Crown Place VCT AGM Report and AIC Survey of ESG Interest

I attended the Crown Place VCT (CRWN) Annual General Meeting today via the Hopin platform. This worked well with no technical hitches.

I have held the shares in this company for a very long time. It was one of those VCTs with a difficult history originally when it was formed from three Murray VCTs. After Albion took over management it has had a good track record. Total return in the last 5 years has been 14.0%, 14.6%, 11.2%, -0.6% and 15.9% last year.

Emil Gigov, representing the manager, gave a useful presentation. Like some other VCTs I hold, it has been focussing on late on software, fintech and digital health companies which now comprise 77% of the portfolio (excluding cash) and has been selling off its asset-based investments such as care homes. It is holding a large amount of cash in the portfolio (35% of assets) and this raised a question from the audience. Why so much cash? Answer was primarily because they need to keep that to exploit future opportunities, particularly follow-on investments to existing holdings.

I asked a question which I submitted in writing during the meeting which was: “What do you think of the Chancellors announcement that all listed companies will have to state how they expect to achieve net zero, enforced by regulation?”. But I did not get an answer.

All resolutions were passed with over 90% of support. In summary there seemed to be no contentious issues at this VCT and charges are reasonable (although raised to 2.6% of assets last year due to a big performance fee).

Note that an interesting aspect on the question I posed was revealed in a survey that the AIC has published of private investors. This is what it said: “When asked what was important to them in choosing an investment, respondents ranked ESG as the least important of five factors. Among all respondents, the most important consideration was an investment’s performance record, followed by fees and charges, the fund manager’s reputation, and the asset management company’s reputation.

But one female respondent aged 59 said: ‘In my personal life I do give consideration to these things, I drive an electric car, I have a plant-based diet, I definitely have quite strong feelings about that – but hand on heart when it has come to my investments, the first thing I would look at is returns.’

ESG is more important to women than men, and more important to investors under 45 than those over 45”.

The AIC don’t give the actual numbers who responded so as investors tend to be male and over 45 perhaps this affected the outcome. Such investors are less likely to adopt extreme life styles I suggest.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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Climate Related Bureaucracy to be Imposed by the FCA

It’s summer holiday time, so what better time to issue public consultations of which there are a spate of late? Is this because the authors wish to clear their desks before the holidays, or because they hope to get more or fewer responses at this time of year?

Anyway here are some comments on the first one I have looked at which is a consultation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on “Enhancing climate-related disclosures by asset managers……(CP21/17).”.

The changes proposed to the FCA Handbook which will apply to all asset managers, life insurers and pension providers aims to tackle the “climate challenge” by providing more information on climate-related risks.

But there will be substantial costs imposed with no obvious benefits. For example, asset managers are expected to incur implementation costs of £202 million with on-going annual costs of £116 million. What are the benefits? This is what the consultation report says: “We do not consider that it is reasonably practicable to quantify the benefits of our proposals. We have therefore not sought to quantify the benefits to the market of addressing the identified harms”. In essence they are saying that there is no obvious cost/benefit justification.

But they do argue that “the estimated costs of compliance are small relative to total assets under management of in-scope asset managers and asset owners. Total one-off and ongoing costs represent 0.002% and 0.001% of total assets under management for asset managers and asset owners, respectively”. They may be small figures but bureaucracy tends to grow over time.

How will such disclosures make any difference to climate? Won’t it just become a virtue signalling exercise by asset managers?

I have posted the following response to the consultation. I suggest readers say something similar:

“I have not answered the individual questions posed because I consider the imposition of the need for asset managers and others to produce climate related disclosures will be a costly exercise with no benefits. There are significant costs being imposed with no clear benefit to the investors in the assets covered. It’s just adding more bureaucracy to an already high level of regulation which will deter new entrants to financial markets and reduce competition. It is adding costs to investors with no benefit.

The FCA seems to barely have the resources to police and enforce the existing regulations in the FCA Handbook so adding more superfluous regulations is pointless. It is not at all clear how new ESG regulations will improve the returns to investors”.

Reference: CP21/17 Consultation Paper: https://www.fca.org.uk/publications/consultation-papers/cp-21-17-climate-related-disclosures-asset-managers-life-insurers-regulated-pensions

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.