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Can ESG funds invest in 'controversial' SJP?

St Jame's Place has attracted criticism from competitors and the press for its costs and charges, but does this matter to an ESG manager?

When does a stock become too controversial to be held in an ethical fund? 

That is a question New Model Adviser® editor Will Robins asked the four guests in the second instalment of our environmental, social and governance (ESG) discussion (which you can watch here). 

Advice giant St James's Place (SJP) seemed like a good place to begin. EdenTree's Amity UK Fund holds SJP despite some of the controversy about its charges, which you can read more about in our exclusive research from last year

As a restricted advice business, its clients can also only currently access one ethical fund, the Impax Global Opportunities strategy managed by David Winborne and Kirsteen Morrison, who was also part of the roundtable. SJP has made moves to strengthen its ESG proposition in 2019 by appointing a head of responsible investment. 

EdenTree's head of SRI policy and research, Neville White, said while SJP is a 'controversial' choice for some clients, it is also 'benign' in the bigger picture for the fund.

'We are not a thematic manager,' he said. 'You are going to be looking at a wide range of vehicles across the market.'

Watch the video above for the full discussion, which also turned to pharmaceutical stocks and other tricky areas for ESG managers. 

Around the table were:

  • Kristeen Morrison, co-portfolio manager, Impax Global Opportunities Strategy fund, Impax;
  • David Czupryna, senior client portfolio manager SRI, Candriam;
  • Sarah Norris, co-manger, global equity impact fund, Standard Life Aberdeen;
  • Neville White, head of RI  policy and research at EdenTree Investment Management.

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