Bank of America’s investment businesses launched a new program last week to help clients align their investments with their environmental, social and governance values.
“One of the most pronounced trends we’ve seen in recent years is the call for wealth to have a productive impact on our environment, our communities and our society broadly, in addition to earning an investment return,” Andrew Sieg, the managing director and head of global wealth and retirement solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said. “This program offers opportunities for a wide range of investors with diverse interests and beliefs to help meet this need.”
Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and U.S. Trust now offer over 180 ESG-themed investments organized around environmental stewardship, human capital practices and corporate governance.
Chris Wolfe, the CIO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management’s private banking and investment division, said values-based investing accounted for $3.74 trillion in 2012—22 percent higher than the $3.1 trillion in 2010. Wolfe said evidence shows values and financial interests are no longer mutually exclusive.
“There is compelling evidence that investing according to one’s principles can generate competitive returns,” Wolfe said.
Investors have also begun relying on shareholder advocacy to express their views and vote their shares, leading Merrill Lynch to offer an socially responsible investing proxy voting service, which allows clients to delegate proxy voting authority to a service provider who will vote proxies on their behalf in accordance with SRI guidelines.