Liberty Mutual’s strategy to ESG investing, with Vlad Barbalat

The insurance coverage trade has been honing strategies of threat distribution since Babylonian merchants hit the ocean to promote their wares in what I think about weren’t the sturdiest vessels.

The trade is particularly geared up to assist the sustainability agenda. As former Financial institution of England governor Mark Carney said, the insurance coverage trade is “a devoted reporter of what is taking place on the bottom. What they gained’t insure is a number one indicator of how dangerous issues might get as a result of it’s their job to consider that.”

Whether or not the underwriting facet of the insurance coverage enterprise has performed the integral position it must in supporting the transition to a clear financial system is one other dialog.

The insurance coverage trade isn’t solely within the enterprise of threat evaluation and transference. It’s additionally one of many largest buyers: of all asset house owners, insurance coverage sits behind solely pension funds in its scale. And, like pension funds, buyers from insurance coverage are long-term buyers with pursuits and mandates that align with the ethos of ESG investing. That’s, long-term worth creation and retention.

Liberty Mutual is likely one of the largest property and casualty insurers in the USA, with $41.5 billion in annual premiums. Liberty Mutual Investments (LMI), the group that manages Liberty Mutual Insurance coverage’s globally invested monetary belongings, has about $92 billion in belongings beneath administration (AUM).

I checked in with LMI’s chief funding officer, Vlad Barbalat, to study extra about how the asset supervisor is incorporating ESG throughout asset courses in its portfolio. Barbalat joined Liberty Mutual in 2017 as head of funding technique and was later promoted to co-head of technique and asset allocation for LMI. He was appointed to his present position final 12 months.

As all the time, I hope you discover the dialog beneficial. Be at liberty to achieve me at [email protected] with ideas or suggestions.

Grant Harrison: How do LMI’s methods incorporate ESG throughout the asset courses in your portfolio? Are you able to share some examples of progress you’ve made on the vitality transition and your expectations in your future portfolio?

Vlad Barbalat: At LMI, we take a holistic strategy to incorporating materials ESG elements into our funding course of as a result of we expect that this will improve our potential to fulfill Liberty Mutual’s long-term funding goals. Merely put, the LMI ESG technique is about making smarter funding selections.

As buyers, we discover that ESG efficiency is usually a mirrored image of broader enterprise practices and may result in beneficial insights that in any other case wouldn’t be captured as a part of the standard funding evaluation. By increasing the knowledge set accessible to the LMI group in our each day funding decision-making, we glance to sharpen our understanding of the investments into account.

For instance, our ESG integration strategy in fastened revenue begins with a analysis analyst’s ESG evaluation of a given issuer relative to its friends, which then informs portfolio administration and buying and selling selections. In evaluating personal investments, resembling personal fairness and actual property offers, we’ve added an ESG due diligence questionnaire and scorecard as a part of the deal course of. We additionally proceed to guage exterior public fairness managers that align with our ESG integration objectives.

We’re deeply dedicated to collaboration throughout the LMI platform and to true ESG integration. Our ESG initiative is particularly designed to offer strategic readability by a proper, cross-functional ESG governance construction, whereas additionally reflecting numerous views of LMI professionals. This strategy has enabled us to generate robust buy-in throughout the group and successfully drive our ESG technique ahead.

Harrison: Liberty Mutual launched a Sustainability Workplace in 2019. How has the workplace labored to implement ESG issues straight into the enterprise, particularly in your investments? What have been probably the most fruitful alternatives and, conversely, probably the most urgent challenges?

Barbalat: Liberty Mutual has a long-standing historical past of cultivating a company goal and core values which might be well-aligned with the underlying rules of sustainability and ESG. We’re additionally persevering with to construct on our collective strengths throughout the enterprise —on actually “delivering your entire firm” — in our interactions with our clients, enterprise companions and our different key stakeholders.

The Sustainability Workplace has helped us take our enterprise-level ESG efforts to the following degree by offering strategic readability and enterprise alignment by shut collaboration with the Government Management Group, whereas additionally enabling our respective companies to deal with their very own ESG objectives.

At LMI, we now have benefited from this partnership in myriad methods, together with our persevering with dialogue about vital ESG subjects that affect all components of the enterprise resembling local weather threat and vitality transition. One of these collaboration has helped us arrive at extra complete, resilient options.

Harrison: The requires a transition away from fossil fuels have been a lot loud. However given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and several other latest studies on the more and more disastrous impacts of local weather change, the calls to transition to renewable and clear vitality are intensifying. Might you share your tackle the insurance coverage trade’s position in accelerating the vitality transition, each as an underwriter and an investor?

Barbalat: As one of many main property and casualty insurers, Liberty Mutual is keenly conscious of the impacts of local weather change and the worldwide vitality transition that’s at present underway.

At LMI, we imagine that this international shift could have a big, constructive affect on revolutionary, forward-thinking firms and buyers, and we’re actively trying to seize this chance. As such, in 2020, we outlined our general vitality transition funding technique, formalized a devoted funding group and engaged with colleagues throughout Liberty Mutual to drive a strategic enterprise-level vitality transition effort.

Our vitality transition funding technique is constructed on the intersection of driving returns for LMI’s monetary efficiency, our dedication to supporting the worldwide vitality transition and the general funding context. The technique is knowledgeable by key vitality transition developments and uncertainties, which have pushed and can proceed to affect the attractiveness of sure sectors and the corresponding funding alternatives. Via this lens, we then look to isolate high-conviction areas throughout the general vitality worth chain. Lastly, throughout the focus areas of curiosity, we apply a rigorous due diligence course of and funding evaluation to pick out engaging investments and companions to whom we are able to allocate capital.

For instance, we dedicated to accumulate, develop and construct out energy technology capabilities at 22 current non-powered dams. We additionally made investments that assist residential photo voltaic, wind energy technology and different vital points of the general vitality transition funding ecosystem.

We’re happy with the progress we’re making, however we all know that any change is advanced, messy and never with out threat. We imagine that no less than for the quick future, the world must retain some degree of stability between vitality technology from fossil fuels and from different vitality sources. Because of this we’re dedicated to a gradual vitality transition that may result in a better use of other vitality sources over time, whereas on the similar time sustaining vitality availability, stability and affordability.

Harrison: How has Liberty Mutual known as on companions to assist your strategic planning and execution of ESG objectives? Are there any standout examples of progress inside your individual portfolio, and/or driving progress inside and past your individual trade, that you just’d like to focus on?

Barbalat: We predict that rigorously chosen partnerships are key to our success throughout all points of the enterprise, and that is definitely additionally true for our ESG efforts.

In December 2020, Liberty Mutual turned the primary U.S. property and casualty insurer to turn into a signatory of the United Nations-backed Ideas for Accountable Funding (PRI). By turning into part of this main, worldwide community of institutional buyers and asset house owners dedicated to together with ESG elements of their funding decision-making, we are able to share insights with and study from our friends as we proceed to advance our personal ESG technique. Now we have additionally dedicated to PRI’s annual reporting, which can assist us assess our progress over time.

Harrison: “S” elements are an usually ignored piece of the ESG puzzle, although that’s starting to vary. The monetary companies sector has lengthy struggled with variety and fairness with workers and clients alike. What’s Liberty Mutual doing to handle this? Are there any modifications you’ve got made just lately to combine DEI, each internally and externally?

Barbalat: I actually recognize the best way you framed that, ESG actually is a puzzle, and no puzzle is full if all of the items usually are not in place — on this case the “S.”

My favourite a part of being a part of an organization like Liberty Mutual is that I get to be part of a various and vibrant international group. Our folks converse dozens of languages, hail from nations internationally and produce to bear levels and expertise throughout numerous disciplines. It’s superb to see how every single day, our folks come collectively to carry the perfect of our firm to our clients.

From a cultural perspective, we now have been on a journey to interrupt down limitations and produce our multidimensional variety and authenticity to our work. This isn’t a straightforward activity and takes persistence that our leaders have dedicated to. We all know that to get it proper, we should create a high-performance tradition the place everybody can have the chance to affect, thrive and obtain success.

And we now have so much to have a good time on that entrance! Our worker useful resource teams (ERG) elevate and amplify the problems which might be vital to our folks and assist foster a group that’s actually multi-dimensional. Greater than 14,000 workers engaged in over 600 ERG-related applications and occasions globally final 12 months — creating constructive connections between our DEI commitments and our enterprise goals.

Throughout Liberty Mutual Group, we now have made substantial progress throughout our representation goals — and have launched a self-ID marketing campaign within the U.S., enabling workers to self-identify throughout many dimensions, resembling veterans, LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities.

I’m additionally extremely happy with our firm’s philanthropic work, led by our Neighborhood Investments group and supported year-round by our workers by our Give and Serve with Liberty applications, the place they’ll generously volunteer and donate. We companion with a variety of non-profit organizations that make an enormous distinction. Final 12 months alone we gave $55 million to organizations centered on empowering people who’re experiencing homelessness, advancing entry for folks with disabilities and increasing instructional alternatives for underserved college students.

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