The European Investment Forum took place in person and over three days between 12-14 September 2021, at the University Arms Hotel, Cambridge. The event was a collaboration between the Centre for Endowment Asset Management and the London Stock Exchange Group. The Forum intended to challenge the frontiers of investment thinking by showcasing innovative ideas across the natural and social sciences.
The 2021 Forum addressed fundamental questions around key themes including:
- Acute and slow pandemics
- The influence of demographics on the investment environment
- Today’s biggest trends & re-shaping the future
- Quantum computing, machine learning & AI and their impact on asset management
- Digital currencies: opportunities and challenges
- The growth of fintech & big tech credit markets
- Venture capital investing
- Investing for the long term
- Sustainable and responsible investing
- Investor involvement in corporate governance
Our number one priority was bringing everyone together safely and responsibly. The event has been carefully planned under the UK Government and NHS guidelines, in addition to the hotels’ enhanced health and safety protocols in place onsite.
Date: 12-14 September 2021
Location: University Arms Hotel, Cambridge
The Forum was also home to a global research prize, recognizing high-quality and innovative investment-related research being undertaken by junior scholars globally. It is awarded by the Centre for Endowment Asset Management (CEAM) with the support of FTSE Russell. The priority was given to research excellence, novel insights and applicability, where research topics included fund management, factor investing, index design, sustainable investing, performance measurement, active-passive management, machine learning, risk control, and alternative assets.
Six finalists, among 97 submissions, were selected to present at the Forum. They were competing to win two prizes: the Best Paper and the Best Presentation, each being awarded a cash prize of USD 1,000. While the Best Paper was selected by the Judging Panel, the Best Presentation was selected by the audience through voting.
The winner of the Best Presentation Award
Huan Tang, Assistant Professor of Finance, London School of Economics
The winner of the Best Paper Award
Lakshmi Naaraayanan, Assistant Professor of Finance, London Business School
For more details about the winners and finalists, you can view the videos below.
Winner – Best Paper: Lakshmi Naaraayanan
[MUSIC PLAYING] If you start a dialogue as an investor with the firm that you are invested in and want them to affect change, especially along the dimension of having an environmental impact, both of these firms start to listen, especially when they understand that the investors really want them to make a change. Our research kind of provides first set of evidence that as investors and consumers start engaging in dialogue with boards of firms, they listen to them and make changes to affect the environmental impact that they have on both stakeholders and shareholders together.
Because of the ability of ourselves to kind of speak to the investors themselves, we kind of engage with the New York City Comptroller. And what they mentioned was that they were fiduciary and were responsible to the investors, and they were OK in taking these reductions in financial performance in the short term because they believe that at the end of the day, this was consistent with what their fiduciaries wanted and they were acting on their behalf.
And in the paper, we painstakingly combined novel data sets to show that the way investor dialog kind of affects firms to make changes happens not just in the area where the firms are located, but also in other locations and can have benefit for communities at large, such as improvements in air quality, et cetera. We are really excited to be a part of the research awards, primarily because one this is an audience that brings together practitioners, regulators, and academics. And we believe that there’s a lot of symbiotic relationship here where we can learn a lot together by just discussing or presenting our findings and learning more from how investors are thinking about addressing the global challenge of climate change at large.
The best paper was actually to Lakshmi Narayanan, The Real Effects Of Environmental Activist Investing.
I think this award kind of motivates us to continue on this important line of work. We realise that our work is reaching a mass audience, and we think that this is something everyone– it’s on everyone’s mind, and it requires more academic research. And so this award kind of catapults us to work even further with more enthusiasm in the future to shed light on some important issues that will be useful for academics and practitioners alike.
Winner – Best Presenter: Huan Tang
[MUSIC PLAYING] I ask a very simple question. How much do consumers value the privacy of their personal data and what are the implications for fintech companies that generate revenue based on customer data. I address this challenge using a particular setting, which is the online lending business in China. In this setting, online borrowers face a clear trade between privacy and credit access because there’s no credit bureau in China.
Two experiments are implemented. The first one took place at the disclosure stage in which borrowers in the treatment groups are required to answer fewer questions which are as follows. First, their social network ID, second employer contact, and last marital status.
If you want to evaluate what’s the impact of data collection on loan demand and firm profit, you would need to know how much customers value their data, right? By collecting data, the firm is not necessarily benefiting from it if that hurts individuals willingness to work with the company, to buy products with the company.
And the second experiment was implemented in the pick up stage in which the loan servicer fees were randomised. So some borrowers need to pay a lower service fee.
My research provides a framework for firms to evaluate the impact of their data collection policies on their profits.
For each of the three data items, I calculate their dollar value, I end up with $21 for the social network ID, and $12 for the employer contact.
There was a reasonably clear winner with more than 50% of the votes, and that went to Huan Tang.
Well, I’m very honoured to won the Best Presenter Award and I think this means for me my research is not only rigorous, but also interesting, meaningful for the general audience outside academia. So I think I just made a baby step towards this goal.
Finalist: Oliver David Zerbib
[MUSIC PLAYING] In our paper, we characterise how sustainable investors can have an impact on companies practises. Basically, we show that the very existence of green investors who internalise future climate risks pushes companies to become greener because green investors increase the cost of capital of the brownest companies. When green investors become more sensitive to climate risks, or when the share of wealth of green investors increases, or when green investors internalise future climate related technological innovations, or when they account for stringent regulation, in all these cases, the effect of impact investing increases, which means that companies are further incentivised to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions.
We consider that climate risks are deterministic. So green investors are able to have a precise information of what will be climate risks in the future. And what we show is that the very existence of green investors, by overweighting the greenest stocks and underweighting brownest stocks, pushes upwards the cost of capital of the brownest companies and therefore incentivise companies to pay a price today to mitigate their future greenhouse gas emissions. So to decrease their emissions schedule.
In terms of real world application, I think that this work would allow investors to understand the mechanism of impact investing, and also to have an idea of the order of magnitude of the real effect of impact investing. And what we show is that the effect is indeed significant, but quite small. And this suggests that investors should consider other approaches to have an impact on companies, for example, via shareholder engagement. And in this case, investors instead of divesting, or underweighting the brownest companies, investors would increase their positions in the brownest companies to increase their influence on these companies as active shareholders.
So there could be two other approaches. The first one via the asset allocation would be to overweight the companies that are willing to change quickly. The second approach would be to do shareholder engagement. So do the opposite, increase your ownership in these companies, and influence the practises as an active shareholder.
It would also mean that sustainability matters for investors now, and this I think is an important point. There are still a lot of topics to be explored in sustainable finance, especially in regarding the burning issue of greenwashing. So I think we still have a lot of work to do.
Finalist: Xinrui (Cindy) Zheng
[MUSIC PLAYING] To put it very simply, I studied why would a fund family decide to launch an exchange-traded fund? And my big-picture finding is that fund families, they care about profit maximisation when launching an ETF. And they value the signal sent from the market by the flows and dollar volumes. This is very different from the active fund families because the active fund families, they rely more on past performance.
How does the presence of the big three shape the ETF industry? Because we know that for smaller families, they could take the second-mover advantage by mimicking the asset allocation decisions of the big three. But we want to go one step further to explore whether the dominance of the big three would stifle competition by posing additional barrier on the new market entrants.
Getting to know the rationales behind the ETF launching decisions would be interesting to many different parties of the market participants. Because, for example, for individual investors, it will be interesting to know what is put on the menu for them. And for the fund families, it will be interesting to know what their competitors is doing. And the regulators could also draw from this research about whether the market dominance by the big three is actually affecting competition.
So all these distinguishing features allow us to compare the different factors that is affecting the launches of ETFs versus the open mutual funds.
I think being the only PhD in these four finalists of this research prize is definitely a great honour to me. And I think it’s very reassuring for my future career as an academic because it really signals the quality of my research.
European Investment Forum Prize 2021
The European Investment Forum Prize is really important. It’s part of training, or offering opportunities, to early career academics who are coming up through the ranks.
This is an amazing opportunity to collaborate with the world of finance and academics.
This is the first time, after lockdown, I ever attended a conference in person.
It’s a fantastic opportunity to disseminate academic findings among practitioners, in hopes of having a real impact on investment practises.
I think being the only PhD in these four finalists of this research prize is definitely a great honour to me.
We can learn a lot together, by just presenting our findings and learning more from how investors are thinking about addressing the global challenge of climate change at large.
So the ability to combine academic researchers and practitioners is absolutely vital. It gives both the opportunity to engage and exchange ideas.
So it means a lot to me, and I can’t wait to get together with other prominent researchers and investors.
The process of going through it, being shortlisted, winning. There’s a kudos attached to it, that I think is invaluable.
I think this award kind of motivates us to continue on this important line of work. It kind of catapults us to work even further, with more enthusiasm in the future, to shed light on some important issues that will be useful for academics and practitioners alike.
I’m very honoured to win the Best Presenter Award. And I think this means, for me, my research is not only rigorous, but also interesting, meaningful, for the general audience outside academia. So I think I just made a baby step towards this goal.