Seven Swiss institutions join forces to found ESG association

first_imgSeven of the largest pension and insurance providers in Switzerland have joined forces to create an association for sustainable and responsible investment.The SVVK-ASIR was founded to help its members fulfil their “fiduciary duties” of including ESG criteria in their investments.The first part of the acronym stands for the German name Schweizer Verein für verantwortungsbewusste Kapitalanlagen, the second for the French Association Suisse pour des investissements responsables.The founding members include the first-pillar fund AHV, the public pension fund Publica, the pension fund for the canton of Zurich BVK, the pension plan of telecommunications company Swisscom (ComPlan), the pension fund of the postal service (PKPost), the pension fund of federal railways SBB (PKSBB) and the accident insurance fund Suva. Together, they manage more than CHF150bn (€122bn) in assets.Patrick Uelfeti, deputy CIO at Publica, was named president of the association, which is still looking for a managing director.Uelfeti said the SVVK-ASIR was founded as a service provider to suit the “individual needs” of its founding members.The new organisation will screen the portfolios of its members based on defined criteria, focusing on international companies rather than those based in Switzerland.The SVVK-ASIR said it would begin engaging with those companies it deemed “critical”.Uelfeti confirmed the organisation was looking for external specialists for screening and engagement activities.The SVVK-ASIR will also be open to larger institutional investors such as retirement providers, compensation funds or insurers.Swiss institutional investors have a tradition of engagement with respect to equity holdings.In 1997, two Pensionskassen founded the shareholder engagement group Ethos, which focuses on engagement with Swiss companies.Ethos has more than 100 members, most being from the private pension fund sector.last_img read more

Finland’s Varma calls for re-evaluation of euro-zone economic policy

first_img“Monetary policies are very much focused on stimulus measures, and the measures used by central banks are highly exceptional,” he said.“Record low interest rates and quantitative easing now support the markets, and, for pension investors, this shows as negative deposit rates.”He concluded: “While it is beneficial for at least one area of economic policy to strive for growth and inflation, nevertheless, economic policy as a whole should be re-examined within the euro-zone.“The European Central Bank’s policy options are all but exhausted, and even now the policy entails major long-term risks.”Meanwhile, returns from Varma’s equity portfolio – 38.3% of its total investments – were -3.1%, compared with 9.6% for Q1 2015, with listed equities returning -5% (11.7% in 2015).Reima Rytsölä, CIO at Varma, said: “January was bleaker than ever in the equity markets, as concerns over China’s economy escalated and the US economy faced headwinds.“The equity markets plummeted, with the Chinese stock exchanges leading the way.”However, Varma dampened the effect by active diversification of its investment portfolio, markedly reducing the weight of equities in favour of fixed income and real estate.Listed equities make up 78.9% of the equity portfolio, but private equity (16.3% of the portfolio) returned 2.5%, slightly less than for Q1 2015.Unlisted equities (4.8% of equities as a whole) were the highest-performing asset class over the entire portfolio, with a 8.2% return, compared with 1.5% in 2015.Varma said that, in addition to unlisted equities, fixed income and real estate were also unaffected by market fluctuations, returning 0.2% and 1.2%, respectively, for the quarter.Fixed income returns were positive because of a decline in the price of corporate bonds, caused by higher pricing of credit risk in the face of a weakening global economic outlook.As of the end of March, the average annual nominal investment return over five years was 4.4%, and, over 10, 4.3%.Turning to the second quarter, Rytsölä was more optimistic about the economic backdrop.“US economic growth seems to be holding, and China’s situation is no longer completely hopeless,” he said.“The recovery of commodity and especially oil prices has helped to balance market sentiment.” Risto Murto, president and chief executive at Finnish pensions insurance company Varma, has called for a re-evaluation of euro-zone economic policy, as the insurer reported an investment return of -1.4% for the first quarter of 2016, compared with 5.3% for the same period in 2015.Varma, whose portfolio stood at €41.1bn at 31 March, blamed the losses on market uncertainty earlier in the year, in response to concerns over the Chinese and US economies.However, Murto also questioned the direction of economic policy within the euro-zone.Since the financial crisis, fiscal policies have focused on balancing public deficits, with responsibility for active economic policy transferred to central banks. last_img read more

