Skilled fund managers: illustrated with woman by Gerd Altman from Pixabay

Skilled fund managers – Researchpost #155

Skilled fund managers: 22x new research on skyscrapers, cryptos, ESG-HR, regulation, ratings, fund names, AI ESG Tools, carbon credits and accounting, impact funds, voting, Chat GPT, listed real estate, and fintechs (# shows the SSRN full paper downloads as of Dec. 7th, 2023):

Social and ecological research

Skyscaper impact: The Skyscraper Revolution: Global Economic Development and Land Savings by Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt, Nathaniel Baum-Snow, and Remi Jedwab as of Nov. 30th, 2023 (#20): “Our comprehensive examination of 12,877 cities worldwide from 1975 to 2015 reveals that the construction of tall buildings driven by reductions in the costs of height has allowed cities to accommodate greater populations on less land. … one-third of the aggregate population in cities of over 2 million people in the developing world, and 20% for all cities, is now accommodated because of the tall buildings constructed in these cities since 1975. Moreover, the largest cities would cover almost 30% more land without these buildings, and almost 20% across all cities. …. Given the gap between actual and potential building heights we calculate for each city in our data, only about one-quarter of the potential welfare gains and land value losses from heights have been realized, with per-capita welfare gains of 5.9% and 3.1% available by eliminating height regulations in developed and developing economies, respectively. As the cost of building tall structures decreases with technical progress, such potential for welfare gains will only increase into the future. … in most cities it is in landowners’ interest to maintain regulatory regimes that limit tall building construction, … benefits may be greatest for those who would move into the city with the new construction to take advantage of the higher real wages and lower commuting costs“ (p. 47).

Hot cryptos: Cryptocarbon: How Much Is the Corrective Tax? by Shafik Hebous and Nate Vernon from the International Monetary Fund as of Nov. 28th, 2023 (#14): “We estimate that the global demand for electricity by crypto miners reached that of Australia or Spain, resulting in 0.33% of global CO2 emissions in 2022. Projections suggest sustained future electricity demand and indicate further increases in CO2 emissions if crypto prices significantly increase and the energy efficiency of mining hardware is low. To address global warming, we estimate the corrective excise on the electricity used by crypto miners to be USD 0.045 per kWh, on average. Considering also air pollution costs raises the tax to USD 0.087 per kWh“ (abstract).  

ESG attracts employees: Polarizing Corporations: Does Talent Flow to “Good’’ Firms? by Emanuele Colonnelli, Timothy McQuade, Gabriel Ramos, Thomas Rauter, and Olivia Xiong as of Nov. 30th, 2023 (#48): “Using Brazil as our setting, we make two primary contributions. First, in partnership with Brazil’s premier job platform, we design a nondeceptive incentivized field experiment to estimate job-seekers’ preferences to work for socially responsible firms. We find that, on average, job-seekers place a value on ESG signals equivalent to about 10% of the average wage. … Quantitatively, skilled workers value firm ESG activities substantially more than unskilled workers. … results indicate that ESG increases worker utility relative to the baseline economy without ESG. The reallocation of labor in the economy with ESG improves assortative matching and yields an increase in total output. Moreover, skilled workers benefit the most from the introduction of ESG, ultimately increasing wage differentials between skilled and unskilled workers“ (p. 32). My comment: see HR-ESG shareholder engagement: Opinion-Post #210 – Responsible Investment Research Blog (

Always greenwashing: Can Investors Curb Greenwashing? Fanny Cartellier, Peter Tankov, and Olivier David Zerbib as of Dec. 1st, 2023 (#40): “… we show that companies greenwash all the time as long as the environmental score is not too high relative to the company’s fundamental environmental value. The tolerable deviation increases with investors’ pro-environmental preferences and decreases with their penalization. Moreover, the greenwashing effort is all the more pronounced the higher the pro-environmental preferences, the lower the disclosure intensity, and the lower the marginal unit cost of greenwashing. In particular, we show that beyond a certain horizon, on average, companies always greenwash“ (p. 31).

