Welcome to your October update from Team DFP. With the COP26 climate conference hot on the horizon, this edition takes a look at the relationship between climate change and UK finance.
We’ll assess the government’s interest in green technology, consider the potential plans linking mortgages and green home improvements, and showcase some of the different ways you can make greener investment decisions.
As always though, we begin with your monthly message from our director, Liam Winstanley.
A message from our Director…
Welcome to our October newsletter. This month, with the forthcoming COP26 conference, we have a focus on the growing topic of investing and buying financial products that can better reflect your own beliefs around environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
I think I built my first ‘ethical’ portfolio for a client around 15 years ago. It was on a mandate that was quite specific in terms of ‘avoiding’ certain types of industries and companies. And, let me tell you, it wasn’t an easy job. It would be fair to say that things have moved on a bit since then as the range of themes, the sophistication of inclusion/exclusion screening, and product design have all improved.
The conversations I have these days tend to centre more around people wanting not so much to avoid certain types of investment, but to feel that their investments are actually doing some good, or at least doing less harm in a general sense. For those objectives, the market is growing and I for one don’t think this shift is a fad or a fashion. It’s rather a movement towards investing in fundamentally well run, forward-looking, responsible businesses.
Furthermore, from our own research, investment returns need not suffer either. In fact, many such investments have outperformed their more traditional counterparts in recent years. So, if you want to find out more, please get in touch.
In the news this month…
The COP26 conference is due to begin in Glasgow at the end of the week (October 31st), so the topic of green investments is high on the news agenda.
Recent reports suggest that climate change is now a bigger concern for UK consumers than either COVID-19 or the state of the economy. Aside from the obvious social and environmental implications of global warming, economic changes - bringing both vast opportunity as well as certain difficulties - will be under the microscope as world leaders and dignitaries come together in Scotland. The build-up to the conference has been marred by the leaking of explosive documents, which reveal that some of the world’s largest polluters of fossil fuels, namely Japan, Australia and Saudi Arabia, have lobbied the UN to amend a scientific report on how to tackle climate change.
Shocking stuff. But whilst COP26, and climate change itself, is obviously an international matter, the eyes of the nation are nonetheless trained on Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, both in terms of his ability to play host to the world’s elite in the coming days and, more importantly, with regards to his actions in tackling global warming.
So, it was encouraging to see the multi-million-pound partnership the government has struck with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Mr Gates, who attended the UK’s Global Investment Summit in London earlier this month, has agreed to a combined cash injection with the British government of £400m in green tech and net-zero projects. The PM also ‘laid out pledges’ worth nearly £10bn in foreign investment in the UK, which he says will signal the creation of 30,000 new jobs. 18 new investment deals are said to be on the horizon, supporting growth in sustainable homes, wind and hydrogen energy, and carbon capture technology.
The government is also ‘exploring plans to link mortgages to green home improvements by imposing targets for lenders’. The move is another facet of the net-zero strategy and aims to help ‘decarbonise the UK’s ageing and leaky housing stock’. Some of the proposed measures include ‘voluntary targets for banks to improve the average energy performance certificate rating of the homes in their lending portfolio’. Read more, here.
MPs are also urging pension providers to soften the impact of the UK’s net-zero ambitions on vulnerable communities. A cross-party group have suggested that, unless billions of pounds of public sector pension investment is spent on ‘cushioning the economic effects’ of the rapid switch to low-carbon technologies, ‘towns and regions across Britain could face the same prospects as mining towns hit by pit closures in the 1980s.
In other news, the change in peoples’ ATM withdrawal habits is continuing post-pandemic. Research from cash machine network, Link, suggests that withdrawals amount to almost £100m (40%) less than this time two years ago, with COVID-19 ‘turbocharging the switch to digital’. Despite that, those who use cash machines are actually withdrawing more money. Interestingly, over the same period, the average withdrawal amount has risen over £10 to nearly £80.
One explanation for the differences, aside from the obvious, is the increasing limit on contactless payments. This month, the cap on pin-less credit and debit card purchases rose to £100, with banks, retailers and the government hoping it will give a much-needed boost to a recovering economy.
This month’s featured article…
Moving away from climate-related finance for a moment. With inflation rising and markets still somewhat volatile amidst an uncertain financial landscape, many investors have legitimate concerns about their stocks and shares. Well, fear not, as there may be some good news on that front: ‘Inflation isn’t necessarily bad for stocks’.
According to US private investment firm, Dimensional, weaker returns tend to occur during periods of low inflation. And, historically, stocks have tended to outpace inflation over the longer term. Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule, but this is an encouraging message from a prominent industry player. Take a look at this month’s shorter featured article, below.
Dimensional: ‘Will Inflation Hurt Stock Returns? Not Necessarily.’
On a lighter note…
To round off this month’s somewhat environmentally-charged newsletter, here’s an illustration of the appetite for ethical savings, as well as investments. Last month, the government raised £10bn from the sale of the UK’s first ever Green Gilt (gilts are sold to institutional investors and provide a fixed rate of return until their expiry). It’s the largest inaugural green issuance by any sovereign. And, later this year, NS&I’s three-year, fixed-term ‘Green Savings Bonds’ are set to launch too. The bonds are available online for investments between £100 and £100,000 and, according to the government-backed provider, they aim to “make the world greener, cleaner and more sustainable”.
The bond guarantees a fixed rate of annual interest but cash will not be accessible until at least the end of the bond’s term. The funds raised, which NS&I predict could reach £15bn, will go to HM Treasury, and will be allocated to ‘selected projects’. For more information on this, and other, green investment bonds, or to find out how you can make sure your savings leave an ethical legacy, click below.
Your capital is at risk. The value of your investment (and any income from them) can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Investments should be considered over the longer term and should fit in with your overall attitude to risk and financial circumstances.
The content of this newsletter is for your general information purposes only and does not constitute advice. It is not an offer to purchase or sell any particular asset and it does not contain all of the information which an investor may require in order to make an investment decision. Please obtain professional advice before entering into any new arrangement. Although endeavours have been made to provide accurate and timely information, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of any articles.