Schroders Digital International Media Conference 2020: Beyond Covid-19 and geopolitical uncertainty

The impact of an unprecedented year and the sustainable investment opportunity were among the key focuses of Schroders’ Digital International Media Conference 2020.

More than 170 international journalists from over 20 countries joined the digital-only conference – the first time the flagship event has been hosted remotely.

Schroders’ key spokespeople gave journalists exceptional insight into the firm’s key strategic growth priorities, the current investment landscape and how it is looking to navigate challenges going forward into 2021.

Group Chief Executive Officer Peter Harrison opened the conference with an update on Schroders’ progress in 2020, throughout the day Schroders market-leading investment experts covered the sustainability opportunity, private assets, wealth management and key issues such as the growth of big tech, geopolitical uncertainty, Brexit, thematic investing and climate change.

Journalists were also given the exclusive unveiling of Schroders’ Global Investor Study focused on retirement. This highly-influential report has spanned the views of over 23,000 investors from 32 locations globally.

Schroders Group Chief Executive Officer, Peter Harrison told attendees:

“The last few months have been extraordinary for us all, and has changed all of our lives. Managing a business and caring for other people’s money during this period has meant addressing at least three distinct, and inter-related crises, a financial crisis during March and April, an economic crisis which is still with us and a social crisis.

“I personally could not be more proud at the way that Schroders employees spontaneously donated £4.3 million through salary sacrifice to help Covid-related charities. I would be so bold as to say that, looking forward, companies that misunderstand the importance of their wider societal responsibilities will also be forced to recognise that their legitimacy is being consistently undermined.”

Speaking about the challenging investment environment, Johanna Kyrklund, Schroders’ Chief Investment Officer, commented:

“Good investment is about cool-headed decision-making. The source of uncertainty will always be different but well-established investment processes are designed to cope with this. They enable active fund managers to step back and assess – and dispassionately search for opportunities regardless of the conditions.

“Good investment also involves deciding on a long-term strategy and sticking with it. Despite the ever-evolving situations investors face, investors need to focus on calm and rational investment decision-making.”

Commenting on Schroders’ focus on impact investing, Carolina Minio-Paluello, Schroders’ Global Head of Product, Solutions & Quant, commented:

“In our journey of integration of ESG over the past few years, the focus had been on understanding ESG risk and opportunities. In the next phase, the focus is in understanding the impact of our investments. Bringing impact as a third dimension alongside risk and returns means we can now link impact to risk: where companies have a negative impact on society, this is increasingly being translated into financial costs which can influence their long-term growth prospects.”

Discussing Schroders’ private assets priorities, Schroders’ Global Head of Private Assets, Georg Wunderlin, commented:

Schroders’ Institutional Investor Study highlighted that investors continue to be attracted to private markets to access higher returns and income streams to meet their investment needs in a zero-rate environment.

“As the five megatrends demonstrate, private markets are at an inflection point, reaching ever broader audiences and becoming ever more diverse, while asset managers are consolidating into multi-alternative platforms.”

On the prospects for global economic growth, Keith Wade, Chief Economist, Schroders commented:

“Expectations of what’s to come in the new year have been altered by the second wave of the Coronavirus, which as predicted by many, has swept across the United States and Europe and the outcome of the US election.

“Foremost, in the United States the daily rates of new cases and hospitalisations have reached new peaks and, after promising signs of recovery in the summer, Europe is also struggling to get the second wave under control leading to a series of national lockdowns. Meanwhile, the absence of a Democrat sweep, as indicated by the opinion polls means we will not see the scale of fiscal stimulus expected by markets before the election.

“With this in mind we’re facing a dark winter as Covid-19 remains centre stage with the risk of a double dip recession in the US and Europe.” 

And Azad Zangana, Schroders’ Senior European Economist & Strategist Azad Zangana commented on the probability of a post-Brexit UK-EU trade deal:

“The UK continues to demand the right to diverge on standards, while the EU wants the UK to agree to maintaining a ’level playing field‘, or in other words, not to undercut the EU on labour laws, environmental standards and corporate subsidies. The dispute extends to fisheries, as the EU is pushing for access to UK fishing waters, which the UK refuses to accept.”