Insufficient ESG regulation? ESG Demand-Side Regulation – Governing the Shareholders by Thilo Kuntz as of Nov. 30th, 2023 (#45): “Instead of addressing the corporate board and its international equivalents as a supplier of ESG-friendly management, demand-side regulation targets investors and shareholders. It comes in two basic flavors, indirect and direct demand-side regulation. Whereas the first attempts to let only those retail investors become stockholders or fund members who already espouse the correct beliefs and attitudes, the latter pushes professional market participants towards ESG through a double commitment, that is, to the public at large via disclosure and to individual investors through pre-contractual information. .. Judging from extant empirical studies, indirect demand-side regulation in its current form will change the equation only slightly. … for most retail investors, including adherents to ESG, .. beliefs and attitudes seem to lie more on the side of monetary gains“ (p. 49/50).

Big bank climate deficits: An examination of net-zero commitments by the world’s largest banks by Carlo Di Maio, Maria Dimitropoulou, Zoe Lola Farkas, Sem Houben, Georgia Lialiouti, Katharina Plavec, Raphaël Poignet, Eline Elisabeth, and Maria Verhoeff from the European Central Bank as of Nov. 29th, 2023 (#25): “We examined the net-zero commitments made by Global Systemically Important Banks (G-SIBs). In recent years, large banks have significantly increased their ambition and now disclose more details regarding their net-zero targets. … The paper … identifies and discusses a number of observations, such as the significant differences in sectoral targets used despite many banks sharing the same goal, the widespread use of caveats, the missing clarity regarding exposures to carbon-intensive sectors, the lack of clarity of “green financing” goals, and the reliance on carbon offsets by some institutions. The identified issues may impact banks’ reputation and litigation risk and risk management” (abstract).

ESG investment research (Skilled fund managers)

Good fund classification: Identifying Funds’ Sustainability Goals with AI: Financial, Categorical Morality, and Impact by Keer Yang and Ayako Yasuda as of Nov. 30ths, 2023 (#23): “… developing a supervised machine-learning model-based method that classifies investment managers’ stated goals on sustainability into three distinct objectives: financial value, categorical morality, and impact. This is achieved by evaluating two dimensions of investor preferences: (i) whether investors have nonpecuniary preferences or not (value vs. values) and (ii) whether investors have ex ante, categorical moral preferences or ex post, consequentialist impact preferences. … Among the funds identified as sustainable by Morningstar, 54% state they incorporate ESG to enhance financial performance, while 39% practice categorical morality via exclusion and only 33% state they seek to generate impact. Stated goals meaningfully correlate with how the funds are managed. Financially motivated funds systematically hold stocks with high MSCI ESG ratings relative to industry peers, which is consistent with ESG risk management. Morally motivated funds categorically tilt away from companies in controversial industries (e.g., mining), but are otherwise insensitive to relative ESG ratings. Impact funds hold stocks with lower ESG performance than the others, which is consistent with them engaging with laggard firms to generate positive impact. Impact funds are also more likely to support social and environmental shareholder proposals. Hybrid funds are common. Funds combining financial and moral goals are the largest category and are growing the fastest” (p. 37/38). My comment: My fund may be unique: It holds stocks with high ESG ratings, is morally motivated and tries to achieve impact by engaging with the most sustainable companies.

ESG ratings explanations: Bridging the Gap in ESG Measurement: Using NLP to Quantify Environmental, Social, and Governance Communication by Tobias Schimanski, Andrin Reding, Nico Reding, Julia Bingler, Mathias Kraus, and Markus Leippold as of Nov. 30th, 2023 (#345): “… we propose and validate a new set of NLP models to assess textual disclosures toward all three subdomains … First, we use our corpus of over 13.8 million text samples from corporate reports and news to pre-train new specific E, S, and G models. Second, we create three 2k datasets to create classifiers that detect E, S, and G texts in corporate disclosures. Third, we validate our model by showcasing that the communication patterns detected by the models can effectively explain variations in ESG ratings” (abstract). My comments: I selected my ESG ratings agency (also) because of its AI capabilities

AI ESG Tools: Artificial Intelligence and Environmental Social Governance: An Exploratory Landscape of AI Toolkit by Nicola Cucari, Giulia Nevi, Francesco Laviola, and Luca Barbagli as of Nov. 29th, 2023 (#35): “This paper presents an initial mapping of AI tools supporting ESG pillars. Through the case study method, 32 companies and tools supporting environmental social governance (ESG) management were investigated, highlighting which of the different AI systems they use and enabling the design of the new AI-ESG ecosystem” (abstract).

