How index investors can change the future

There are multiple ways for ‘tracker’ funds to help foster better financial and societal outcomes, says Meryam Omi, Head of Sustainability and Responsible Investment Strategy at Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM)

Markets depend on information: traders and fund managers compete for the key insights that they believe will give them an edge over their peers. But markets cannot live on information alone. Over re- cent decades, people have increasingly recognised economic growth as being dependent upon a complex hierarchy of resources, from a stable environment to a healthy workforce. Indeed, an agenda set by the UN has been built on this view, adopted internationally as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which has significant implications for long-term investors. Some pension funds, for example, use this when making deci- sions for the coming decades. Will the investments of today be resilient in the future? And, more importantly, are these investments financing a world worth retiring in? Both of these questions are pressing; both require comprehensive answers.

The face of traditional investing is changing. Stocks worth hundreds of billions of dollars are still traded daily, but a growing number of investors are turning to index investing. Rather than attempting to beat the market by picking securities that are likely to outperform, index fund managers seek to track the market. In equities, they own shares in every company that form part of an index, such as the S&P 500. This can result in a diversified portfolio, but with lower management costs than funds that are actively managed. As such, index fund managers may be less concerned with the fate of any particular stock, but will probably care about the systemic issues that can affect entire markets.

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