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More firms remove Russian securities

NEI Investments announces divestment, while more indexes remove Russian listings

NEI Investments is now among several Canadian asset managers that have pledged to divest their Russian holdings.

Last week, eight asset managers and pension funds pledged to divest their Russian holdings “as soon as possible,” and called on other institutional investors to do the same.

NEI said Monday it’s suspending new purchases of Russian securities and beginning to divest existing holdings. It also promised to apply “pressure” through corporate engagement with firms that operate in or have interests in Russia.

The asset manager said its exposure to Russian securities as of March 3 “is negligible, as our sub-advisors had already begun to reduce or eliminate their holdings prior to the invasion.” The manager has zero exposure to Russian sovereign debt or currency, and less than 1% exposure representing $3.55 million in the NEI Emerging Markets Fund.

NEI will also direct its sub-advisors to divest of Russian securities as soon as possible.

The second-largest U.S. asset manager has taken a different approach.

On Friday, the Vanguard Group Inc.’s chief investment officer stated that “investment decision-making will not be restricted” for actively managed funds. Money managers “will decide how best to navigate liquidity challenges and balance investment risks with potential rewards.” (Editor’s note, March 8: Vanguard has since updated its stance.)

Also on Friday, a spokesperson for Vanguard told Investment Executive it continues “to monitor evolving government sanctions as well as other governmental actions affecting the market. Both Vanguard index funds and active funds will make adjustments as necessary to comply with relevant global sanctions regulations.”

BlackRock Inc., the largest U.S. asset manager, said in a statement last Thursday that it suspended the purchase of all Russian securities in its active and index funds as of Feb. 28. Russian securities account for less than 0.01% of client assets, the firm added. “We also have proactively advocated with our index providers to remove Russian securities from broad-based indices.”

Indeed, index providers continue to delete Russian securities.

On Friday, Morningstar Indexes announced that it is reclassifying the Russia equity market from emerging to unclassified market status, effective after the close on March 18. Securities from State Corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs Vnesheconombank will be removed from the Morningstar Fixed Income Indexes as of March 31.

Also on Friday, FTSE Russell said it would exclude all ruble and non-ruble denominated Russian government bonds, as well as hard currency bonds issued by Russian-domiciled issuers, from its fixed income indexes effective at the end of March.

Last week, FTSE Russell and MSCI announced that Russia would be removed from its equities indexes. The deletions took effect for FTSE Russell at the open on Monday. For MSCI, they will take place as of market close on Wednesday.

A research team led by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld at the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute has compiled a list of major companies that are boycotting Russia. As of Monday, there are 230 companies on the list. The team also lists companies that have significant exposure to Russia but have not withdrawn from the country.

Source: Investment Executive