Cheaper green loans: Does mandatory sustainability reporting decrease loan costs? by Katrin Hummel and Dominik Jobst as of Dec. 1st, 2023 (#31): “We focus on the passage of the NFRD, the first EU-wide sustainability reporting mandate. Using a sample of global loan deals from 2010 to 2019, we begin our analysis by documenting a negative relationship between borrowers’ levels of sustainability performance and loan costs. … In our main analysis, we find that loan costs significantly decrease among borrowers within the scope of the reporting mandate. This decrease is concentrated in firms with better sustainability performance. In a further analysis, we show that this effect is stronger if the majority of lead lenders are also operating in the EU and are thus potentially also subject to the reporting mandate themselves “ (p. 26/27).

Widepread ESG downgrade costs: Do debt investors care about ESG ratings? by Kornelia Fabisik, Michael Ryf, Larissa Schäfer, and Sascha Steffen from the European Central Bank as of Nov. 27th, 2023 (#53): “We use a major ESG rating agency‘s methodology change to firms’ ESG ratings to study its effect on the spreads of syndicated U.S. corporate loans traded in the secondary market. We find that loan spreads temporarily increase by 10% relative to the average spread of 4%. … we find some evidence that the effect is stronger for smaller and financially constrained firms, but not for younger firms. We also find that investors penalize firms for which ESG-related aspects seem to play a more prominent role. Lastly, when we explore potential spillover effects on private firms that are in the same industry as the downgraded firms, we find evidence supporting this channel. We find that private firms in highly affected industries face higher loan spreads after ESG downgrades of public firms in the same industry, suggesting that investors of private (unrated) firms also price in ESG downgrades of public firms“ (p. 28).

High ESG risks: Measuring ESG risk premia with contingent claims by Ioannis Michopoulos, Alexandros Bougias, Athanasios Episcopos and Efstratios Livanis as of Nov. 9th, 2023 (#109): “We find a statistically significant relationship between the ESG score and the volatility and drift terms of the asset process, suggesting that ESG factors have a structural effect on the firm value. We establish a mapping between ESG scores and the cost of equity and debt as implied by firm’s contingent claims, and derive estimates of the ESG risk premium across different ESG and leverage profiles. In addition, we break down the ESG risk premia by industry, and demonstrate how practitioners can adjust the weighed average cost of capital of ESG laggard firms for valuation and decision making purposes“ (abstract). … “We find that ESG risk has a large effect on the concluded cost of capital. Assuming zero ESG risk premia during the valuation process could severely underestimate the risky discount rate of ESG laggard firms, leading to distorted investment and capital budget decisions, as well as an incorrect fair value measurement of firm’s equity and related corporate securities” (p. 20).

ESG fund benefits: Renaming with purpose: Investor response and fund manager behaviour after fund ESG-renaming by Kayshani Gibbon, Jeroen Derwall, Dirk Gerritsen, and Kees Koedijk as of Nov. 27th, 2023 (#42): “Using a unique sample of 740 ESG-related name changes …. Our most conservative estimates … suggest that mutual funds domiciled in Europe may enjoy greater average flows by renaming … we provide consistent evidence that mutual funds improve the ESG performance and reduce the ESG risks of their portfolios after signalling ESG repurposing through fund name changes. Finally, we find that renaming has no material impact on funds’ turnover rates or on the fees charged to investors“ (p. 15/16). My comment: Maybe I should have integrated ESG in my FutureVest Equity Sustainable Develeopment Goals fund name (ESG and more see in the just updated 31pager 231120_Nachhaltigkeitsinvestmentpolitik_der_Soehnholz_Asset_Management_GmbH).

