SEI Unveils Advisors’ Perspectives on Key Sustainability Issues

SEI Investments Company

OAKS, PA — SEI (NASDAQ: SEIC) recently announced the results of its inaugural sustainable investing survey, which examines insights from nearly 800 registered investment advisors (RIAs) on core sustainable investing topics, including education, investment strategy and sustainability priorities.

COVID-19 and the racial equity movement accelerated the already pronounced investor effort to match their investments with their sustainability priorities,” said Jana Holt, Global Director, Sustainable Investing Solutions at SEI. “RIAs play a central role in supporting their clients’ portfolio construction, so it’s crucial that they are well positioned to provide the insight and support clients need to determine how they can best allocate in alignment with their values.”

Key survey findings include:

COVID-19 and Racial Equity Movement Increase Sustainable Investing Interest

  • One-third of RIAs experienced increased client interest in sustainable investing amid the pandemic and racial equity movement.

Lack of Knowledge Impedes Utilization and Uptake

  • Twenty percent of RIAs remain unfamiliar with sustainable investing and do not plan to use sustainable investing strategies with clients within the next two years.
  • Forty percent of RIAs feel that they still do not know enough about sustainable investments to make suitable sustainable investing recommendations to clients.
  • Nearly one-in-three RIAs (30%) express that sustainable investment strategy performance is the biggest barrier to implementing ESG funds in client portfolios while 19% cite their lack of information and education. Just 9% of RIAs point to greenwashing as a concern.
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Importance of Client Demand and the Shifting Client Profile 

  • RIAs predominantly (80%) point to client demand as the primary driver of incorporating sustainable investing strategies in a portfolio.
    • Nearly half (42%) of RIAs report that their clients express interest in sustainable investing at least sometimes.
    • Yet, only 34% of RIAs have implemented sustainable investing strategies for their clients.
  • Among RIAs with clients who express interest in sustainable investing strategies, demand was fairly balanced across millennials, Baby Boomers and GenX.

ESG Integration and Climate Lead Sustainable Investing Preferences

  • Almost half of RIAs (47%) say they are most interested in ESG integration strategies, with a nearly equal number of them preferring both impact (27%) and exclusionary (25%) strategies instead.
  • Climate and climate-related issues, including alternative or renewable energy and natural resources, are the most often-cited priorities for RIAs, with nearly three times more interest than issues like multicultural and gender diversity.
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“Our research demonstrates that RIAs are committed to addressing the rising client and prospect demand for sustainable investing, but don’t yet feel prepared to deliver appropriate counsel or investment strategy,” said J. Womack, Managing Director of Investment Products & Services for SEI’s advisor business. “It’s critical that we continue to educate advisors so that they can confidently embrace the increasing demand and empower all investors to achieve their financial and sustainability goals.”


Results are from a survey conducted by SEI in late 2020, in which nearly 800 Registered Investment Advisors answered questions about sustainable investing.1

ESG guidelines may cause a manager to make or avoid certain investment decisions when it may be disadvantageous to do so. This means that these investments may underperform other similar investments that do not consider ESG guidelines when making investment decisions. ESG and Sustainability are not uniformly defined across the industry.

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1. For purposes of the survey, sustainable investing was defined as the alignment of investment objectives with social and/or environmental considerations. Approaches to sustainable investing may include exclusions/negative screening, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) integration, and impact investing.

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