ESG Growth In Canada Jumps

In Canada, where the trend towards regulation governing ESG (environment, social, and governance) has admittedly been slower than in Europe, growth in interest and implementation is still quite evident, Aon plc’s ‘2019 Global Perspectives on Responsible Investing.’ For example, the percentage of Canadian institutional investors who believe that RI is ‘very important’ to their organization jumped five percentage points in this year’s survey and more investors (19 per cent) also reported having dedicated RI staff in 2019 than in the prior year (12.5 per cent), says Calum Mackenzie, partner and head of investment in Canada for Aon. “Investment committees have moved ESG up the agenda and it is increasingly an important part of investment risk considerations for institutions of varying size, background, and complexity.” Key Canadian findings show 38 per cent of respondents from Canada already have an RI policy. Yet, respondents from Canada were the least likely to have responsible investments of any kind, with 52 per cent stating they had no proactive responsible investments in their portfolios and, despite gains in overall investor sentiment towards RI in Canada, 29 per cent indicated that it plays no role in their investment decision-making.

Digital Technologies Enhance Mental Healthcare

Tremendous amounts of data are being collected and clinical resources are connected like never before, says Alex Boucher, a principal at Mercer. In the ‘Digital Technologies: A Better Toolbox for Mental Health’ session at the CPBI Atlantic Regional Conference, he said, for example, Google and Apple have more information on individuals than insurance companies and the rumours are they will form live, adjudicating insurance companies. Digital tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) guided treatment and e-Therapy grounded in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can provide enhanced in the moment access and clinician availability. As well, they can provide tools to guide people through the complex mental health system. The marketplace is evolving, not because the system is broken, but to fill needs that may not be available through the system. Rebecca Smith, director of group life and disability services at Medavie Blue Cross, said plan sponsors need to know what tools to add to their mental health toolbox because every dollar spent on treatment of common mental health conditions returns $4.80.

Capital Markets Turning To AI

Forty-four per cent of capital markets professionals globally say their firms are already using artificial intelligence (AI) in their trading processes, says data from Greenwich Associates. With another 17 per cent reporting plans to implement AI in trading in the next 12 to 24 months, it’s clear that a solid majority of market participants ‒ including buy-side institutions, sell-side firms, exchanges, and others ‒ soon will be using AI in the securities trading process, it says. Four out of five expect AI and/or machine learning to be fully integrated into the trading process in three to five years and firms will have internal AI expertise within that timeframe. ‘The Future of Trading: Technology in 2024 ‒ The Impact of AI, Big Data and Analytics on Your Trading Desk’ says despite this market enthusiasm, a very small percentage of current AI applications in capital markets are close to the complex products from Google, Apple, and their peers. One of the biggest impediments to date has been data availability. However, that situation will change as investors, broker-dealers, exchanges, and technology vendors continue to improve both their AI platforms and datasets. More than 60 per cent of study participants expect AI-focused budgets to increase. Even firms not planning to expand already significant levels of technology spending aren’t just accepting the status quo.

Equitable Provides Homewood EFAP

Homewood Health is the new provider of Equitable Life’s employee and family assistance program (EFAP) and online health and wellness services. “Mental health is at the core of what Homewood does,” says Dave Bennett, senior vice-president, group, at Equitable Life. “They offer comprehensive and integrated services across the mental health continuum. So, they bring a wealth of clinical experience and expertise to their programming, products, and services.” With a national network of over 4,500 counsellors and clinical professionals, Homewood Health’s counselling model can be face-to-face, by phone, eMail, chat, video counselling, or through self-directed treatment programs. Its work-life services and tools are developed and delivered by psychologists and experts to help employees manage their own health and well-being in a way that fits their lives.

Creeping Populism Grows

Creeping populism and anti-establishment right wing support are growing around the world, says Nik Nanos, head of Nanos Research. Speaking at the CPBI Atlantic Regional Conference on ‘2019 and Beyond: Inside Canada’s Election Year,’ he said this makes politicians who appear anti-establishment, including Canada’s Justin Trudeau, are getting support from people who don’t feel they can get ahead in life. Economic factors are driving the anger at the establishment, he said, and with no prosperity, no-one is able to tell them what the future holds. As well, education attainment could be the new dividing line as those with only a high school education are feeling less secure in an age of globalization. These are amplified through social media and the rise of fake news. So if U.S. President Donald Trump gets what he wants, he takes the credit, Nanos said. If he doesn’t, he has lots of groups to blame like the media and big business. To show he was anti-establishment and different from his father, back in 2012, Trudeau had a charity boxing match with Senator Patrick Brazeau. The result is the Canadian election is about distraction and side issues. With this populist anger able to swing both left and right, if the Canadian election campaign shifts to a leader other than Trudeau, that leader will lose and small swings in votes can have a disproportionate impact on public acceptance, outcomes, and the eventual government. However, he said at this point the outcome is too close to call.

Investors Willing To Pay For Investing Responsibly

A majority of investors say they expect to pay a price for investing responsibly and are willing to do so, says a survey by NN Investment Partners. More than half (52 per cent) of the 290 “professional investors” polled ‒ predominantly in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Belgium ‒ continue to believe “an approach that incorporates environmental, social, and governance factors into investment decisions will cost them returns,” it says. Still, respondents are willing to forgo an annualized 2.4 percentage points of investment returns over the coming five years to invest responsibly.

PSP Enters SIA

Webster Limited has entered into a binding scheme implementation agreement (SIA) with PSP BidCo and Sooke Investments Inc, each indirect wholly-owned subsidiaries of PSP Investments. Under the SIA, it is proposed that PSP BidCo will acquire all of the ordinary shares in Webster that PSP Investments does not already own. Webster is one of Australia’s leading agribusinesses, operating walnut, and almond orchards in New South Wales and Tasmania, irrigable land for cotton and other annual crops, cattle and dorper sheep production, a portfolio of water entitlements, and an apiary business in NSW.

Crabtree Returns To Mercer

Susannah Crabtree leads career business for Eastern Canada for Mercer Canada. Previously, she had a senior role with a global executive search and leadership advisory firm. She has also formerly served as Ottawa office leader and wealth practice leader for Mercer Canada.

Ulmer Speaks On Pension Trends

Darren Ulmer, an elite partner advisor at Sun Life Financial, a global professional speaker, and author, will share his extensive experience and insights into ‘Pension Trends’ at a CPBI Saskatchewan session. He will discuss pension trends, markets, and what employers are doing with their pension plans. It takes place October 16 in Saskatoon, SK, and October 17 in Regina SK. Information on the Saskatoon session is at Trends Saskatoon and Trends Regina in Regina.