Gaëtan De Weerdt (ING Solutions Investment Management): The sustainable super ManCo
Sustainable investment forms part of the long-term strategy of the ING Group and its Management Company, ING Solutions Investment Management (ISIM). Interview with its Conducting Officer, Gaëtan De Weerdt.
Can you tell us about ISIM in a few words?
ISIM is the centre of expertise for mutual funds in Luxembourg for the whole ING Group; we are a Super ManCo with licenses for UCITS and AIF and we offer solutions for ING’s end clients throughout Europe. At ISIM we control the entire value chain of a fund, from creation to distribution to end investors, and this allows us to create tailor-made solutions for our clients. ING was already distributing dedicated solutions before 2014, but we did not control the whole value chain; through ISIM now we ensure that the quality of the service providers - investment fund administrators, investment managers, etc. - complies with ING Group standards, and in doing so ensure the quality for our end investors. We are a success story: over the last four years, the number of ISIM staff has multiplied by six, following the increase in assets under management to over 8 billion at the end of 2018.
"We are noticing a growing demand from investors for sustainable products and socially responsible investments."
What challenges and opportunities do you identify for asset managers?
Regulatory and legal changes oftentimes involve increased requirements: the directives and circulars we receive are effective immediately, so we need to adapt our procedures accordingly. At times these concerns take us away from our core business, but they may represent opportunities. For example in asset management the low interest rates in Europe has resulted in a more limited offer in terms of fixed revenue, while creating genuine opportunities for clients who wish to invest to generate a potentially regular income. Market volatility, often linked to political instability, also affects asset management and changes happen very quickly. The markets are so nervous, a simple tweet might cause a fall of three points in the stock market. If this happens, we need to inform our investors quickly via our distribution networks.
What are the trends in terms of investment?
We are noticing a growing demand for sustainable products and socially responsible investments (SRI). Even the European Fund and Asset Management Association (EFAMA) is working on a directive to harmonise labels and ratings to promote responsible investing in funds, especially for retail investors, and we welcome the approach. Sustainable investment forms part of the long-term strategy of the ING Group so we are proud to have been awarded the UN's ‘Principles for Responsible Investments’ label. In this respect, our fund ING Sustainable, available in Belgium since 1 October, will soon be rolled out to other countries in the ING Group.