Swedish pensions and insurance group Folksam says the halving of its foreign equities portfolio – an exercise the firm carried out last year to lower its carbon footprint – has been more effective than anticipated, and has cut carbon by 30%.
Separately, in its 2019 results announcement, the firm’s new chief executive officer warned that there were challenges facing the company in the near future, in spite of the set of strong investment results it reported, with assets under management rising to SEK455bn (€43bn) from SEK404bn in 2018.
Folksam said it had expected the decision – announced in May last year – to cull its SEK84bn foreign equities portfolio in order to achieve a 20% reduction in carbon emissions, but the move had in fact shrunk its carbon footprint by 30%.
At the same time, the portfolio had beaten global stock markets, it said.
Michael Kjeller, Folksam’s head of asset management and sustainability, said: “We are very pleased that the actual outcome has exceeded our expectations.”
In the nine months of 2019 that the new portfolio had been in operation, its return surpassed that of global stock exchanges by between 1.3 and 1.5 percentage points, he said, adding that this positive outperformance trend had continued in early 2020.
Reporting annual results, Ylva Wessén, Folksam group CEO, said: “In a changing environment, a higher rate of change is required in the business.”
She highlighted three new areas of focus for the firm in the near future: an increase in digitisation; the need for increased pressure on companies to lower their carbon footprints in order to achieve net zero by 2050; and changing working methods and office structures within the company as a means of cutting operating costs to SEK5.3bn by 2022.
Folksam reported total group premiums in 2019 rose by SEK1.7bn from the year before, to SEK56bn.
Folksam Life, the life and pensions division, produced a 10.4% return in the year, up from 1.5% in 2018, with solvency increasing to 169% from 163%.
Meanwhile, Folksam’s municipal pensions subsidiary KPA Pension reported a total investment return of 11.2%, up from 2018’s 0.5%, and a solvency ratio of 171%, increasing from 165% last year.
Wessén was appointed in December as the permanent successor to the Folksam’s previous CEO Jens Henriksson, having been running the pensions and insurance group on a temporary basis since his departure at the end of last summer.