FundForum 2022: Meet Up to Change Up

May 26, 2022
  • Investor Services
Asset managers are facing increasingly rigorous regulatory scrutiny and fast paced technological change as they continue to grapple with market shifts. So when IMpower’s FundForum event called on senior industry leaders to share their collective experience and wisdom, they readily gathered to discuss the next phase of evolution. BBH's Janet Du Chenne reports on the main themes.

Key Takeaways:

  • ESG means different things to different people. Participants need more clarity on what to report, as well as help with the collection and organization of data and how to distribute it 
  • Knowing how to report those data points, and knowing what is mandatory, versus elective, are also key concerns for managers
  • Harmonizing the investor experience presents a huge opportunity for asset managers and will help to streamline data and optimize service delivery from a Transfer Agency perspective
  • To democratize private assets, a shift in technology landscape—beyond the standard STP trade instructions on which private markets platforms are based⁠—needs to happen
  • Despite the recent volatility, institutional investors are dramatically stepping up their use of exchange-traded funds (ETFs)

Now is the time. Given recent macro developments, there could hardly be a more fitting tagline for this year’s IMpower FundForum 2022. Asset managers are facing increased rigorous regulatory scrutiny, and fast paced technological change as they continue to grapple with market shifts ranging from the adoption of ESG to digital assets and heightened geopolitical risks. So, when the event called on over 1,000 senior industry leaders to share their collective experience and wisdom, they readily gathered to discuss the next phase of evolution.

A range of participants including asset managers, fund buyers, wealth managers, asset owners, family offices, institutional investors, private banks, and multi-family offices came together to hear from 350 expert speakers. Multiple streams tracked developments that have accelerated since the pandemic but need further action in this new investment landscape.

Chief among these is ESG and sustainability. Speakers discussed regulatory initiatives and expressed frustration at the lack of global standards for ESG measurement and reporting. The good news is that the next 12 months should spur further clarity and evolution.

Asset managers, fund buyers, wealth managers, asset owners, family offices, institutional investors, private banks, and multi-family offices attended FundForum to hear 350 speakers and empower change

Credit: Frank Noon (photographer) at and IMpower

Evolving ESG

According to Suresh Mistry at impact investment management business Alquity, the upcoming regulatory change will support the evolution of ESG from a tool to manage risk and return to a vehicle through which to achieve social change and climate impact. “We’re already seeing that with SFDR and the EU taxonomy, but I think that will move a little quicker over the next 12-18 months.”

The event answered a burning question on participants’ minds about regulation: how close are we towards the end of it and which way next? Some managers believe the industry is only at the start of its ESG regulatory journey: “We as an industry have only just established the regulatory environment, but we haven’t actually delivered it. Besides registering the article of the fund, we haven’t done any of the reporting. The change will be next year, when we all start reporting and people will find out what does SFDR 8 actually mean, for example, and how does the fund universe manage itself according to the taxonomy,” said Mistry.

Meanwhile, greenwashing avoidance using various tools and third-party ratings providers was a key topic at the event. During a Sustainability & Impact workshop, AJ Harper, Head of Sustainable Finance, ETFs, and Asset Managers, at market infrastructure provider Euroclear cited a recent Goldman Sachs1 ESG survey, which revealed raw granular data scores and ratings from third-party providers trump the overall scores. Secondly 45% of investors said the EU taxonomy is having little or no influence in their investment decisions. “The asset management community is looking for consistency in the data, and the underlying information that people can use when they take their products to market and defend the ESG component is important,” added Marina Corghenci, Global Head of Funds Relations at global digital fund distribution platform, MFEXbyEuroclear.

Dealing With the Data Challenge

Asset managers are also digging deeper into the reliability of the ESG data that they're using to perform the screening of securities. For instance, MYFEXbyEuroclear’s Greenomy sources data from specialized NGOs and different sources and provides meaningful context to enable those managers to report.  

Right now, one of the biggest challenges for asset managers is how they report the myriad of data points and knowing which of those data points are mandatory (such as SFDR and EU taxonomy) versus those which are elective (such as TCFD – Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures). “People are looking for a compass for the maze,” the audience heard. Data providers are increasingly helping to define templates that are standardized for the 1000 data points and provide the systems to ensure compliance with the regulations. 

A European ESG template (EET) solution also provides a digitalized view of the EU taxonomy and plugs into the front end of more than 2000 asset managers so they can begin recording data in their existing environment. 

