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How AI is Revolutionising ESG and Fund Management Industry


Written by Harsimran Singh, Operations Solutions Director at MUFG Investor Services and member of Green Team Network's "Knowledge & Content" Working Group. A Strategy & Business Transformation Consultant with experience in driving AI Automation engagements in financial services industry & keen interest in ESG / Sustainability space.



Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming the financial services industry, and the ESG and fund management space is no exception. AI is being used to automate tasks, improve decision-making, and develop new products and services. This is helping financial services companies to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and meet the needs of their customers. AI has the potential to revolutionise the way that ESG investors and fund managers identify, assess, and invest in sustainable companies and projects.


ESG Investing

ESG investing is a type of investment that considers environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors alongside traditional financial factors. ESG investors believe that these factors can have a material impact on a company's long-term performance, and they seek to invest in companies that are well-managed and sustainable. (Harvard Business Review: Shareholders Are Getting Serious About Sustainability) (BlackRock C.E.O. Larry Fink on ESG Investing)

AI can play a vital role in ESG investing by helping investors to:

  • Identify and assess ESG risks and opportunities - AI can be used to analyse large amounts of data from a variety of sources, including company reports, news articles, and social media, to identify ESG risks and opportunities. For example, AI can be used to identify companies that are exposed to climate change risk or companies that have a strong track record of corporate social responsibility. (AI to fight greenwashing) (AI Applications in Sustainable Investing)

  • Develop and implement ESG investment strategies - AI can be used to develop and implement ESG investment strategies that are aligned with an investor's specific goals and risk tolerance. For example, AI can be used to create a portfolio of companies that have a low carbon footprint or a high social impact. (How AI is transforming investing)

  • Consider ESG scoring - AI is being used to develop ESG scoring models that can help investors to assess the ESG performance of companies. For example, the MSCI KLD Sustainability Indexes use AI to score companies on a variety of ESG factors, including environmental performance, social performance, and governance performance. Another example is the Sustainalytics ESG Risk Ratings. (AI Reshaping ESG ratings)

  • Conduct ESG research - AI is being used to conduct ESG research and generate insights into ESG trends and risks. For example, the investment research firm Sustainalytics uses AI to identify companies that are exposed to climate change risk or companies that have a history of governance scandals, MSCI also uses AI to identify emerging trends in ESG, such as the growth of the renewable energy sector.


Fund Management Industry

AI can augment the capabilities of human fund managers by automating tasks, identifying new opportunities, and helping them to make better investment decisions. For example:

  • Automate tasks such as data analysis, risk assessment, and portfolio management - This can free up human fund managers to focus on more strategic tasks, such as developing investment strategies and building relationships with clients. (AI in Portfolio Management)

  • Identify and invest in new opportunities - AI can identify companies that are leaders in their respective industries by analysing large amounts of data on companies’ ESG performance, including their carbon footprint, water usage, and labour practices, and are developing innovative ESG solutions or companies that are well-positioned to benefit from emerging trends. (Power of AI for ESG)


Opportunities

As AI continues to develop, we can expect to see even more ways that AI can be used to improve the ESG and fund management space. (Role of artificial intelligence in sustainable finance)

  • Develop new ESG investment products and services - AI-powered robo-advisors could provide personalised ESG investment advice to individual investors. For example, the robo-advisor Wealthfront offers a Sustainable Investing service that uses AI to create a diversified portfolio of ESG-focused ETFs. (Forbes picks Wealthfront as best robo-advisor for financial planning)

  • Improve the transparency and accountability of the ESG investment market - AI could be used to track and report on the ESG performance of companies and funds in a more comprehensive and timely manner. MSCI, Sustainalytics, Bloomberg and Refinitiv are enhancing their offerings in a variety of ways in this space.

  • Accelerate the transition to a sustainable economy - By helping investors to identify and invest in sustainable companies and projects, AI can help to drive capital towards the sectors and solutions that are needed to address climate change and other environmental and social challenges. For example - Climate AI's platform is used by businesses and governments to develop and implement climate change strategies.

  • Regulatory compliance – Potential regulatory breaches can be detected by automatically monitoring and analysing vast amounts of data. Some examples - Ayasdi helps banks detect suspicious activities and ensure compliance with anti-money laundering regulations. ComplyAdvantage is a fintech company that uses AI to help businesses comply with anti-money laundering regulations.

  • Corporate governance - AI can be used to analyse various types of corporate governance data like diversity of the board of directors, executive compensation, shareholder engagement and risk management to assess a company's ESG performance and identify areas for improvement. For example - Datamaran is a company that provides ESG data and analytics to businesses to prioritise issues, present the verifiable data stakeholders need, create annual strategies, identify regulatory disclosures and run materiality audits.


Challenges/ Risks

  • Data quality and availability - AI models are only as good as the data they are trained on. If the data is incomplete, inaccurate, or biased, the model will produce inaccurate results. This can be a challenge for the ESG and fund management industry, as ESG data can be difficult to collect and standardise.

  • Transparency and accountability - AI models can be complex and difficult to understand. This can make it difficult for investors and other stakeholders to understand how AI is being used in the ESG and fund management industry. It is important to develop mechanisms to ensure that AI is used in a transparent and accountable manner.

  • Bias - AI models can be biased, reflecting the biases of the data they are trained on or the people who design and implement them. This can lead to unfair and discriminatory outcomes. It is important to take steps to mitigate bias in AI models, such as using diverse datasets and training and monitoring models for bias.

  • Security - AI systems can be vulnerable to cyberattacks. This is a concern for the ESG and fund management industry, as AI systems are often used to manage large amounts of sensitive data. It is important to implement strong security measures to protect AI systems from cyberattacks.


Conclusion

Overall, AI has the potential to be a powerful tool for improving the ESG and fund management space (We’re at a very exciting stage in AI developments). However, it is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with the use of AI, such as bias, privacy, and security. By carefully considering these risks and taking steps to mitigate them, we can ensure that AI is used to make the ESG and fund management space more sustainable, inclusive, and transparent.

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