Billion euro «coherent» company

Half the Italian Sri retail market: that’s more or less the market share held by Etica Sgr, the asset management company belonging to Banca Popolare Etica Group, the group the Italian ethical bank – created in 1999, it’s a member of Gabv-Global Alliance for Banking on Values – built up in the last decade.

As of June 30th, the company run by Alessandra Viscovi (managing director) reached 1 billion euro in AUM (assets under management) for the first time thanks to its four «ethical» mutual funds. And, also, thanks to 56,000 underwriters, a number the company has to update frequently (up almost 50% in the first half of the year). Ugo Biggeri (president at Etica Sgr) called it «a historic achievement» and underlined that «in the Italian market of ethical mutual funds, one investor out of two chooses us».

So, you can read this result in different ways. One, for example, is that the Italian Sri retail market is still so tiny, even if the first ethically screened mutual fund (Sanpaolo Azionario Internazionale Etico) was marketed on 1997. Another way is that there are no competitors which match up with Etica Sgr, but this statement is really hard to support when you think that Etica Sgr has to deal with asset management companies belonging to the biggest players in banking and finance in Italy.

In any case, I prefer yet another way and it’s simply the following one: coherence gives back.

Ok, nobody is completely coherent in this world. And least of all nobody’s perfect. However Etica Sgr since 2003, when its first ethical fund was placed in the market, has been able to develop a proposal that seems coherent under many points of view and it’s probably the most coherent in Italy with regard to Sri finance.

First of all, Etica Sgr comes from Banca Etica, a bank well-known as “the bank with the walls of crystal” and whose slogan is “the highest interest is that of all”. The company is by far the most dynamic in Italy with regard to shareholder activism on Esg issues: they are one of the very few Iccr’s members coming from Italy, they defined guidelines, they publish on their website the issues on which they ask companies to be accountable and the way they vote on resolutions at AGMs (annual general meetings). As it refers to the Esg analysis and selection process, they work with Eiris, one of the most important and qualified player in the field, and they have an ethical committee with a strong monitoring role. In addition to that, Etica Sgr developed a specific evaluation model to analyze Italian companies. Thanks to the underwriters of the four ethical funds, Etica Sgr supports microcredit projects which benefit social business. Moreover, they publish an integrated report (in 2012 they won a prestigious Italian award thanks to the report). And…

…ok, I guess that’s enough. But what does it all mean? Being (or trying to be) coherent and therefore trustworthy, I think.

Ah, last but not least: since words are important, both the company and the funds are called “ethical”, not Sri, Esg, sustainable, responsible or whatever else. I wonder if this could be another reason for the results they’re achieving: maybe the 56,000 could answer…

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