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Alternative Market Briefing

Investors press ahead on ESG and gender diversity but managers remain slow to act

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Bailey McCann, Opalesque New York:

Alternative managers were defined by the pandemic in 2020. As markets rushed to respond to the realities of lockdown, hot topics like ESG investing and improving diversity took a backseat. This year, investors were focused on capital preservation and performance. But new data from EY suggests that managers may not get the same leeway in 2021.

According to EY's Global Alternative Fund Survey, investors are still heavily focused on backing investment strategies that take ESG into account. They also want to see greater diversity at corporations and within the firms where they invest. However, despite the number of investors focused on ESG doubling year on year to 49%, the number of alternatives managers offering ESG strategies has held steady. The data suggests that managers aren't in a hurry to bring new ESG strategies and products to market - only 3% considered it a top priority. Similarly, when it comes to diversity, only a quarter of hedge fund managers consider improving ethnic and gender diversity as a top-three priority despite investors voicing strong concerns about the lack of parity.

"I think what we're seeing is that this year a lot of things overtook some of the longer-term goals that investors have," explains Ryan Munson, a partner at EY US Wealth and Asset Management. "We expect that investors will put more pressure on managers next year to continue improving disclosure, reporting, and diversity."

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