In our latest report, we analyse the key trends within the ESG competitive landscape.
- Using our proprietary advertising tool Fundamental Monitor, we tracked and analysed ESG advertising activity across 5 key European markets; UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain since the beginning of 2018.
- We researched in more detail the activity of the advertisers that were recalled (unprompted) for their perceived association with ESG by the respondents (Fund Selectors, Portfolio Managers and Financial Advisers) who took part in the Fundamental Media Global Brand Survey (2018).
- We examined the recent campaigns of all major advertisers in these 5 markets to judge their level of ESG focused activity.
ESG Investing: Global assets under management 2016-2018
- Across these 5 key regions, total sustainable investing assets increased by an average of 34% in the two years between 2016 and 2018.
- All market indications are that the speed of the rise in sustainable investing is increasing.
- As a region, Europe is the largest investor in this area, exceeding the levels seen in North America.
ESG Investing flows, trends and prediction
Our research highlighted the following:
Flows into ESG funds are surging*
- BlackRock, the world’s largest investment group, has predicted that flows into ESG funds in general will rise to $400bn over the next decade.
- Focusing purely on ESG and socially responsible ETFs, EPFR Global (a company that monitors fund flow and asset allocation) reports that flows into these funds have increased more than six-fold in the last three years from approximately $4bn in 2016 to $26bn in 2019.
There remains an air of uncertainty over the best approach to ESG investing**
- Across Europe, companies and individuals are keen to integrate ESG practices into their overall investment strategies, but are unsure about the implications.
- Different countries are at different stages in terms of ESG maturity, but even the most advanced (such as the UK) are at an early stage of development.
- Governance is widely seen to be the area where integration of ESG into investment strategies is most advanced, with environmental and social issues some way behind but catching up.
The broad perception is increasingly that “something must be done!”***
- Some surveys suggest that up to one quarter of professionally managed investment assets globally are in the ESG sphere, from a base of zero in 2004.
- A study has shown that 36% of C-Suite and board members surveyed “indicated that investor pressure had increased the company’s focus on ESG.”
- A further poll showed that 75% of 1,000 individual investors confirmed that “they are interested in sustainable investing and adopting its principles as part of their strategy and 71% believe companies that focus on the environment and social goals will earn better returns.”
*Source: “Europe leads the $31tn charge on sustainable investing” –Richard Henderson, FT, June 1st 2019**Source: “ESG integration in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa: Markets, practices and data” –PRI report, March 18th2019***Source: “The Rise of Responsible Investment” -KPMG6
Key ESG advertisers
- Of the five markets examined here, the UK has the largest number of asset manager advertisers actively promoting their ESG credentials, with at least 11 different prominent advertisers.
- Germany, France, Italy and Spain have seen 7-9 different advertisers in the space in recent months.
- The highest advertising volumes were seen from Amundi AM in Italy and they were the only advertiser with more than 10M impressions in a single market explicitly promoting ESG since the beginning of 2018.
- Amundi AM were one of two advertisers active in all five markets, the other being Clearbridge.
- A further three; NN Investment Partners, Nordea and Pictet AM all had paid for ESG media in four of the five markets.
- Several groups, such as Candriam IG, Jupiter AM and LGIM were found to have well established ESG and SRI credentials despite not having been active in terms of paid for media.
- For a few of the advertisers, ESG is the main (and in some cases only) focus, e.g: Clearbridge across all markets, Robeco where they are active, Nordea in the UK, Pictet AM in Germany.
- However, for the majority, while ESG is clearly important (and it is now rare to find any asset manager that does not at the very least allude to having a defined policy in the area) it only represents a fraction of their paid-for activity.
- There are fewer asset managers actively promoting ESG in Europe than might be expected, given its current ubiquity in headlines across media in all markets. There are clearly opportunities for advertisers with good brand recognition to stamp their authority on ESG messaging across Europe.
- The UK had the most number of active ESG advertisers than in any other countries but there is no evidence that any one asset manager has truly “owned” the space.
- The highest unprompted brand recognition score was only 9% (achieved by Liontrust and Royal London) groups that have not particularly pushed their ESG credentials.
- Given that the UK is seen as being more advanced in terms of ESG strategies than most other countries in Europe, with a higher proportion of investors ready to look seriously at the opportunities, this market could be successfully targeted.
- As a market Germany appears particularly ripe for ESG advertising.
- The only group that garnered a high percentage of unprompted recognition in the Global Brand Survey, Ökoworld are very niche and do not appear to have advertised anywhere. Compared to the overall size of the asset management market, advertising volumes are low.
- Four groups that gained some recognition in the Global Brand Survey were Nordea, Amundi AM, Pictet AM and Robeco who conducted advertising campaigns in Germany, but of these only Nordea pushed hard with a significant volume.
- France shows parallels to the picture in Germany with one specialist group, Sycomore AM dominating in terms of brand recognition.
- Other asset managers, even those such as Amundi AM with clearly defined ESG messaging, have only flirted with this market.
- Amundi AM aside, Italy has shown very low volumes in ESG advertising compared to the still moderate volumes seen in the other markets.
- Our Global Brand Survey data indicated that no groups are showing strong, unprompted brand recognition for ESG.
- Pictet AM achieved the best brand recall among our respondents at just 9%.
- Spain is the one country here with a clear leader, Robeco, in terms of ESG brand recognition, perceived approach and advertising effort.
- However other groups have also attempted to raise their ESG profiles.
Creativity and messaging overview
In terms of creative messaging, there are two distinct groups: those that have employed their usual branding and have simply bolted on a message about ESG (e.g. Amundi AM, NN IP, AXA IM) and those that have taken a deeper approach, with clear “green” imagery in their ESG advertising (e.g. Schroders, Pictet AM, Nordea).
- In all cases, the messaging has been straightforward along the lines of; trust our credentials, we understand environmental and social concerns, investing in this way will reap positive financial rewards as well as being better for everyone.
- For all groups, strategy in messaging has also been very simple: more than half simply sought to associate their brand with ESG via an oft repeated slogan; the remainder attempted to demonstrate their credentials via insightful thought leadership pieces (the most prominent being Aviva Investors and Robeco); only one example of an overt ESG fund promotion with no associated brand message could be found from Gravis.
- An opportunity for stand out would be with a multi-message campaign, showing credentials across the ESG sphere. There is little evidence to date of any major campaigns that feature complementary, evidence based claims about the advertiser’s commitment to different areas of ESG. Developed insights into more than one area of interest for investors encouraging them to push further into the field along with practical product examples could help. Only specialists such as Ökoworld in Germany and Sycomore AM in France present all of these facets, but their strategies do not include paid-for media campaigns.
Want to know more?
This report only covers the highlights of our research. For more information on brand recall, perception of the ESG credentials of individual asset managers, their detailed ESG advertising volumes by country please contact your Fundamental Media media representative.