Driving Business-wide Transformation to Net Zero

While these tools remain essential to ESG regulatory compliance, global sustainability investment leaders shared perspectives on how they are transforming their businesses for net zero. Margaret Franklin, CEO and President of the CFA Institute shared that engagement is the single most important activity to transition to portfolios by 2050. Unfortunately, industry short-termism remains a hurdle. “Many incentive schemes are down to the three-year mark which is paradoxical to sustainable performance measurement time horizons of five years. This barrier needs to be addressed,” she said.

CEOs are also focused on integrating sustainability across the whole investment process. For this to happen they need not only the data and the insights, but to make those impactful. Aviva Investors’ CEO Mark Versey shared how his firm is dealing with the challenge: “We need to enhance and enrich the data after buying it and that’s a very manual process today, so we’re taking country and company analysis and then creating sub-forums among portfolio managers so that each corporate can be discussed on financial and ESG milestones. Since sustainability is embedded throughout the process the portfolio managers themselves are becoming the ESG specialists,” he said.

Sonja Laud, CEO at Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), commented on how LGIM encourages investment teams to change their processes and take investment decisions on a far more holistic set of data points and KPIs before they put the money to work. This ensures financial materiality and ensures ESG is not just a nice to have but combines social aspects and financial returns. This she said, will emerge as the standard. “Separating your equity, fixed income and multi- asset teams will not get you the right outcome because getting an oil and gas company to net zero needs a varied set of expertise,” Laud remarked. LGIM has merged its credit and equity analysts and added its investment stewardship to global research and engagement teams to blend its expertise.

The audience walked away from the CEO panel with a list of takeaways on the path to net zero. Unsurprisingly, the first was getting all managers pledging to the goal (and thereby avoiding greenwashing). The second was ensuring products are labelled appropriately for consumers. Third was education, upskilling and reskilling the workforce and ensuring disclosures are transparent, reliable, and comparable. A fourth was better data and global standards.   

Leading the Transition to a Low Carbon Economy

Complementing the focus on business transformation, another panel of investment leaders shared how they are facilitating the transition to a low carbon economy and set out their future roles. NinetyOne’s Co-CIO Mimi Ferrini opined that helping companies transition requires “good old fashioned active investment management.” “Everyone is waiting for perfect data and it’s not going to happen, particularly in the emerging world. It takes courage. We’re stepping towards emerging market companies and working with them in their transition plans to make an impact.”

Transitioning to a low carbon economy. Leaders from NinetyOne, BNP Paribas, Candrium and the London Stock Exchange set out their organizations’ roles for the year ahead

Credit: Frank Noon (photographer) at and IMpower

These leaders debated whether regulation runs the risk of being a tick box exercise without recognizing that managers have already retreated from many of the high emission sectors they invested in five years ago. “The point is that we only get to net zero and stay there if the entirety of the economy moves on,” said Julia Hoggett, CEO of the London Stock Exchange. “So that’s every asset on the exchange and understanding the impact of every stock.”

However, some believe regulation has already had an impact on performance. BNP Paribas Asset Management CEO Sandro Pierri observed that with SFDR, the manager’s Article 8 and 9 funds are outpacing any other product by a significant margin (20% growth versus 2% growth).

But nuances remain as the transition doesn’t happen in a straight line with regulation. “Sometimes emissions need to go up before they go down,” noted Ferrini. “So, we need to work with regulators, consultants, clients and advisors on how these buckets are defined because at the moment it’s either in a public or private bucket, or a green or brown bucket and the taxonomy is punitive to anything with a high emission.”

In summary, panelists provided an outlook for what the world of sustainable investing will look like in 25- years’ time. They foretold that ESG integration will be standard, and that the quality of data will be vastly improved thereby ensuring total transparency.

Creating and Distributing Actionable Insights

Given the complexity of ESG data, the organization of that data to enable the delivery of clear information to clients continued into the afternoon of Day One. Speaking to BBH on the side lines at the conference, Terry Yodaiken, Head of Distribution Support at First Sentier Investors, observed that: “From a sustainable funds regulatory perspective some challenges still faced are around data organization. Firstly, in order to provide those data sets to investors to comply with the regulation but also to ensure we’re delivering information to investors in a way that they want to receive it.” Collaboration is key and managers look to vendors to help obtain and acquire ESG and sustainable finance data but also with how they deliver and disseminate that to market.

In an operations stream focused on translating complex data into actionable intelligence to meet regulatory and client needs, a panel of data management and reporting vendors discussed latest approaches to organizing, using data to create opportunities and capture market share.

