The Surroundup


  • by Gillian Stovel Rivers, MA, CFP®, CEA
  • November 24, 2023

In early November 2023, I had the absolute pleasure of being introduced and spending some time with Yulia Reuter, Head of Responsible Investing, CI Global Asset Management.

Needless to say, when I began working on the task of gathering actionable intel for clients in the realm of sustainable and socially responsible investing, my immediate skepticism led me to expect greenwashed sales pitches intended to dazzle me into believing whatever the source wanted me to believe. After all, what is investing if not acting with conviction based on one’s beliefs? Of course investment professionals want you to see the world the way they do – not only is it their livelihood, but it’s that kind of drive and passion that can add value to a client’s situation and, it turns out after meeting Yulia, can also work towards making the world a better place.

Yulia’s journey in finance and her transition into sustainability analysis through ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) is fascinating.

Yulia’s experience covering energy stocks for a boutique investment bank after her education in finance and business management is a testament to the challenges and realizations often faced in the finance industry. Initially working on the sell side for a boutique investment bank, she had an intrinsic concern the industry’s focus on short-term profits, intraday trading, and quarterly performance metrics, which she perceives as detracting from the larger, more meaningful aspects of investment analysis.

This sentiment is reflective of a broader conversation in the financial industry about the balance between short-term gains and long-term sustainability. Yulia’s perspective suggests a desire for a more holistic and strategic approach to investment analysis, where considerations extend beyond immediate financial returns to encompass a broader understanding of the market dynamics, industry trends, and the long-term impact of investment decisions.

Let’s delve into key aspects of her interview:
  1. Pivotal Career Moment:
    Yulia experienced a pivotal moment in her career during the energy cycle trough – in other words, the area she was covering that could add value and short-term profits was waning because energy prices were down. Yulia was discovered at that point by an entity called Women in Capital Markets, she found an opportunity to switch to sustainability analysis, realizing that investors can influence companies positively.
  2. ESG Analysis and Investor Influence:
    Yulia emphasizes the importance of providing ESG analysis to investors. This analysis helps investors decide how to respond to sustainability practices. If uncomfortable holding a stock, investors engage with the company to improve their practices. This is precisely what Yulia does day in and day out with the investment management team at CI Global Asset Management. Her clients are institutional clients – portfolio managers and their teams. But it’s not at all unlike the way an individual can come to practice investing.
  3. Bigger Picture Perspective:
    Yulia expresses dissatisfaction with the short-term focus in investment analysis. She believes in tracking broader environmental themes and highlights the need for a more purposeful approach to investment.
  4. Actionable ESG Mandate:
    Currently involved in setting up an ESG mandate at CI Global Asset Management, Yulia clarifies that ESG isn’t solely about the environment. It includes social and governance aspects. CI focuses on ensuring investments adhere to global norms and conventions, including human rights and labor standards.
  5. Engagement vs. Blacklisting:
    CI’s approach involves engagement or investment stewardship when encountering companies with ethical violations. Yulia emphasizes the collaborative approach, striving to make a positive impact on the world rather than simply blacklisting sectors. In practice this literally means engaging with the companies that the managers she works with invest in or want to invest in, to help those companies improve their situation by righting perceived ethical, environmental, social or governance violations.
  6. MSCI ESG Research:
    Yulia highlighted MSCI ESG Research as a top provider evaluating 10,000 companies globally. CI uses this research to address issues like labor standards, human rights, and climate change. Portfolio managers then decide on actions based on this information. Although this research is a paid service, gaining an appreciation for the methodology and variety of screens the indexes offer the industry can provide an investor with confidence that investment solutions like CI’s that use these screens are doing a lot of the legwork to ensure the ESG standards of your investments.
  7. Industry Associations and Standards:
    Yulia mentioned PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment) / RIA (Responsible Investment Association) as industry associations providing intelligence and guidance, but also acknowledges the absence of clear fund labeling standards in Canada and the U.S., contrasting with Europe. This is definitely an area Canada can improve upon to make it easier for investors to clearly know the ESG standards of their investments. Apparently such labelling standards are currently in development here in Canada, too.
  8. Applying ESG for Women:
    Yulia suggests that women can approach ESG by viewing it as ethical in nature, aligning investments with personal values. They can request investment managers to implement ethical strategies, thoroughly analyze risks, or focus on specific themes for impact.

Overall, Yulia’s journey and insights provide a compelling narrative on the evolving landscape of finance, where ethical considerations and sustainability play a crucial role. Her emphasis on collaboration and positive impact aligns with the growing trend towards responsible and purpose-driven investing. It was indeed a pleasure getting to know how this aspect of investing works in Canada through the lens of one of Canada’s amazing investing professionals.

By Gillian Stovel Rivers, MA, CFP, CEA
Surround Wealth Advisors
Assante Financial Management Ltd.
November 11, 2023

The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Assante Financial Management Ltd. This material is provided for general information and the opinions expressed and information provided herein are subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to compile this material from reliable sources however no warranty can be made as to its accuracy or completeness. Before acting on the information presented, please seek professional financial advice based on your personal circumstances.