In this regular series, female members of the ESG investment industry detail how they are dealing with the transition to remote working during the coronavirus fallout
Following on from our sister title Portfolio Adviser which has been running the Working from Home series with investment experts from the wider industry, we are running these articles twice a week with women in ESG. This week we speak to Claudia Quiroz, lead portfolio manager of Quilter Cheviot’s Climate Assets Fund.
How has the oronavirus affected your day-to-day work – from both a portfolio and workplace perspective?
This is my fifth week working from home, as our business contingency plan was ahead of the government’s mandate. I try to work from home one day a week ordinarily so I have been able to adapt fairly quickly. It has actually given me the opportunity to spend more time with my family, going for bike rides, walks and playing board games.
I am proud that we at Quilter Cheviot have kept our clients informed during this process and continue to manage the portfolios with the same level of care and attention they are used to receiving. Technology has played a key role. Ten years ago being productive and effective while working from home would have been impossible for me, never mind rebalancing portfolios in real time at the click of a button.
What has been your biggest contributor to performance since the coronavirus hit markets? What has been your biggest detractor?
Whilst we are seeing extreme market volatility across global equity markets, the scale of these moves has not been fully reflected within our sustainable investment strategy – the Climate Assets Fund. The fund has proved resilient in relative terms, generally due to its diversified portfolio, which invests across a wide range of asset classes and international markets, but also on a stock specific basis as it does not hold oil and gas, hospitality, fast food, airlines or other sectors that are most vulnerable to impact of covid-19 and the slowing economic growth.
The high quality businesses that we invest in have held up better than the market overall, with many having their own cash reserves or credit lines that they can draw on to help them in this difficult time. Having said this, with market sentiment remaining so negative we have reduced our exposure to construction and discretionary healthcare, and increased our exposure to more defensive sectors such as utilities and medical technology.
What feedback have you had from clients since the coronavirus sell-off?
Most of our clients were invested with us during previous crises and have learnt that it pays to remain calm. After such a sharp fall, markets normally recover. Clients know that we keep a watchful eye on the economic news and our favoured companies within the market of sustainability, those that we want to own long term.
Also, many of our clients are working from home themselves, so they really appreciate that managing the challenges of balancing work and home life responsibilities 24/7 is not easy. They have been very understanding and pleased that we have kept them regularly updated.
We also fully utilise technology. Rather than doing our traditional conference calls, we are increasingly using video conferences and web updates. Clients also like our weekly investment podcast and find this is an easy way to keep informed about our investment thinking at a time that is convenient to them.
How do you think attitudes to ESG initiatives will be affected as we move through the crisis?
The CEO of BlackRock, Larry Fink, recently observed that the pandemic shows the fragility of the global value chain and increases the need for more sustainable investments. I think that whilst we are dealing with the health crisis of our generation, we should not forget the debate over global climate action and ESG initiatives. Fink also noted that: ‘We have seen sustainable portfolios deliver stronger performance than traditional portfolios during this period.’ I agree!
Share some good news you have heard recently about the holdings/sectors/themes you invest in?
I think that in this environment, it is important to demonstrate more than ever that companies are doing the right thing. We have several companies in the Climate Assets Fund helping to manage the health crisis by providing ventilators (Smith Group) and testing kits (Thermo Fisher) for example.
What do you do for fun when you take a break from working at home?
My husband and I have a 12-year-old son and a gorgeous Labradoodle that keep us busy and provide plenty of fun. We have been going cycling and for walks in the countryside nearby. In the evening, we have rediscovered the joys of board games.
How is home schooling being managed in your household?
It is not easy as we both work full-time. When the lockdown began my husband decided to take a three months sabbatical to help manage the household. He has taken the lead when it comes to home education and domestic duties. Also, my father and mother in-law are 92 and 87, and need someone to shop for them and to be available to help with any emergencies. Through this crisis we have acquired a stronger appreciation for those who care for the elderly. Similarly, with schools closed we appreciate the hard work school teachers do in educating and motivating our children.
To view the previous articles from the Working from Home with … series see below: