportunities and somebody is going to make a lot of money in cleaning up China’s air. Investors looking at this are conscious of creating a legacy for the future. Impact investing is growing fast and the face of wealth is changing.’

Throughout the UBS Forum, the audience of private investors and intermediaries were invited to answer a series of questions. 72% of the audience said they would invest in sustainable or impact investments and 64% said they believed sustainable or impact portfolios would provide the same or similar returns to a conventional portfolio. Their greatest concern with investing currently was ‘political instability’ but 54% said they felt more confident about economic growth in Jersey than this time last year*.

All four speakers responded to questions from the audience with topics ranging from sustainable investment costs, to Systematic Allocation Portfolios, to the value of investing in hard commodities.