Steve Gibbs, formerly the chief executive of the $18 billion Australian Reward Investment Alliance, will be the chairman of a new responsible investment educational body in the Australasian region.

In addition to his part-time role with Merrill Lynch Equities helping distribute synthetic and alternative products to not-for-profit super funds (reported in I&T News last week), Gibbs will become the inaugural chair of the Responsible Investment Academy. Yet to be formed, the Academy will be run by the Responsible Investment Association of Australasia (RIAA) and provide curricula on the material risks of environmental, social and governance (ESG) hazards to investment performance, Louise O’Halloran, RIAA executive director, said. RIAA was sourcing support from the industry to establish the Academy, O’Halloran said. “It has been driven by RIAA and its stakeholders. We’re building industry partnerships.”; Gibbs said the value of ESG analysis was typically difficult to quantify. “If you can help prevent a disaster at a company that you’re investing in, it’s hard to price the value of that. When people say: ‘Show me the bottom line,’ you just can’t. But people who say that ESG isn’t important these days are out of touch.” O’Halloran said the web-based programs run by the Academy would target a broad spectrum of industry participants, including buy and sell-side analysts, portfolio managers and chief investment officers, trustees and financial planners. RIAA is applying for a Federal Government grant to write a business plan for the Academy, expected to include an accreditation points program. O’Halloran said the Academy should be operational one year from now. Approximately 40 per cent of professionally managed investments domiciled in Australia are held by businesses that have signed the United Nations Principals of Responsible Investment (UNPRI), O’Halloran said. However, to date, “there has been no available formal training in responsible investment”. Moreover, Australian managers account for 10 per cent of funds managed by UNPRI signatories across the globe.

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