Bank of America has launched a campaign around socially responsible investing. The campaign is designed to enhance products and services available to a growing segment of clients concerned with values-based investing.
"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," says Andrew Sieg, the head of the global wealth and retirement solutions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, in a statement. "This program offers opportunities for a wide range of investors with diverse interests and beliefs to help meet this need."
In a recent survey by Merrill Lynch Private Bank and Investment Group, 29% of millennial investors reported that the ability to provide values-based investing was an important factor in selecting a wealth management firm, says Chris Wolfe, the group's chief investment officer. As a result of that demand, around a quarter of the approximately 15,000 advisors at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management were looking to expand their sustainable investment offerings for clients, according to Jason Baron, a portfolio manager who has been developing socially responsible strategies for the firm.
In response, the firm has launched two investment strategies so far this year that are tailored to environmental, social and governance themes. The U.S. Trust division, which caters to some of the firm's wealthiest clients, launched the Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability strategy, which screens investments based on the energy practices, carbon footprint reduction and process efficiency of the underlying companies
Bank of America also deployed a program called Socially Innovative Investing across its U.S. Trust and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management divisions. That strategy, which allows clients to customize their own selection criteria for investments, had some $600 million in assets as of March of this year, the firm reports.
Prices for socially responsible products were "in-line" with industry averages for actively managed accounts, Wolfe and Baron say.