Green for the rich? Rich and Responsible: Is ESG a Luxury Good? Steffen Andersen, Dmitry Chebotarev, Fatima Zahra Filali Adib, and Kasper Meisner Nielsen as of Nov. 27th, 2023 (#91): “… we examine the rise of responsible investing among retail investors in Denmark. … from 2019 to 2021. The fraction of retail investors that hold socially responsible mutual funds in their portfolios has increased from less than 0.5% to 6.8%, equivalent to an increase in the portfolio weight on socially responsible mutual funds for all investors from 0.1% to 1.6%. At the same time, the fraction of investors holding green stock has increased from 8.7% to 15.9%, equivalent to an increase in portfolio weight on green stocks from 2.4% to 3.3%. Collectively, the rise of sustainable investments implies that more than 4.9% of the risky assets are allocated to sustainable investments by 2021. The rise in responsible investments is concentrated among wealthy investors. Almost 13% of investors in the top decile of financial wealth holds socially responsible mutual funds and one out of four holds green stocks. Collectively, the portfolio weight on socially responsible assets among wealth investors is 4.8% in 2021. … Using investors’ charitable donations prior to inheritance, we document that the warm glow effect partially explains the documented results“ (p. 20/21).

Emissions control: Carbon Accounting Quality: Measurement and the Role of Assurance by Brandon Gipper, Fiona Sequeira, and Shawn X. Shi as of Nov. 29th, 2023 (#135): “We document a positive association between (Sö: third party) assurance and carbon accounting quality for both U.S. and non-U.S. countries. This relation is stronger when assurance is more thorough. We also document how assurance improves carbon accounting quality: first, assurors identify issues in the carbon accounting system and communicate them to the firm; subsequently, firms take remedial actions, resulting in updated disclosures, faster release of emissions information, and more positive perceptions of emissions figures by reporting firms. …. our findings suggest that even limited assurance can shape carbon accounting quality“ (p. 34).

Impact investment research (Skilled fund managers)

Carbon credit differences: Paying for Quality State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2023 by Stephen Donofrio Managing Director Alex Procton from Ecosystem Marketplace as of Oct. 10th, 2023: “Average voluntary carbon markets (VCM) … volume of VCM credits traded dropped by 51 percent, the average price per credit skyrocketed, rising by 82 percent from $4.04 per ton in 2021 to $7.37 per ton in 2022. This price hike allowed the overall value of the VCM to hold relatively steady in 2022, at just under $2 billion. To date in 2023, the average credit price is down slightly from 2022, to $6.97 per ton. … Nature-based projects, including Forestry and Land Use and Agriculture projects, made up almost half of the market share at 46 percent. … Credits that certified additional robust environmental and social co-benefits “beyond carbon” had a significant price premium. Credits from projects with at least one co-benefit certification had a 78 percent price premium in 2022, compared to projects without any co-benefit certification. … Projects working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also demonstrated a substantial price premium at 86 percent higher prices than projects not associated with SDGs … Newer credits are attracting higher prices” (p. 6).

Unsuccessful voting: Minerva Briefing 2023 Proxy Season Review as of November 2023: “Most resolutions are proposed by management (96.90% overall) … In 2023, there were 621 proposals from shareholders, mostly in the US (530), and mostly Social- and Governance-related (259 and 184 respectively). However, an increasing number of proposals are also being put forward on Environmental issues. The higher number of shareholder proposals in the US may reflect more supportive regulations on the filing of proposals and the absence of an independent national corporate governance code, as there is in the UK. Although well-crafted shareholder proposals can receive majority support, the overall proportion doing so has decreased (5.80% in 2023 vs. 11.56% in 2022), partly dragged down by ‘anti-ESG’ proposals” (p. 3/4). My comment: 621*6%=37 majority supported shareholder proposals including non ESG-topics seems to a very low number compared to the overall marketing noise asset managers produce regarding their good impact on listed companies. Direct shareholder engagement with companies seems to have more potential for change. My respective policy see Shareholder engagement: 21 science based theses and an action plan – (

Good impact returns: Impact investment funds and the equity market: correlation, performance, risk and diversification effects – A global overview by Lucky Pane as of July 2021: “Impact investing funds from the twelve economies reported an average return of 10.7% over the period 2004-2019, higher than the average return of the MSCI World Equity Index (8.7%). … Negative/low correlations were observed between impact investment funds and traditional assets of the following countries: Germany, Australia, UK, Brazil, China, Poland, South Korea and Turkey” (p. 35/36). My comment: Unfortunately, there are very few (liquid) impact investing studies. A study including 2022 and 2023 would come to less favorable return conclusions, though.

