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Sparinvest S.A.

PRI reporting framework 2017

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You are in Direct - Fixed Income » ESG incorporation in actively managed fixed income » (C) Implementation: Integration

(C) Implementation: Integration

FI 14. Integration overview

14.1. Describe your approach to integrating ESG into traditional financial analysis.

The formal consideration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk factors has been fully integrated into the investment process of the Group's Corporate Value Bonds Team. Specifically, ESG risk considerations are included in the analysis phase of the Value Bonds investment process and taken into account in every on-going investment update. This is designed to strengthen portfolios by minimizing exposure to potential ESG downside risk. The investment process for Sparinvest's range of value bond portfolios is essentially that ESG factors are incorporated into the investment process on an equal footing with traditional financial data; and, as with the financial key metrics, environmental, social and governance issues are part of the investment process 'check list'. All potential targets must meet the criteria of the check list before becoming eligible for investment.

14.2. Describe how your ESG integration approach is adapted to each of the different types of fixed income you invest in.

SSA

From a fiduciary perspective, we believe that the G part of ESG analysis is of paramount importance when investing in Sovereigns because a well-governed country is more likely to establish a sound and long-term financial balance, hence also the basis for repaying its debts. Good governance also is essential to the successful development of an economy, as well as its ability to protect its citizens and environment, therefore good governance permits good ESG behaviour. On a country level we believe the all the factors to be very closely correlated, but with the main driver being the 'G'.

The formal consideration of governance risk factors is integrated in - and considered a vital part of - the investment process for Sparinvest's range of passive funds investing in sovereigns.

In previous internal studies, Sparinvest has found that the World Governance Indicators have explanatory powers regarding historic returns on sovereigns. Therefore the World Governance Indicators are used as input. More than 200 countries are analysed annually on key metrics, focusing on government/regulatory governance and human rights ('S') in particular. Specifically, countries are ranked according to:

  • Voice and Accountability,
  • Political Stability and Absence of Violence,
  • Government Effectiveness,
  • Regulatory Quality,
  • Rule of Law,
  • Control of Corruption.

However, the World Governance Indicators are retrospective and there is a built in time-lag in the data. Therefore, in order to keep up to date with more immediate potential sovereign risk factors, Sparinvest makes adjustments on the basis of other, more forward looking, data - including broker and Press reports - which cover the same governance factors, as well as elections and political cycles. Such factors are included alongside other relevant risk measures when evaluating the credit spread.

Corporate (financial)

In its Responsible Investment policy, Sparinvest does not differentiate between financial and non-financial corporate bonds. We apply the same methodical investment process to all our corporate bond investments. We aim to strengthen portfolios by minimizing exposure to downside risk. Thus, consideration of environmental, social and governance issues is part of our fundamental credit analysis process. Our customized 'red flags'- investment check list includes ESG metrics alongside traditional financial key metrics.

We believe that potential governance problems form the most severe risk to credit investors, and thus it is our clear fiduciary duty to focus on identifying these prior to investment. The 'red flags' are designed to pick up - for example - allegations of fraud, frequent/recent changes of management, board members or of auditors. Our conservative approach to risk means that even where such information is as yet unverified, it is still taken into consideration and duly noted on case files.

We prioritize governance risks for both fiduciary and practical reasons. Given the shorter term investment period typically involved with Corporate Bonds, and the fact that bondholders do not have a right to vote on Management proposals at AGMs, there is potentially less time available and less leverage available for bond investors to influence portfolio companies. For this reason, Sparinvest believes that it is prudent to consider adequate governance as a basic prerequisite for a company to be able to focus on and improve its environmental and social credentials.

This does not mean that we ignore research information on environmental and social issues. Indeed, one of our checklist items requires that all 3rd party ESG research information should have been analyzed prior to investment. This has resulted in target companies failing our adequate compensation-for-risk requirement on grounds other than governance risk. It should also be noted that our corporate bonds engagement activities cover environmental, social and governance matters.

Corporate (non-financial)

In its Responsible Investment policy, Sparinvest does not differentiate between financial and non-financial corporate bonds. We apply the same methodical investment process to all our corporate bond investments. We aim to strengthen portfolios by minimizing exposure to downside risk. Thus, consideration of environmental, social and governance issues is part of our fundamental credit analysis process. Our customized 'red flags'- investment check list includes ESG metrics alongside traditional financial key metrics.

We believe that potential governance problems form the most severe risk to credit investors, and thus it is our clear fiduciary duty to focus on identifying these prior to investment. The 'red flags' are designed to pick up - for example - allegations of fraud, frequent/recent changes of management, board members or of auditors. Our conservative approach to risk means that even where such information is as yet unverified, it is still taken into consideration and duly noted on case files.

We prioritize governance risks for both fiduciary and practical reasons. Given the shorter term investment period typically involved with Corporate Bonds, and the fact that bondholders do not have a right to vote on Management proposals at AGMs, there is potentially less time available and less leverage available for bond investors to influence portfolio companies. For this reason, Sparinvest believes that it is prudent to consider adequate governance as a basic prerequisite for a company to be able to focus on and improve its environmental and social credentials.

This does not mean that we ignore research information on environmental and social issues. Indeed, one of our checklist items requires that all 3rd party ESG research information should have been analyzed prior to investment. This has resulted in target companies failing our adequate compensation-for-risk requirement on grounds other than governance risk. It should also be noted that our corporate bonds engagement activities cover environmental, social and governance matters.

Securitised

Sparinvest’s investments in covered/securitized bonds is currently restricted to a universe consisting entirely of Nordic covered bonds, as well as government bonds. These issuers are subject to rigorous regulatory requirements and strong governance systems operating in nations with strong environmental and social legislation. The majority of the securitized bonds held are part of the Danish covered bond system.

The Danish covered bond system is perceived as the most sustainable method for financing property purchase yet invented. In the wake of the sub-prime lending induced crisis of 2007-8 it was held up as a shining example of what a well-conducted mortgage market should look like. In more than two centuries of existence, there has never been a default on a Danish mortgage bond - which is probably attributable to the following factors:

Any entity wishing to issue mortgages in Denmark must meet rigorous regulatory requirements. Mortgage issuers are required to retain all the credit risk on their own books and to perform the servicing functions. Mortgages are funded by the issuance of transparent, standardized bonds, creating a large and liquid market that offers considerable attractions for risk averse investors in search of decent returns. Under the 'Balance Principle', every Danish mortgage is instantly converted into a security, valued at same amount, and the two remain interchangeable at all times. This is especially relevant for 30-year callable mortgage loans that homeowners can retire either by paying them off at par, or by buying an equivalent face amount of bonds at market price.

Because the value of homes, and the associated mortgage bonds, tend to move in the same direction, homeowners have some protection of their equity. In other words, if home prices decline as a result of higher interest rates, the amount that the homeowner must spend to retire a mortgage decreases because the bonds can be bought at lower prices.

Regardless of the above, we still conduct the same detailed and exhaustive assessment of the issuers standards and procedures in dealing with ESG related issues.

14.3. Additional information [OPTIONAL]


FI 15. Integration - ESG information in investment processes

15.1. Indicate how ESG information is typically used as part of your investment process.

Select all that apply
SSA
Corporate (financial)
Corporate (non-financial)
Securitised
ESG analysis is integrated into fundamental analysis
ESG analysis is integrated into security weighting decisions
ESG analysis is integrated into portfolio construction decisions
ESG analysis is a standard part of internal credit ratings or assessment
ESG analysis for issuers is a standard agenda item at investment committee meetings
ESG analysis is regularly featured in internal research notes or similar
ESG analysis is a standard feature of ongoing portfolio monitoring
ESG analysis features in all internal issuer summaries or similar documents
Other, specify

15.2. Additional information [OPTIONAL]


FI 16. Integration - E,S and G issues reviewed

16.1. Indicate the extent to which ESG issues are reviewed in your integration process.

Environment
Social
Governance
SSA

Environmental

Social

Governance

Corporate (financial)

Environmental

Social

Governance

Corporate (non-financial)

Environmental

Social

Governance

Securitised

Environmental

Social

Governance

16.2. Please provide more detail on how you review E, S and G factors in your integration process.

SSA

From a fiduciary perspective, we believe that the G part of ESG analysis is of paramount importance when investing in Sovereigns because a well-governed country is more likely to establish a sound and long-term financial balance, hence also the basis for repaying its debts. Good governance also is essential to the successful development of an economy, as well as its ability to protect its citizens and environment, therefore good governance permits good ESG behaviour. On a country level we believe the all the factors to be very closely correlated, but with the main driver being the 'G'.

The formal consideration of governance risk factors is integrated in - and considered a vital part of - the investment process for Sparinvest's range of passive funds investing in sovereigns.

In previous internal studies, Sparinvest has found that the World Governance Indicators have explanatory powers regarding historic returns on sovereigns. Therefore the World Governance Indicators are used as input. More than 200 countries are analysed annually on key metrics, focusing on government/regulatory governance and human rights ('S') in particular. Specifically, countries are ranked according to:

  • Voice and Accountability,
  • Political Stability and Absence of Violence,
  • Government Effectiveness,
  • Regulatory Quality,
  • Rule of Law,
  • Control of Corruption.

However, the World Governance Indicators are retrospective and there is a built in time-lag in the data. Therefore, in order to keep up to date with more immediate potential sovereign risk factors, Sparinvest makes adjustments on the basis of other, more forward looking, data - including broker and Press reports - which cover the same governance factors, as well as elections and political cycles. Such factors are included alongside other relevant risk measures when evaluating the credit spread.

Corporate (financial)

In its Responsible Investment policy, Sparinvest does not differentiate between financial and non-financial corporate bonds. We apply the same methodical investment process to all our corporate bond investments. We aim to strengthen portfolios by minimizing exposure to downside risk. Thus, consideration of environmental, social and governance issues is part of our fundamental credit analysis process. Our customized 'red flags'- investment check list includes ESG metrics alongside traditional financial key metrics.

We believe that potential governance problems form the most severe risk to credit investors, and thus it is our clear fiduciary duty to focus on identifying these prior to investment. The 'red flags' are designed to pick up - for example - allegations of fraud, frequent/recent changes of management, board members or of auditors. Our conservative approach to risk means that even where such information is as yet unverified, it is still taken into consideration and duly noted on case files.

We prioritize governance risks for both fiduciary and practical reasons. Given the shorter term investment period typically involved with Corporate Bonds, and the fact that bondholders do not have a right to vote on Management proposals at AGMs, there is potentially less time available and less leverage available for bond investors to influence portfolio companies. For this reason, Sparinvest believes that it is prudent to consider adequate governance as a basic prerequisite for a company to be able to focus on and improve its environmental and social credentials.

This does not mean that we ignore research information on environmental and social issues. Indeed, one of our checklist items requires that all 3rd party ESG research information should have been analyzed prior to investment. This has resulted in target companies failing our adequate compensation-for-risk requirement on grounds other than governance risk. It should also be noted that our corporate bonds engagement activities cover environmental, social and governance matters.

Corporate (non-financial)

In its Responsible Investment policy, Sparinvest does not differentiate between financial and non-financial corporate bonds. We apply the same methodical investment process to all our corporate bond investments. We aim to strengthen portfolios by minimizing exposure to downside risk. Thus, consideration of environmental, social and governance issues is part of our fundamental credit analysis process. Our customized 'red flags'- investment check list includes ESG metrics alongside traditional financial key metrics.

We believe that potential governance problems form the most severe risk to credit investors, and thus it is our clear fiduciary duty to focus on identifying these prior to investment. The 'red flags' are designed to pick up - for example - allegations of fraud, frequent/recent changes of management, board members or of auditors. Our conservative approach to risk means that even where such information is as yet unverified, it is still taken into consideration and duly noted on case files.

We prioritize governance risks for both fiduciary and practical reasons. Given the shorter term investment period typically involved with Corporate Bonds, and the fact that bondholders do not have a right to vote on Management proposals at AGMs, there is potentially less time available and less leverage available for bond investors to influence portfolio companies. For this reason, Sparinvest believes that it is prudent to consider adequate governance as a basic prerequisite for a company to be able to focus on and improve its environmental and social credentials.

This does not mean that we ignore research information on environmental and social issues. Indeed, one of our checklist items requires that all 3rd party ESG research information should have been analyzed prior to investment. This has resulted in target companies failing our adequate compensation-for-risk requirement on grounds other than governance risk. It should also be noted that our corporate bonds engagement activities cover environmental, social and governance matters.

Securitised

Sparinvest’s investments in covered/securitized bonds is currently restricted to a universe consisting entirely of Nordic covered bonds, as well as government bonds. These issuers are subject to rigorous regulatory requirements and strong governance systems operating in nations with strong environmental and social legislation. The majority of the securitized bonds held are part of the Danish covered bond system.

The Danish covered bond system is perceived as the most sustainable method for financing property purchase yet invented. In the wake of the sub-prime lending induced crisis of 2007-8 it was held up as a shining example of what a well-conducted mortgage market should look like. In more than two centuries of existence, there has never been a default on a Danish mortgage bond - which is probably attributable to the following factors:

Any entity wishing to issue mortgages in Denmark must meet rigorous regulatory requirements. Mortgage issuers are required to retain all the credit risk on their own books and to perform the servicing functions. Mortgages are funded by the issuance of transparent, standardized bonds, creating a large and liquid market that offers considerable attractions for risk averse investors in search of decent returns. Under the 'Balance Principle', every Danish mortgage is instantly converted into a security, valued at same amount, and the two remain interchangeable at all times. This is especially relevant for 30-year callable mortgage loans that homeowners can retire either by paying them off at par, or by buying an equivalent face amount of bonds at market price.

Because the value of homes, and the associated mortgage bonds, tend to move in the same direction, homeowners have some protection of their equity. In other words, if home prices decline as a result of higher interest rates, the amount that the homeowner must spend to retire a mortgage decreases because the bonds can be bought at lower prices.

Regardless of the above, we still conduct the same detailed and exhaustive assessment of the issuers standards and procedures in dealing with ESG related issues.

16.3. Additional information.[OPTIONAL]


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