Firms across Canada are putting their advisors and teams through a key responsible-investing program
In a survey released by the Responsible Investment Association (RIA) in December, 86% of respondents agreed that financial advisors and institutions should be aware of the possible portfolio impact of environmental, social, and government (ESG) risks. And based on new information from the organization, the financial-services industry is taking notice.
More than 850 financial professionals have either earned an RI designation or are in line to earn one from the RIA, according to the non-profit organization.
“The investment industry is entering a new era,” said Dustyn Lanz, CEO of the RIA. “Investors are increasingly conscious about the impacts of their investment decisions, and they want their advisors to be knowledgeable about how ESG risks could affect their portfolios.”
To satisfy that need, the RIA launched the Responsible Investment Specialist (RIS) program in 2016 to provide education about the Canadian retail market for responsible investment. The program has captured the attention of Desjardins, which has committed to putting 500 of its representatives through the program, as well as Vancity, which has enrolled over 100 of its own representatives.
“We’re very happy about our partnership with RIA,” said Sébastien Vallée, director, Investment Solutions Development and Management, at Desjardins. “Through this program, Desjardins agents and employees will be fully prepared to support our members and clients who want to make environmental, social and governance factors part of their investment strategy.”
“As one of the first financial institutions in Canada to focus on responsible investing, Vancity has been a long-time supporter of the RIA and in particular the RIS program,” said Steve Eng, director at Vancity Investment Management. “[W]e look forward to growing our relationship with RIA in the years ahead.”
Also expressing interest in the RIS program are Assiniboine, Kindred, Libro, Servus, and other credit unions, where a growing number of members are seeking to align their portfolios with their values. RI fund companies NEI Investments, iA Clarington Investments, and others are also throwing their support behind the initiative by training their staff and partnering with credit unions to promote education on responsible investing.
Aside from the RIS program, the RIA offers the Responsible Investment Advisor Certification (RIAC) and Responsible Investment Professional Certification (RIPC) programs. Participants in these courses get training in RI-oriented activities, including integrating ESG issues into financial models.
“Responsible investment is not a trend; it’s a paradigm shift,” Lanz said.
The growth in RI designations comes on the heels of a reported rise in Canadian RI-oriented assets. According to a report by the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance, assets devoted to RI grew from US$1.5 trillion at the start of 2016 to US$2.1 trillion at the start of 2018, and now accounts for over half of professionally managed assets in the country.