Vattenfall seeks permit changes for two Swedish offshore wind projects

first_imgThe government announced that the amendment application is complete and the time for comments has closed. The plan is to obtain all significant permits by 2023, carry out geotechnical surveys in 2022-2023, and install and commission the wind farm in 2026. Source: Vattenfall In the next few years, the Swedish company will work to obtain the remaining permits. Project procurement could take place in 2023–2024 and installation in 2025–2027, dependant on the progress of the permits. The total investment cost is estimated at around SEK 20 billion (circa EUR 1.9 billion) for the entire wind farm, including foundations and connections to the Swedish electricity grid.  Work is also underway for an application for a Natura 2000 permit, which requires a number of environmental impact studies to be conducted. Vattenfall is preparing to apply for permit changes related to the Stora Middelgrund offshore wind project in Sweden, acquired from Universal Wind in the spring of last year. Additionally, Vattenfall has submitted an application to the Swedish government to reduce the number of turbines at the Kriegers Flak offshore wind project and extend the construction deadline until 2027, from the initially set October 2018. Kriegers Flak The Stora Middelgrund project has a permit from 2008 which includes the construction of 108 8 MW turbines that are 200 meters tall and which must be installed by 1 September 2020 some 40 kilometers west of Halmstad. Vattenfall now plans to apply for the adjustment of the existing permit in order to install up to 75 turbines that are 290m tall, as well as request an extension of the construction deadline.last_img read more

Taylor on the mend

first_imgWest Ham midfielder Matthew Taylor is making a good recovery after being knocked unconscious at Stoke on Saturday. The 31-year-old was caught in the face by Peter Crouch’s boot as the striker attempted an overhead kick while Taylor was aiming to head clear. Taylor was treated quickly by medical staff on the pitch at the Britannia Stadium, and was able to travel back home with the West Ham club doctor before being assessed again after a period of rest. “I am not too bad. My head is fine and I am feeling a lot better,” Taylor told the club’s official website, “It is the first time I have been knocked out in my career, or in my life for that matter, that I can recall. “If it was going to happen anywhere, then on a football pitch is not a bad place because of all the medical staff being there. “I don’t have any recollection of heading the ball. My only memory I have is the ball going over my head [from the corner] and following my runner. “I then remember waking up in their treatment room on the treatment table. I don’t have any other memory. I don’t remember walking off or anything, which was a bit scary.” Taylor added: “It was just one of those things and he clearly didn’t mean to do it. There was no malice on his behalf. “I know Crouchy and played for England Under-21s with him and he came to see me afterwards, but I’d already left for home with the doctor. “There was no malice and you could see that, as soon as it happened, he held his hands up and was very apologetic so I don’t hold any grudges. It’s just one of those things.” center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

Van Gaal has faith in Blind

first_imgManchester United’s summer transfer dash continued on deadline day with the signing of Dutch international Daley Blind for £14million. Press Association Blind has agreed a four-year deal with United and his versatility will provide options for Van Gaal, whose initial attempts to shift United to 3-5-2 have proved a struggle. Blind is comfortable across the back line, at wing-back or as a defensive midfielder. He told United’s official website: “It is a real honour to sign for Manchester United. “I have been at Ajax since I was seven years old and I will always have very fond memories of the club and of my time there. “Louis van Gaal is a tremendously talented coach, I have worked with him at Ajax and also for the Netherlands national team and I cannot wait to work with him at the biggest club in the world.” The United boss added: “I am delighted Daley has signed for the club. “He is a very intelligent and versatile footballer that can play in many positions. “Daley is a great reader of the game, he has played under my philosophy over a number of years and he will be a great addition to the team.” center_img Blind, 24, had long been expected to join his former Holland boss Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford and the deal was finally signed off just over three hours before the end of the window. Blind’s arrival from boyhood club Ajax takes the Red Devils’ spending to around £150million on permanent signings, following the big money acquisitions of Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and Angel di Maria, the latter becoming Britain’s most expensive player having cost £59.7million from Real Madrid. last_img read more

Rising artists Citizen Queen are setting the scene for female a cappella

first_img“I didn’t imagine in a million years that I would perform at Madison Square Garden that early [in my career], but here we are,” bass singer Dalley said. “Wherever we went, the crowd was so receptive of us and very welcoming, and it seemed like they were very impressed with what they heard. It gave me a little bit of fire sometimes whenever I had down days. I’d just think of how people receive us and how we bring a lot to the table.”  From left to right, Cora Isabel, Kaylah Sharve’, Nina Nelson, Hannah Mrozak and Kaedi Dalley compose the group. (Photo courtesy of Citizen Queen Instragram; Design by Ellie Gottesman) “One day in sixth grade, I was sitting at the lunch table singing some Adele song to myself,” Isabel said. “I remembered being able to just hum and beatbox with it and make cool noises with it and was like ‘That sounds cool,’ and it honestly just became a habit.”  The tour was not only a productive learning experience for Citizen Queen but also a chance for the group to gain a large fan base. “We are so passionate about our original music  and are working with some heavy hitters in the industry,” Sharve’ said. “We’re excited about it, I’m excited about it and the label is excited about it.” Although the group hasn’t released original music yet, there’s a lot to look forward to in Citizen Queen’s future, according to Sharve’.  Citizen Queen’s most memorable moment on tour was when the group was able to perform near each of the members’ hometowns for family and friends, Mrozak said.  “Just because the five of us are amazing singers, it doesn’t mean that we’ll have the chemistry that is needed for an audience to love us,” Nelson said. “It doesn’t mean that we’ll get along, you know, so we were kind of put to the test.”  SoCal VoCals alumnus and member of the world-renowned a cappella group Pentatonix Scott Hoying, along with alumni Ben Bram and Shams Ahmed, two acclaimed vocal arrangers and producers, hand-selected each member of Citizen Queen. The co-founders spent months sorting through hundreds of audition tapes until they hosted in-person callbacks in Los Angeles and New York, according to the members. “It’s so easy to  let your identity slip when you don’t see people like you on the screen, and representation is so important when you’re a young person trying to build self esteem and confidence,” Nelson said. “We live in a specific time in history where more and more women are taking less shit, and our music is becoming less about the man and more about empowering ourselves.”  No single member of a cappella girl group Citizen Queen is alike: All five women come from different states and different ethnic backgrounds, but that’s only the beginning. As vocalists, each has a distinct sound and style. Instead of fitting a group mold, these women draw inspiration from one another’s  strengths and lean into their individuality, coming together like pieces in a puzzle.   Shortly after discovering their sound and harmony, the members of Citizen Queen received their second test: a nine-week world tour opening for Pentatonix. Although they didn’t know each other that well yet, the tour gave Citizen Queen the opportunity to understand what it was like to be professionals in the music industry, and sharing that experience bonded the women greatly. center_img Isabel, the group’s gifted beatboxer, was still in high school when she joined Citizen Queen as its first member. After only sending in a couple of videos to Hoying, Bramm and Ahmed, she was quickly chosen without an in-person audition. Even more impressive is that her beatboxing abilities are self-taught. “I don’t think I’ve met a group of people who are more different from each other, but that’s the beauty of it,” Nelson, the group’s soprano, said. “Musically, in personality, in what kind of things or experiences we’ve had in order to get to this point … it can’t be about competition when there’s so much to learn from each other.”  “When I saw them live for the first time … I was screaming because all five of them … come together, and their blend is so incredible,” Ellis said.  “I remember almost having a mental breakdown, if not one for sure, because it was so brutal and so hot …  It was supposed to be a continuous shot, so we had to nail every single scene, so there was a lot of reviewing things,” mezzo-soprano Mrozak said about the filming of the music video. “I think there was a moment in there where we were all like ‘Is this even worth it?’ But then we all ended up realizing very quickly that this is what we want to do with our lives, you have to put in the work … but it’s the finished project that counts. We were so happy with it … and I remember we saw the views just go up and up and up, and we were genuinely taken aback.” Tyler Ellis, a 2020 graduate, had been close friends with Nelson since his freshman year when he was able to see Citizen Queen twice on its first tour. He described how he knew Citizen Queen had untapped potential after observing the members’ powerful stage presence. “For me, it was beneficial to just be in that setting of being on tour and sound checking every night and being on the road and being in a tour bus with all of these people,” alto Sharve’ said. “It’s just getting us prepared for what’s to come, and I’m believing [in] great things.”  Unstoppable is exactly how members of Citizen Queen want their listeners to feel. Their mission is to empower women and help every girl listener realize that they have a queen living inside of them, which is precisely how they came up with the name Citizen Queen, according to Dalley. Whether it’s because of their different cultural backgrounds or their diverse life experiences, the women hope that any listener can identify with at least one member of the group. Once all the members were chosen, Citizen Queen’s spark came to life at an Airbnb in L.A. where they recorded four fully produced songs and music videos in one week. The women faced obstacles right off the bat: Mrozak had strep throat, Isabel was sick and ants had infested their living space, Nelson said. Despite these hurdles, the group’s dynamic was magnetic; this was their first time collaborating in any way, shape or form. To their delight, not only did the women have unimaginable chemistry but their first projects were well-received. Their most popular video to date, “Evolution of Girl Groups,” has accumulated more than 18 million views. Beginning in 1954 with The Chordettes and ending in 2014 with Fifth Harmony, Citizen Queen takes us on a seamless journey through legendary hits of past and present girl groups. The concept of the video is wildly creative and was difficult to compose and choreograph. Nina Nelson, Kaedi Dalley, Hannah Mrozak, Cora Isabel and Kaylah Sharve’ compose Citizen Queen. They’ve already stunned millions of viewers on YouTube with their perfect harmony and created magic on stage during their first tour as openers for Pentatonix. It’s shocking to learn that they were complete strangers before the group’s founding, aside from Nelson and Sharve’, who both graduated from USC and were members of the SoCal VoCals, the University’s oldest a cappella group.last_img read more