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Swiss alternative investment manager Harcourt, Swedish insurance group Folksam and Norwegian insurance group Storebrand have launched the Belair Sustainable Alternatives SRI Fund, a Luxembourg-domiciled fund of hedge funds.
The fund adheres to an institutional socially responsible investment framework and is open to external investors. 'We have been able to create a unique fund of hedge funds with leading managers that in the strictest sense fulfils the needs of institutional SRI investors aiming to gain exposure to hedge funds,' says Kaj Bergenhill, an alternative investments portfolio manager at Folksam.
'Today, assets managed according to SRI are already significant. Leading observers estimate the industry to be worth approximately USD4trn. With increased public and government awareness of global challenges such as environment and socioeconomic conditions, SRI is expected to continue to be more and more important to investors, but so far, investors have been challenged to find sophisticated SRI solutions based on hedge funds.
'No matter whether referred to as SRI, ESG or another acronym for sustainable and fair investing, it is all about taking the full responsibility for one's investments. We have been an active SRI investor and hedge fund investor for more than a decade. The Belair initiative enables others to gain a globally diversified exposure to leading hedge funds compliant with strict SRI criteria.
Jan Erik Saugestad, chief investment officer of Storebrand Kapitalforvaltning, says: 'The Belair fund of funds, a Luxembourg Sicav, offers diversified exposure across markets and hedge fund strategies to provide long-term, stable risk-adjusted performance.'
Through a combination of customised managed accounts and bilateral agreements, all underlying funds will adhere to an SRI framework jointly defined by Folksam and Storebrand and implemented by Harcourt. The portfolio has been seeded with USD200m at launch, with further capital already committed.
'We are equally committed to combine superior and sustainable risk adjusted returns,' says Peter Fanconi, chief executive of Harcourt Investment Consulting. 'Folksam and Storebrand are among the world's leading SRI investors. Both are actively engaged in developing and promoting corporate responsibility, and both are founding members of the United Nation's principle of responsible investments initiative.
'We are pleased at having teamed up with two of the most sophisticated SRI investors in creating a high quality SRI-compliant hedge fund solution. In July we were proud to sign the UN PRI as the first SRI hedge fund.'
The principle of responsible investments initiative is a set of aspirational guidelines for investors designed to bring environmental, social and corporate governance considerations into mainstream investment and ownership practices. Members of the initiative now account for more than USD11trn in assets.
Founded in 1997, Harcourt is headquartered in Zurich with offices in New York, Hong Kong, Stockholm, Madrid, Geneva and Cayman and is majority-owned by the Vontobel private banking group. It manages more than USD5bn in assets exclusively in alternative investments and employs more than 80 staff.
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