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Best Buy Q&A: George Latham of WHEB Asset Management

We caught up with George Latham, Managing Partner at WHEB Asset Management, which came top in our guides to Fossil Free Investment Funds and Ethical Investment Funds.

Because 'greenwashing' is now running rampant across the board, it can be hard to know who's really meeting the ethical mark. Luckily, nothing gets by our screening process. Our Best Buys can be trusted to do right.

Sophie: Tell us a bit about your business

George Latham: WHEB is a specialist investment firm with a single investment strategy. Our starting point is a long-term belief that the global economy is shifting to a lower-carbon and more sustainable basis. We only invest in businesses that enable - and benefit from - this dramatic change. 

Therefore, we only invest in companies whose products and services have a positive impact on the environment and/or society, and businesses that are solving sustainability challenges. 

The FP WHEB Sustainability fund invests in global listed equities and has nine sustainable investment themes; five environmental (cleaner energy, environmental services, resource efficiency, sustainable transport, and water management) and four social (education, health, safety, and well-being).

Our aim is to identify high-quality businesses around the world that are best-placed to deliver profitable growth from capitalising on these sustainability trends.

S: How do you differ from the standard players in the investment fund industry?

GL: For WHEB this isn’t just another product line, it is what defines our whole business. All our investments are made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.

Sustainability and Environmental, Social and Governance criteria are ‘built-in’ to our investment strategy as a source of investment return, rather than ‘bolted-on’ as a modification of another investment approach, as is the case for many investment strategies. And at WHEB, we invest for the long term, so we don’t trade in and out of stocks on a regular basis. Instead, we identify quality companies and aim to invest in them for 4-7 years. 

The team at WHEB are experts in sustainable and impact investing and are known for their thought leadership in this space. We have a track record of over thirteen years compared to our peers, many of whom are new entrants. 

WHEB is organised as a partnership and is a Certified B Corporation, so we are enabled and incentivised to make longer-term business decisions, and focus on the interests of our clients and broader stakeholders, in a way that many of our competitors are not.

Investment Management companies that are listed on stock exchanges or that are divisions of larger financial institutions are typically subject to much shorter-term targets and decision making, which generally places the interests of the shareholder ahead of those of clients.

S: How can people be sure that they can trust WHEB with their money?

GL: WHEB is very transparent with our investment process. Unlike other asset managers, we publish the full list of companies we invest in on our website. We also have an Independent Investment Advisory Committee who ensure that the portfolio holdings we choose to invest in attain both the spirit and the letter of the fund’s sustainability criteria.

The WHEB team is passionate about impact investing and as well as transparency. We value our authenticity and integrity as professional investors. The three partners at WHEB each have over half of their personal investable wealth invested in the WHEB strategy, which ensures their interests are aligned with those of our clients. 

S: Why do you think you received our Best Buy Label above your ethical competitors?

GL: We hold ourselves to very high standards, and we are genuinely thoughtful about what makes a sustainable investment. There is a lot of ‘greenwash’ in the industry, but being as transparent as we are means we have to maintain consistently high standards. We believe our success only comes after achieving success for our clients, and WHEB strives to be a learning organisation and to improve continuously. 

We also aim to help our investors connect with their money by helping them understand and relate to the positive impact their savings and investments can have on the world.

Our Impact Calculator is a tool to do just that. For example, an investment of £10k is associated with generating 18MWh of renewable energy, avoiding 8 tons of CO2e emissions and saving £650 of costs through more efficient healthcare systems as well as much more. Please see our Impact Microsite for further resources. 

S: Do you think there has been a significant move towards ethical investment funds recently?

GL: Yes, there has been a significant increase in interest in sustainable and impact investing in the last 18 months or so. There is a growing awareness of environmental pressures across society, and ‘traditional’ asset managers are realising this and launching new products to meet demand.

Having specialised in this type of investing for over a decade, we are being recognised for our experience, and our assets under management have doubled since the beginning of 2018. 

S: What are WHEB’s plans for the future?

GL: To continue to improve our existing investment strategy as well as how we measure the impact of our investments. Each year we aim to improve our impact measurement methodology and the data we use so our investors have a better understanding of the positive outcomes of their investment with us. 

We would like to thank George for taking the time to talk to Ethical Consumer. For more information about WHEB, visit their website.

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