A particular group of new mutual funds might be perfect for financial advisors who aren't well versed in socially responsible investing but who have some clients-or potential clients-who would like to invest that way.
The new fund family-ESG Managers Portfolios-was introduced in January by Pax World Management and Morningstar Associates, Morningstar Inc.'s registered investment advisor subsidiary. The funds use more than 10 unaffiliated subadvisors to select investments based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, making them the first multi-manager asset allocation funds using a sustainable investing approach. ESG Managers offers four asset allocation portfolios-aggressive growth, growth, moderate and conservative-so an advisor just needs to determine the client's risk profile to determine which fund or what mix is appropriate.
"We believe these funds will provide turnkey, one-stop solutions for financial advisors whose clients seek to capture the investment returns associated with superior ESG or sustainability performance," said Joe Keefe, president and CEO of Pax World, at the time of the launch.
But not many advisors have signed on yet: With about $5.5 million in total assets, the growth portfolio has attracted the most dollars. And the price of shares in all the portfolios hasn't budged much off their $10 a share initial offering prices at the beginning of the year.
The shares wouldn't appeal to RIAs who build custom separate accounts with individual securities for wealthier clients. They also probably wouldn't appeal much to SRI advisors who serve more middle-class clients by building portfolios with sustainable funds targeting individual asset classes or strategies.
It would seem the ESG Managers funds would appeal to mainstream advisors who aren't too knowledgeable about sustainable investing but want to help clients or potential clients get started in SRI. Retirement plan advisors also could offer the funds as a comprehensive SRI asset allocation alternative in company 401(k) or other retirement accounts, where sustainable investing options usually are underrepresented or missing entirely.
But many new funds take time to catch on, and since the financial crisis not a lot of new money has been flowing into most equity mutual funds. Like other small business people, most financial advisors may have been thinking more about maintaining business rather than expanding into new areas. But that may be changing now that the economy is showing some signs of improving and the stock market has regained most of its lost ground. So perhaps the funds will start getting more attention, particularly if Pax World and Morningstar put a lot of effort into educating advisors on them.
The funds can only be bought through financial advisors and are available on most major platforms. A and C shares are available for registered reps and load-waived A shares are offered for RIAs. An institutional share class is also available.
Pax World, is investment advisor to the portfolios. The subadvisors selected by Morningstar include Access Capital Strategies, Ariel Investments, ClearBridge Advisors, Community Capital Management, Impax Asset Management, Miller-Howard Investments, MMA Capital Management, Neuberger Berman, Parnassus Investments, Pax World Investments and Portfolio 21.