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October 30, 2020updated 02 Nov 2020 10:58pm

United Overseas Bank partners with Robeco to launch Sustainability Academy

By Hannah Wright

United Overseas Bank Asset Management (UOBAM) has launched a Sustainability Academy in hopes of advancing understanding amongst employees.

Commencing in the fourth quarter of 2020, the academy will provide a series of comprehensive training and development programmes on sustainable investing to more than 400 employees across Asia.

The programme – comprising of two modules on Sustainable Investing and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Investing – is the result of a collaboration between UOB and Dutch asset management firm, Robeco.

Catering to employees working in both investment and other functions, the training will educate individuals on the fundamentals of sustainable investing, anchoring environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into the organisational culture.

Accredited by The Institute of Banking and Finance Singapore’s (IBF) Financial Training Scheme (FTS) and the CFA Institute, time spent on the two modules will also contribute to individual Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hours. Such is a requirement that all financial practitioners are expected to meet.

Integrating sustainability

Thio Boon Kiat, CEO of UOBAM explained the firm’s rationale behind the decision: “The global emphasis on sustainable investing has grown tremendously in recent years, with ESG considerations now core to the investment philosophy of major asset managers around the world. At UOBAM, we believe in investing for profit and purpose as we forge a sustainable future for the generations to come. We have taken significant steps to integrate sustainable thinking into our business, including in all our research and investment processes.”

Boon Kiat continued: “Setting up the Sustainability Academy reinforces our commitment to sustainability at UOBAM and enables us to become active stewards of sustainability for our clients and partners.”

The announcement renders UOB Asset Management (UOBAM) as the first financial institution worldwide to offer Robeco’s SDG investing module as a training course.

Deeper conversations with investors

CEO of Robeco Singapore, Tom Keenan, explained the need for a proprietary investing framework based on the SDGs: “Robeco developed the Robeco Sustainable Investing and SDGs online education modules to address the need for education in Asia. More importantly, they clarify the trends and misconceptions around sustainable investing, take a closer look at performance and active ownership, explain what SDGs are and why they are important. We trust that supporting UOBAM with this education platform will further encourage UOBAM employees to be sustainable investing ambassadors and to have deeper conversations with investors.”

UOBAM and Robeco have a successful track record of sustainability collaborations. In March this year, UOBAM launched the first bond fund focused on the UN SDGs – the United Sustainable Credit Income Fund (USCIF) – for retail investors in Singapore.  Six months later, the two firms then launched a sustainable global equity fund to retail investors in Thailand.

Highlighting the complementary nature of their organisational cultures, Keenan finished: “We share UOBAM’s pioneering spirit and have the same goal in enhancing sustainability knowledge and embracing a strong corporate sustainability culture.”

Among more than 3000 signatories of the UN backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), Robeco has been recognised as one of the top twenty investment managers for their “breadth of responsible investing excellence”. UOBAM became a PRI signatory in January 2020.

Robeco will also launch a second training programme in November, to be offered by KPMG and backed by the Institute of Banking and Finance Singapore.

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