Other investment research

Skilled fund managers (1): Sharpening the Sharpe Style Analysis with Machine-Learning ― Evidence from Manager Style-Shifting Skill of Mutual Funds by George J. Jiang, Bing Liang, and Huacheng Zhang as of Dec. 3rd, 2023 (#38): “Nine out of 32 indexes are selected as the proxy of style set in the mutual fund industry. We … find that most active equity funds are multi-style funds and more than 85% of them allocate capitals among three to six styles. Single-style funds count less than 3% of the total number of funds. We further find that around 3% of funds shift their investment styles in each quarter and each shifting fund switches styles three times over the whole period … We find that shifting funds perform better in the post-shifting quarter than in the pre-shifting quarter in terms of both total returns and style-adjusted returns, but we do not find performance improvement by non-shifting funds. We further find that style-shifting decision is positively related to future fund returns. … We find that style-shifting in the mutual fund industry is mostly driven by fund managers’ expertise in the new style“ (p. 42).

Skilled fund managers (2): Do mutual fund perform worse when they get larger? Anticipated flow vs unanticipated flow by Yiming Zhang as of Nov. 14th, 2023 (#17): “… I provide empirical evidence from a novel setting that supports the decreasing returns to scale in active mutual funds. My identification strategy relies on the nature of Morningstar Rating, which has a large impact on fund flow. … I find that for each 1% of inflow (outflow), the return will decrease (increase) by around 0.6% on average in the next month, and the return will decrease (increase) by around 0.2% on average in the next month. … I find that for experienced manager, they make more new investment after the flow shock and their performance does not decrease. For inexperienced manager, it is quite the opposite. These results indicate that if fund managers can anticipate the 36th month flow shock, they will try to generate more investment ideas, and execute them when the flow arrives“ (p. 22/23).

Skilled fund managers (3)? Can ChatGPT assist in picking stocks? Matthias Pelster and Joel Val as of Nov. 29th, 2023 (#199): “… we find that ratings of stocks by ChatGPT positively correlate to future (out-of-sample) stock returns. … ChatGPT seems to be able to successfully identify stocks that yield superior performance over the next month. ChatGPT-4 seems to have some ability to evaluate news information and summarize its evaluation into a simple score. We find clear evidence that ChatGPT is able to distinguish between positive and negative news events, and adjusts its recommendation following negative news” (p. 11). My comment: Interesting, because most active fund managers underperform their benchmarks most of the time, but I am skeptical regarding AI investment benefits see How can sustainable investors benefit from artificial intelligence? – GITEX Impact – Leading ESG Event 2023

Listed real estate: Drivers of listed and unlisted real estate returns by Michael Chin and Pavol Povala as of Nov. 2nd, 2023 (#25): “The differences between listed and unlisted real estate appear to reduce over the longer term, where the return correlations between the two segments increases with horizon. In addition, the correlations with the broader equity market are lower at longer horizons for both real estate segments. … We find that both segments of real estate hedge inflation risk more than the aggregate equity market, and that listed real estate has a high exposure to transitory risk premium shocks“ (abstract). My comment: I started “my” first listed real estate fund more than 10 years ago and still like the market segment despite all of its problems

Fintech success factors: Fintech Startups in Germany: Firm Failure, Funding Success, and Innovation Capacity by Lars Hornuf and Matthias Mattusch as of Nov. 29th, 2023 (#75): “ … using a hand-collected dataset of 892 German fintechs founded between 2000 and 2021 … We find that founders with a business degree and entrepreneurial experience have a better chance of obtaining funding, while founder teams with science, technology, engineering, or mathematics backgrounds file more patents. Early third-party endorsements and foreign partnerships substantially increases firm survival. … Fintechs focusing on business-to-business models and which position themselves as technical providers have proven more effective. Fintechs competing in segments traditionally attributed to banks are generally less successful and less innovative.” (abstract).

Skilled fund managers (?) advert for German investors

Sponsor my research by investing in and/or recommending my global small/midcap mutual fund (SFDR Art. 9). The fund focuses on social SDGs and uses separate E, S and G best-in-universe minimum ratings and broad shareholder engagement with currently 26 of 30 companiesFutureVest Equity Sustainable Development Goals R – DE000A2P37T6 – A2P37T or Noch eine Fondsboutique? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (