Since last May, Birdee also offers a selection of responsible investment portfolios consisting of funds that only invest in companies that meet certain criteria regarding good practices, environment and governance. Geoffroy de Schrevel, CEO of Birdee, tells us why they decided to integrate this kind of portfolios into their portfolio offer.
Birdee has decided to also offer a range of portfolios exclusively consisting of SRI labelled funds. Why is this choice so important?
We are convinced that it is in the interest of all of us that investments are “socially responsible”. We believe in the values that this label reflects, and we also think that Birdee, as an intermediary between the financial world and the public, has a role to play to develop a more virtuous financial world. It is a choice for the future. The value of an investment is much more than its mere return. There are more and more investors who are no longer putting their personal interests first and are looking for investments that have a positive effect on the world around them. This is even truer for the Millennials. Several studies have pointed out their deep interest in this kind of investments.
How did you select the funds?
With the help of our partner company TrackInsight, we first carried out an in-depth analysis and monitoring of the market. Next, we selected a range of SIR labelled ETFs that met our criteria, more in specific in terms of management. To ensure the diversification of our portfolios, we submitted these trackers to a relevance analysis. This is a very challenging work that had to be performed in a thorough way. So, it took several weeks to have it completed.
ESG, ISR… There are so many standards. How can one still find his way through all these labels?
“ESG” stands for “Environmental, Social and Governance”. ESG labelled investments select the highest ranked companies in terms of environment, social behavior and governance. These companies are selected because they consider their polluting emissions, comply with labor law or ensure the quality of their management. “SRI” labelled investments may even go a step further by excluding funds linked to the sale of tobacco products or arms, or terrorist-related activities. Our portfolios consist of a mix of all these criteria, each one having equal importance. It is key to support all the initiatives trying to bring finance and ethical behavior closer together.
Why is socially responsible investing so important for Millennials?
Most of our team members are young people between 20 and 30 years old, so they belong to this generation. Millennials want to identify themselves with certain values. But at the same time, they are not always listening to good advice, even in matters that they are not familiar with. According to a study conducted by the American Bankers Association (ABA), 71% of them rather pay a visit to their dentist than go see their bank manager. They have a real “cool” attitude toward life in general, but they are also worrying about money. In addition, they are very much aware of the impact that their current actions might have on the future of their children. Our SRI portfolios try to deal with all these concerns.
In the past, socially responsible investments have often been considered as “greenwashing” ...
Being cynical or thinking in black and white is really not our style. Indeed, the SIR and ESG labels are far from perfect, and I am not saying that we are entirely happy with them. But what shall we do then? Just wait and see and do nothing in the meantime? That is not the way we see things. In everyday consumption, the purchase actions of a citizen are as important as the vote he casts. The same applies when it comes to investments. The way we invest our money also contributes to shaping the world of tomorrow.
Are you going to develop more of these portfolios?
Our objective is to offer portfolios that only consist of ESG labelled funds. But to fulfill that ambition, we have to rely on the availability of those funds. This is an issue we often raise with the fund companies we are working with. I am quite optimistic in this respect; the market is moving in the right direction.
And what about Birdee itself? How does it implement its social commitments?
All our actions are about using the money of our clients to build a better future, for our users in the first place, but also for our planet. We do our utmost to implement this approach in our daily operations. We recently moved to a new office building located in the midst of an “ocean” of about 1,200 solar panels. We also recover a maximum of the heat generated by our servers. We adopt a proactive recruitment policy in terms of diversity. Our team members represent more than 10 different nationalities. This is a major advantage with regard to innovation and international development, but also a powerful asset that enriches our daily in-house activities.