Martínez (Triodos Bank): “Investing in sustainability helps contain risks”

“Offering only sustainable products is viable,” explains the Investment and Savings Products manager in an interview with Invertia.

Cristina Martínez, Manager of Investment and Savings Products at Triodos Bank.

The use of the word sustainability is booming. Companies, including those in the financial sector, are increasingly introducing this concept in their action plans and one of the debates that this new positioning raises is whether the commitment to sustainability can be a source of profitability.

“We have seen it, we are seeing it and we will continue to see it,” he explains. Cristina Martinez Salas, Manager of Investment and Savings Products Triodos Bank, in an interview with Invertia, in which he also points out that “Investing in sustainability also helps contain risks”. In his opinion, “sustainability is a fundamental support to achieve financial profitability that ultimately also has a lower level of risk for all parties involved.”

The entity, rather than talking about classic profitability-risk binomial, prefers to do it on a “trinomial” and add to the equation the impact. The bank knows what it is talking about, since it is in that small group of companies that have always been committed to sustainability and taking into account the impact generated by their activity. And their numbers support this bet: in 2020 the bank managed to increase its balance sheet by 15% and the growth of its sustainable loans was close to 12%.

“In Spain we manage more than 2,000 million in trusted funds. And this shows that sustainable finance and that offering only sustainable products is viable “, adds the directive.

In this field, the entity has accumulated forty years of experience “promoting positive change through the financial system” and with the aim of putting the quality of people and the environment at the center. Is present in five countries, among which is Spain, but also the Netherlands (origin), Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Exclusion and inclusion

In this commitment to sustainability, the entity offers financing, savings and investment solutions with two criteria. The first is that of inclusion, the positive, according to which only initiatives with social, environmental or cultural value are financed, “and, obviously, that are economically viable”, such as renewable energy, film production or sustainable fashion. The second is that of exclusion, by which they refuse to finance activities that question the sustainable development of society, such as extensive agriculture, weapons, tobacco or pesticides.

In the entity, as Martínez recalls, they were “pioneers” in the implementation of a mortgage “with a purpose behind”, which allows to benefit from lower installments the better the energy certification of the house that is put as collateral.

The bank’s catalog in Spain also includes the pension plans with ISR criteria (socially responsible investment) and impact, a world in which it debuted in 2016 with the launch of Mixed Fixed Income Triodos.

It is a plan more conservative than the rest of its category, given that, due to investment policy, it never exceeds 20% in equities, something that in complex moments has been an advantage. “It has endured the ups and downs of the market well,” explains Martínez. Not surprisingly, its assets grew by 16% in 2020, to 24 million euros, and its participants did so by 9%.

Triodos Bank headquarters in the Netherlands.

Triodos Bank headquarters in the Netherlands.

Now the bank has wanted to expand its range with the recent launch of two other plans: the Triodos Renta Variable Mixta Neutral (up to 50% of the portfolio is invested in variable) and the Dynamic Mixed Equity Triodos (up to 70%).

These two modalities, as the head of Triodos Bank points out, “try to seek profiles with slightly less risk aversion“, Like those who are in the beginning of the accumulation phase for retirement.

Tax disincentive

The entity continues to bet on pension plans despite the tax changes recently introduced by the government, which reduce the maximum annual contributions with the right to deduction in personal income tax from 8,000 to 2,000 euros. It does so because it considers that “the fiscal environment has now changed and later it may change up or down again.”

In the opinion of the directive, “the product cannot be underestimated in that sense because it perfectly fulfills its task.” All in all, believe that fiscally discouraging private saving “will make it more difficult to complement the public pension system”, which is counterproductive considering that Spain has a retirement savings deficit compared to neighboring countries.

Greenwashing

Customers, in addition to profitability, are beginning to demand products that take impact into account. “I think that a large part of investors are also beginning to realize that there has to be coherence between the product and the objectives of the entity that manages them,” explains Martínez.

For the directive, “an entity that only manages products of this type is not the same as an entity that has n products within a much larger portfolio. We are seeing that customers are becoming more and more selective as well, even at the entity level ”.

Especially important at a time when the boom in sustainability is leading to the greenwashing The ecopostureo, a concept that encompasses companies that use this positioning for image reasons.

In this sense, the Triodos Bank board of directors considers it necessary to view this boom in sustainability “more from a positive point of view than a negative one”. “Now it is not just that verbal commitment, but we are seeing that from a regulatory point of view you have to meet a series of criteria to be able to classify your investment as socially responsible,” he says.

That is why, in his opinion, the regulations and taxonomy that are emerging now help “to separate the chaff from the grain“. “Now is the time when we are going to see those who really do it and those who do not,” says Martínez, who, however, encourages others to “continue supporting this trend of go more towards him verde really“.