The audience heard that the buyside has been challenged with creating digital data from unstructured data in research, allocation, execution, and post-trade, which they can use to act on during the investment process. The move from unstructured to structured (analogue to digital) has already resulted in significant shifts in the value of assets. This is evidenced in the FX market, where such shifts have increased the size of the market to $6 trillion, in equities, which is worth about $46 trillion and in fixed income, which is worth about $116 trillion. “That migration benefits the industry because the investible universe becomes broader,” said ICE’s Stephen Baker.

“If structured data could be created out of structured data in sustainable finance, that’s a very real use case, and is then either used in Europe to meet SFDR or client needs of demands around sustainable finance.” Baker suggested participants should normalize the data attributes of underlying organizations as unstructured data to draw comparisons between one organization’s environmental friendliness to another. “That presents a real shift in the paradigm in being able to address sustainable finance and use it in the regulatory process”, he said.

Conference delegates were reminded of the regulatory initiatives coming down the line that required the industry to address its data issues. For example, the European ESG template (EET) is likely to become the largest template with nearly 600 data fields. Managers will need data and technology internally and externally from fund administrators and other third-party providers, in the extended version by the end of 2022. They will need to insert their calculations derived from ESG providers they use in their investment process in the template. Thankfully, given the tremendous amount of overlap in these templates and regulations, the right data management tool and operational efficiency will enable them to reduce the amount of data points they need to gather from one news source. 

In addition to ensuring the accuracy of data in the EET, its consumption and distribution once managers get it out the door is important too. Room for misrepresentation exists if this is not done properly: “The danger is losing a bunch of assets if the manager mistakenly classifies their fund as an Article 6 or Article 8 fund. Also, if they only complete the minimum number of fields a distributor may not select them, or the fund may not get onto their platform. Whether its Article 6, 8, or 9 funds, how do they make sure that it is represented on the right platform, and to the right vendors. We’re trying to solve for those issues for asset managers, who are on the hook for the correctness of the data. They need to have the right processes in place for the right templates, to push them out and then check them.”

New technology can help managers with their fund prospectus, by translating the static data, and getting it out into the market, thus providing the transparency that allows oversight and produces innovation. Companies have gone from taking flat files to taking in APIs, to intraday feeds, taking raw feeds from exchanges and are embracing the cloud. The cloud ensures provenance that the way you’re accessing the data is right for you as an organization, then you're able to take that complex data and make it actionable.

Transfer Agency Alignment

Another area asset managers are looking at closely is transfer agency. Many managers have multiple transfer agents across the world and from an investor experience perspective they’re seeing their investors having to transact through multiple platforms and with multiple transfer agents to access their various fund ranges across the globe.

“So, for us, aligning on a single transfer agency presents a huge opportunity not just on delivering a better investor experience, not just on onboarding and reporting, but increasingly on organizing our data in a way that means we can optimize our service delivery to customers,” said Terry Yodaiken, Head of Distribution Support at First Sentier Investors.

One area many firms still grapple with is distribution data given the proliferation of nominees, platforms and custodians and distributors. Organizing distribution data and investor data in a way that enables an asset manager to truly understand the investor base is paramount. That’s no easy task due to the disparate nature of data and because it’s very opaque.

Yodaiken shared thoughts on how his firm is dealing with this challenge: “We’ve embarked on a project with a vendor to help us organize our client’s data in a particular way that provides to a degree possible a look through of all that opacity. So, we’re able to match the underlying investor with the client as we know it. That way we’re able to provide a high degree of transparency around investor data, their assets under management, their flow information and how we’re engaging with those investors over time.” 

Democratizing Private Markets

Audiences also heard about the drive towards hyper personalization of the investor experience (yet a solution remains to be seen) and while the democratization of private markets is gaining momentum, many investors remain unclear of what they are buying into. An operations panel featuring BBH’s Alternative funds product expert, Lata Vyas, noted a soaring increase in demand for these assets (from $3 trillion to $8 trillion in 10 years, according to Cerulli Associates) as retail and institutional investors look for something more stable, and with less short-term volatility.

This standing room only private markets stream addressed the role of education and technology in facilitating a broader adoption, including by mass affluent and high net worth investors. “Private markets are still perceived as complex, and there are differences in language and understanding, from private banks to asset managers. So, early engagement with service providers can help ensure a product meets investor requirements is available on day one.”

Standing room only: A Democratizing Private Assets panel noted that investors want more of these investments, but that further education and new technologies are needed for mass adoption

Credit: Frank Noon (photographer) at and IMpower

Crypto-Only For the Brave?

