Interview with Adrian Schatzmann

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Adrian Schatzmann is the CEO of the Asset Management Association Switzerland (AMAS), which aims at strengthening Switzerland as a leading asset management center with highest standards for quality, performance and sustainability.  He also founded Clear Minds Investment AG, a financial advisory company, and currently serves as its Managing Partner. Prior to this, he was a strategic advisor for the Swiss Banking Association and spent 15 years within UBS Wealth Management.

Adrian, Sustainable investments are seen as a key lever to promote the transition to a sustainable economy. Would you agree and if yes, what are the main mechanisms for investments to contribute to change?

The transition towards a more sustainable economy must happen first and foremost in the real economy. We can decarbonise investment portfolios as long as we want - if the real economy is not decarbonising, this is of little value. In the secondary market where most of the industry assets are invested, asset managers can make a difference through stewardship, both through active voting and engagement.

Greenwashing seems to have become the most prominent buzzword in the context of sustainable investments. How did we get there?

Good question! Don’t get me wrong, there is strictly no place for greenwashing in our industry and it was only right that this issue was tackled decisively by policymakers. Still, I am astonished how much energy and resources the industry, the regulator and media have now collectively invested in this topic worldwide. Greenwashing may be a problem, but the future health of planet earth is of much bigger concern.

If I look at the current flurry of regulatory initiatives worldwide, on greenwashing in particular, then we run the risk of converting a huge opportunity – not only for the industry but for society as a whole – simply into another regulatory burden.

AMAS has put in place a self-regulation on sustainable asset management last year. What was the idea behind the self-regulation and what difference has it made to date?

We see the whole industry advancing at a very fast pace with terminology, standards and metrics hopefully converging at a global level at some time. In such an environment a state regulation with its potentially lengthy legislative process may not be the right instrument to quickly adapt to such new developments. This is where a self-regulation has a huge advantage. It is a flexible instrument that can be adjusted in short time if needed and is established by the industry for the industry, hence ensuring practical relevance.

AMAS and SSF have a joint working group on sustainable finance. One of its outcomes was the publication of the Swiss Stewardship Code, last October. What were the main objectives of launching this code and what were the reactions in your members base on it, so far?

To me this was a truly major achievement for the financial industry in Switzerland. The simple goal was to increase impact, to make a tangible difference and stewardship is one of the most powerful approaches. Partnering up with SSF not only allowed to join forces within the industry but also to include all relevant actors - asset managers, asset owners and service providers – and hence ensuring that the code applies to all relevant parties in Switzerland.

Still, having a code on paper can only be a first step. SSF and AMAS now must convert paper into action.

What are the most important advances that the Swiss financial centre has made in sustainability over the last 10 years and to what extent do you think SSF has contributed to this?

There is no doubt, SSF has been the engine for sustainable finance in Switzerland and without SSF we wouldn’t be where we are today. Overall, the industry has evolved massively, in particular in the last few years. Looking at the different industry sectors - banking, insurance and asset management - and their representative associations, for all of us, Sustainable Finance is now an absolute priority and resources have been built up accordingly.

How can SSF further promote positive development in sustainable finance

I see that the financial industry, the supply side, is increasingly well underway. To make Switzerland a truly leading hub for sustainable investments we also need a well-educated demand side, that means well informed investors. This starts with investor education and SSF can and will play a crucial role here, also as a strong voice in the public.

In which area do you see the biggest synergies for the continued collaboration with AMAS?

I am convinced that the financial industry and investors alike are best served if the different industry sectors and associations collaborate very closely with each other and speak with one voice. Nothing is more confusing for clients and regulators alike than hearing and reading about different approaches, terminology, and conflicting definitions from the very same industry.

Where do you see sustainable finance in 10 years' time?

The capital required to finance the transformation towards a more sustainable economy is enormous. Public funds will not be enough and the financial industry, especially asset management, will play an even more instrumental role in financing this transformation.

May, 2024

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