Investor Chronicle – Alex Newman

Is the traditional model of investment bank-led research failing to prepare investors for the threat climate change poses to long-term portfolios? That question is one possible inference from the departure of Barclays’ (BARC) head of European utilities, Mark Lewis, who this week joined financial think-tank Carbon Tracker as its new head of research, in a rare move in the industry.

Carbon Tracker, which advises institutional investors on the transition to a low-carbon energy mix, has been a key figure in the debates around ‘un-burnable carbon’ and ‘stranded assets’. The group’s views gained prominence in 2015, when Bank of England governor Mark Carney highlighted the “potentially huge” losses facing investors from climate change action.

Speaking to Investors Chronicle ahead of his move, Mr Lewis said the decision to leave the banking sell-side for a non-profit group was informed by both pull and push factors. On the one hand, he believes NGOs such as Carbon Tracker can be more effective at influencing and informing investors, and has long been a fan of his new company’s insights on the policy, regulatory and technology changes driving the world’s response to climate change. But the ex-Barclays managing director said recent banking reforms had created an obstacle for traditional providers of company research.

Those reforms centre on Mifid II, the European Union’s revised directive on financial instruments, which launched in January. The new rules force buyers of investment research to separate – or ‘un-bundle’ – what they pay for research from the costs of executing trades with banks and brokers. Put simply, financial institutions must now be more open about what they buy and what they charge. In theory, this should bring greater transparency and resilience to financial markets, increasing competition and protecting investors in the process.

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