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Alliance Bernstein

PRI reporting framework 2019

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Investment policy

SG 01. RI policy and coverage

New selection options have been added to this indicator. Please review your prefilled responses carefully.

01.1. Indicate if you have an investment policy that covers your responsible investment approach.

01.2. Indicate the components/types and coverage of your policy.

Select all that apply

Policy components/types

Coverage by AUM

01.3. Indicate if the investment policy covers any of the following

01.4. Describe your organisation’s investment principles and overall investment strategy, interpretation of fiduciary (or equivalent) duties,and how they consider ESG factors and real economy impact.

AB provides diversified investment management services to institutional, high-net-worth and retail investors around the world. Our mission is to bring together a wide range of insights, expertise and innovations to advance the interests of our clients. We put our insights to work in a broad range of solutions-equity, fixed income, alternatives and multi-asset - and seek to apply our collective insights to help keep AB clients at the forefront of change and ahead of tomorrow. AB is singularly focused on asset management and research, which we believe helps us maintain a highly effective investment organization with a culture that exists solely to benefit our asset management clients. We evaluate ESG issues and the impact they can have on our clients' financial interests. AB is committed to responsible investment and believe that evaluating all factors that can impact an investment including ESG is part of our fiduciary obligation. 

01.5. Provide a brief description of the key elements, any variations or exceptions to your investment policy that covers your responsible investment approach. [Optional]

AB as a firm embraces a clear responsible investment philosophy and approach. Each of our various portfolio management teams implements that philosophy and approach slightly differently across asset classes and strategies. We believe that each team is best equipped to implement ESG considerations in a manner that reflects their differences across asset classes, market sectors and approaches.

In addition to ESG integration, we manage portfolios where we apply negative and positive screens based on client request, and have launched several products that have specific responsible investment objectives. For example, in 2014 we introduced the Next 50 Frontier Markets Fund which strives to adhere to the IFC Performance Standards by deploying intensive fundamental research with a sharp focus on ESG issues to build a diversified stock portfolio with high growth potential and attractive valuations. In 2016, we introduced the AB Municipal Impact strategy, which builds on AB's municipal credit expertise to invest in bonds in underserved communities and whose proceeds have a positive social and/or environmental impact, and a Responsible Global Factor Fund that invests in global equity securities that meet certain ESG criteria. In November 2016, our AB Global Thematic Growth Fund (US Mutual Fund) evolved from a global thematic growth strategy to the AB Sustainable Global 25 Thematic Fund. We also have other equity and fixed income responsible investment strategies in various stages of product development. In 2018, we launched Portfolios with Purpose for our private client business and a Green Alpha strategy. We expect some to be released in 2019, including a Sustainable Global Thematic Credit Strategy that will invest in a combination of green bonds and other bonds (primarily non-government) that our researchers consider to be sustainable. 

AB also manages a number of strategies where ESG integration is not applicable due to the nature of the investment. For example, ESG factors are generally not integrated in our quant driven products, passively managed accounts, fund-of-fund products, and strategies with high portfolio turnover. 

01.6. Additional information [Optional].

          
        
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SG 01 CC. Climate risk

01.6 CC. Indicate the climate-related risks and opportunities that have been identified and factored into the investment strategies and products, within the organisation's investment time horizon.

Our approach is to integrate the assessment of climate change risks into our fundamental investment research process.

Our fundamental analysts evaluate climate-related risks by focusing on reported climate strategy, the political and regulatory backdrop, potential environmental liabilities and greenhouse gas emissions. Our analysts then determine short-, medium- and long-term risks and opportunities. Climate-related disclosures are essential in this evaluation. However, it can be challenging to assess carbon risk, given the general lack of reporting standards and transparency. In an effort to gain insight, we regularly engage with issuers on these issues, in addition to reviewing related reporting.

Our CIOs and portfolio managers are ultimately responsible for ensuring that climate-related issues are addressed by analysts. Several of our CIOs seek investment opportunities in issuers that are focusing on addressing climate issues, including investing in renewable energy and projects that support a transition to a low-carbon economy. We subscribe to MSCI's Carbon Metrics data tool, which helps us evaluate the issuers in our portfolios and measure the carbon footprint. We address issuers’ carbon footprint in two ways: (1) engaging with issuers to understand their strategy for moving to a low carbon economy and; (2) when working with clients to develop solutions for their specific requirements. Unless directed by clients or investment strategies that have specific climate-related objectives, portfolios are generally not managed with the objective of reducing the carbon metric.

AB manages some strategies for which ESG integration, including climate change analysis, is not applicable due to the nature of the investment. For example, ESG factors are generally not integrated in our quantitative-driven products, passively managed accounts, fund-of-funds products or strategies with high portfolio turnover.

 

01.7 CC. Indicate whether the organisation has assessed the likelihood and impact of these climate risks?

01.8 CC. Indicate the associated timescales linked to these risks and opportunities.

The time horizon of climate risk varies by investment and will depend on a variety of factors.

01.9 CC. Indicate whether the organisation publicly supports the TCFD?

01.10 CC. Indicate whether there is an organisation-wide strategy in place to identify and manage material climate-related risks and opportunities.

01.11 CC. Describe how and over what time frame the organisation will implement an organisation-wide strategy that manages climate-related risks and opportunities.

In 2018, we began discussions with a leading academic institution to develop a climate risk educational curriculum for our investment professionals. In early 2019, we had the first training session and are working on building out that curriculum. In addition, with the launch of our ESG research tools in equities and fixed income, our analysts will have a more standard framework to assess these risks. We expect to have a formal strategy in place over the next 12-18 months.  

1.12 CC. Indicate the documents and/or communications the organisation uses to publish TCFD disclosures.


SG 02. Publicly available RI policy or guidance documents

New selection options have been added to this indicator. Please review your prefilled responses carefully.

02.1. Indicate which of your investment policy documents (if any) are publicly available. Provide a URL and an attachment of the document.

URL/Attachment

02.2. Indicate if any of your investment policy components are publicly available. Provide URL and an attachment of the document.

02.3. Additional information [Optional].


SG 03. Conflicts of interest

03.1. Indicate if your organisation has a policy on managing potential conflicts of interest in the investment process.

03.2. Describe your policy on managing potential conflicts of interest in the investment process.

As a fiduciary, we owe our clients an undivided duty of care. We strive to avoid even the appearance of a conflict that may compromise the trust our clients have placed in us, and we insist on strict adherence to fiduciary standards and compliance with all applicable federal and state securities laws. We place the interests of our clients first and attempt to avoid any actual or potential conflicts of interest. It is the responsibility of every employee to be sensitive to situations and relationships which may create conflicts of interest and bring any related questions or concerns to the Chief Compliance Officer or Conflicts Officer. AB maintains a Code of Business Conduct and Ethics (the "Code") that complies with Rule 17j-1 under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended, and Rule 204A-1 under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The Code summarizes our firm's values, principles, and business practices that guide our business conduct. It establishes a set of basic principles to guide all employees, including directors and consultants, where applicable. 

03.3. Additional information. [Optional]

The sections in Our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics that relate to conflicts of interest include: • Conflicts of interest • Personal trading • Gifts, entertainment and inducements • Political contributions/activities

Summaries of Key Policies: Conflicts of Interest: AB has taken several steps to reduce or eliminate potential conflicts of interest that may arise, including: 1) We do not trade securities on a proprietary basis or act as an underwriter, and do not trade fixed income securities through affiliated brokers. Permanent information barriers separate the activities of AllianceBernstein from Sanford C. Bernstein. 2) We impose trading restrictions on our employees, including requiring them to maintain personal brokerage accounts with one of five designated brokerage firms, to pre-clear all personal securities transactions, and to report each transaction to Compliance personnel. All employees are forbidden to trade, either personally or on behalf of others, on material non-public information or communicating material non-public information to others in violation of the law. 3) We maintain a Code of Ethics, distributed and acknowledged by employees at least annually, that includes provisions concerning personal trading, gifts and entertainment. 4) We have a Conflicts Officer who chairs our Conflicts Committee, comprised of senior members of the Legal and Compliance Department.

Personal Trading Policy: Some (but not all) of the restrictions that apply to personal trading by AB employees, their immediate family members and other financial dependents include: 1) Employees must disclose all of their securities accounts to the Legal and Compliance department; 2) Absent an exception, employees may maintain securities accounts only at specified designated broker-dealers; 3) Employees must pre-clear all securities trades with the Legal and Compliance department prior to placing trades with their broker-dealer (prior supervisory approval is required for portfolio managers, research analysts, traders, persons with access to AB research, and others designated by the Legal and Compliance department); 4) Employees are limited to twenty trades in individual securities during any rolling thirty calendar-day period; 5) Employee purchases of individual securities, ETFs and closed-end mutual funds are subject to a 60-day holding period; and 6) Employees must submit initial and annual holding reports, disclosing all securities and holdings in mutual funds managed by AB held in personal accounts, and must, on a quarterly basis, submit or confirm reports identifying all transactions in securities (and mutual funds managed by AB) in personal accounts.

Gifts and Entertainment: Our Gifts and Entertainment policy for all AB employees sets out clear standards of conduct expected of employees. It stresses the importance of mitigating even the potential perception that their acts may be in violation of not only our Gifts and Entertainment Policy but domestic and international laws as well. Among other stipulations, under our Gifts and Entertainment Policy our employees are prohibited from: 1) accepting, for themselves or their family/friends, cash, cash equivalents (e.g., gift cards, gift certificates, etc.), or preferential discounts from current or potential vendors or service providers. Similarly, they may not give such items to clients, and 2) accepting (or giving to clients) noncash business gifts from any one vendor or service provider that exceeds $100 USD in value during a calendar year. All gifts received exceeding $50 USD in value must be reported to our Compliance Department.

Political Contributions and Activities: AB has developed policies that prohibit our employees from making, either directly or indirectly, any political contributions to candidates or organizations recommended by clients. The policies also include a requirement under which all employees must pre-clear with the Compliance Department, all personal political contributions (including those of their spouses and dependent children) made to, or solicited on behalf of, any state or local candidate or political party. We also have in place a separate Pay-to-Play policy specifically relating to SEC Rule 206(4)-5, which we can provide upon request.

Employees must confirm annually that they have disclosed any potential conflicts of interest and that they are in compliance with the requirements associated with the firm's Policy and Procedures for Giving and Receiving Gifts and Entertainment (including its requirement to pre-clear certain political contributions); and the requirements associated with the firm's Anti-Corruption Policy.

Compliance Manual: AB maintains a Compliance Manual for all employees that also provides policies on handling potential conflicts of interest. The key components included in our Compliance Manual that cover potential conflicts of interest in our investment process are: • Investment Guidelines for Services & Clients • Fair allocation of investment opportunities • Research activities • Best execution and brokerage allocation • Cross trades in discretionary accounts • Security transactions with AB affiliates • Proxy voting • Portfolio, market & performance manipulation • Beneficial ownership reporting • Daily restricted list preclearance


SG 04. Identifying incidents occurring within portfolios

04.1. Indicate if your organisation has a process for identifying and managing incidents that occur within portfolio companies.

04.2. Describe your process on managing incidents

It is the primary responsibility of our analysts to monitor issuers. If an ESG issue arises, the analyst will determine the potential magnitude and engage with the issuer and/or other stakeholders to determine the impact on the investment thesis. Based on that analysis, the CIO/PM will determine whether to hold or sell. If the position is continued to be held, the analyst will regularly monitor the situation, and how management has addressed it.


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