During the week that Coinbase registered an earnings report with the SEC explaining what would happen in the event of bankruptcy proceedings, a panel of industry participants at FundForum debated the pertinent question: is crypto only for the brave? This panel, comprised of traditional custodians: State Street and Societe Generale, as well as crypto ETP issuer 21Shares and fintechs Iconic Holding and Scrypt Digital, who discussed what was needed for further adoption and the reticence of some investors to go into crypto. The audience heard that safety and soundness is paramount, so institutional custody has a role to play. There are “260 providers running around claiming to offer crypto custody,” an audience heard, but last week’s events highlighted the risks and the importance of collaboration of traditional incumbents (with more than 200 years of experience of holding assets in custody) and new fintech providers, supported by regulatory evolution. In the absence of a regulatory framework, investors remain reticent.


Only for the brave? A panel comprised of traditional custody providers and fintechs discussed the role of collaboration and regulation to allay investor reticence about crypto

Credit: Frank Noon (photographer) at and IMpower


Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. (“BBH”) may be used to reference the company as a whole and/or its various subsidiaries generally. This material and any products or services may be issued or provided in multiple jurisdictions by duly authorized and regulated subsidiaries. This material is for general information and reference purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax or investment advice and is not intended as an offer to sell, or a solicitation to buy securities, services or investment products. All information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy is not guaranteed, and reliance should not be placed on the information presented. This material may not be reproduced, copied or transmitted, or any of the content disclosed to third parties, without the permission of BBH. Pursuant to information regarding the provision of applicable services or products by BBH, please note the following: Brown Brothers Harriman Fund Administration Services (Ireland) Limited and Brown Brothers Harriman Trustee Services (Ireland) Limited are regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland, Brown Brothers Harriman Investor Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, Brown Brothers Harriman (Luxembourg) S.C.A is regulated by the Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier. All trademarks and service marks included are the property of BBH or their respective owners. © Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. 2022. All rights reserved. IS-08168-2022-05-20

As of June 15, 2022 Internet Explorer 11 is not supported by

Important Information for Non-U.S. Residents

You are required to read the following important information, which, in conjunction with the Terms and Conditions, governs your use of this website. Your use of this website and its contents constitute your acceptance of this information and those Terms and Conditions. If you do not agree with this information and the Terms and Conditions, you should immediately cease use of this website. The contents of this website have not been prepared for the benefit of investors outside of the United States. This website is not intended as a solicitation of the purchase or sale of any security or other financial instrument or any investment management services for any investor who resides in a jurisdiction other than the United States1. As a general matter, Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. and its subsidiaries (“BBH”) is not licensed or registered to solicit prospective investors and offer investment advisory services in jurisdictions outside of the United States. The information on this website is not intended to be distributed to, directed at or used by any person or entity in any jurisdiction or country where such distribution or use would be contrary to law or regulation. Persons in respect of whom such prohibitions apply must not access the website.  Under certain circumstances, BBH may provide services to investors located outside of the United States in accordance with applicable law. The conditions under which such services may be provided will be analyzed on a case-by-case basis by BBH. BBH will only accept investors from such jurisdictions or countries where it has made a determination that such an arrangement or relationship is permissible under the laws of that jurisdiction or country. The existence of this website is not intended to be a substitute for the type of analysis described above and is not intended as a solicitation of or recommendation to any prospective investor, including those located outside of the United States. Certain BBH products or services may not be available in certain jurisdictions. By choosing to access this website from any location other than the United States, you accept full responsibility for compliance with all local laws. The website contains content that has been obtained from sources that BBH believes to be reliable as of the date presented; however, BBH cannot guarantee the accuracy of such content, assure its completeness, or warrant that such information will not be changed. The content contained herein is current as of the date of issuance and is subject to change without notice. The website’s content does not constitute investment advice and should not be used as the basis for any investment decision. There is no guarantee that any investment objectives, expectations, targets described in this website or the  performance or profitability of any investment will be achieved. You understand that investing in securities and other financial instruments involves risks that may affect the value of the securities and may result in losses, including the potential loss of the principal invested, and you assume and are able to bear all such risks.  In no event shall BBH or any other affiliated party be liable for any direct, incidental, special, consequential, indirect, lost profits, loss of business or data, or punitive damages arising out of your use of this website. By clicking accept, you confirm that you accept  to the above Important Information along with Terms and Conditions.

1BBH sponsors UCITS Funds registered in Luxembourg, in certain jurisdictions. For information on those funds, please see

captcha image

Type in the word seen on the picture

I am a current investor in another jurisdiction