Eight asset managers and pension funds have pledged to divest their Russian holdings “as soon as possible,” and are calling on other institutional investors to do the same.
Purpose Investments Inc. and Wealthsimple Inc. developed the Pledge to Divest from Russia, which asks signatories to identify their firm’s exposure to Russian companies, cease new investments and divest holdings “so long as Russia continues its attack on Ukraine.”
With Russia constituting about 3% of the MSCI emerging markets benchmark, signatory firms had relatively low exposure to Russian securities to begin with.
Greg Taylor, Purpose’s chief investment officer, said the firm divested all exposure to Russian companies and companies with significant business in Russia by close of business on Monday, Feb. 28.
This exposure primarily consisted of a 3% position in the Purpose Emerging Markets Dividends Fund, Taylor said, which was held in the VanEck Russia ETF. Purpose had no direct holdings in Russian stocks or bonds.
“As for companies that have meaningful business in Russia, we had a stake in Kinross Gold that had a mine in Russia that represents 20% of its production,” Taylor said. “Early in the crisis we sold that position and are not adding it back until the company clarifies its position on the crisis.”
Kinross released a statement Wednesday saying it was suspending all activities at its Udinsk development project, which was in the feasibility study stage, and was “in the process” of suspending operations at its Kupol mine.
Another signatory, Michael Kovacs, CEO of Harvest Portfolios Group, said Harvest holds no Russian securities.
Signatory AGF Investments said in a statement that as of Monday, the firm held less than 0.1% of assets under management and fee-earning assets in Russian-domiciled securities.
“These positions were held in select emerging market focused mandates,” an AGF spokesperson said. “We were proactively reducing these positions in the months leading up to this conflict and have continued … to exit positions this week. We have also committed to divesting from our remaining de minimis Russian holdings as exchanges re-open and sanctions/bans lift.”
Signatory Alberta Investment Management Corp. issued a statement on Tuesday announcing it would divest its Russian holdings.
As of market close on Feb. 28, “AIMCo had less than $99 million in direct and indirect exposure to Russian securities, accounting for 0.06% of AIMCo’s more than $160 billion in assets under management,” the firm said. “We continue to divest all Russian securities as conditions permit.”
Russia has prohibited non-resident investors from executing security sales and the Moscow Exchange has been closed since Monday. Index providers MSCI and FTSE Russell will delete Russian listings next week, citing an “uninvestable” market.
ETFs with Russian holdings may continue to trade, but some, like the iShares MSCI Russia ETF and the VanEck Russia ETF, are temporarily suspending creations and redemptions.
Other signatories to the divestment pledge are Forstrong Global, Grayhawk Investment Strategies and Prime Quadrant.