The MAS KiwiSaver Plan and MAS Retirement Savings Plan have around $1bn invested in international equities (shares) – nearly 50% of the Plans’ combined total investments. This is much more than the Plans have invested in any other asset class.
This means the success of our Plans depends on carefully managing our investment in international equities. These investment decisions are guided by two key strategies:
- We aim to invest 75% of our total international equities portfolio in ESG leaders. The strategy is to give a broadly diversified holding of companies that are considered leaders amongst their peers with respect to their environmental social and governance (ESG) practices. We believe that high rankings in ESG practices is a good indicator of good future company financial performance. We also avoid companies involved in serious controversies.
- We aim to invest 25% of our total international equities portfolio in future high-performing sectors. We determine sectors or ‘themes’ that are expected to outperform the broader market over the long term. Current examples include US medical devices and US technology stocks. There may up to a dozen different themes being followed at any one time. All the companies we invest in must meet our responsible investing requirements.
The Plans currently hold shares in over 870 different international companies. The split between countries in which the Plans' international equities ESG leaders portfolio is invested as at 31 March 2021 is shown in the table below.
|Other (22 other countries)||4.9%|
The top ten holdings within the Plans’ international equities ESG leaders portfolio, compared to that of the broader market, is outlined in the table below.
|Alphabet Class A||2.3%||Microsoft||2.7%|
|Alphabet Class C||2.3%||Amazon||2.1%|
|Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing||1.9%||Alphabet Class A||1.0%|
|Tencent Holdings||1.7%||Alphabet Class C||1.0%|
|Alibaba Group||1.6%||Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing||0.8%|
|Procter & Gamble||1.2%||JP Morgan||0.8%|
|Walt Disney||1.2%||Tencent Holdings||0.7%|
The most notable difference between the two lists of holdings is those companies that are not in the portfolio at all because they fail to meet the requirements of the MAS responsible investing strategy. The rationale for the most notable differences between the two lists is explained in further detail below. This is sourced from international ESG evaluation specialist firm MSCI.
Apple is currently excluded because it is involved in several serious controversies. These are related to its customers, governance, labour rights, environment and human rights impacts. It faces significant concerns related to supply chain labour standards and anticompetitive practices. Apple's alleged involvement in several business ethics, anti-competitive, and tax transparency controversies contribute to its controversy score. With high outsourced manufacturing exposure, Apple is exposed to the risks of production disruptions and reputational damage stemming from potential labour issues in its supply chain. While Apple has some of the best industry practices in its supply chain management and continues to raise the bar, there has been a recurrence of high-profile controversies at Apple's supplier sites in recent years; these continue to keep the company under scrutiny.
Amazon is currently excluded because it is involved in several serious controversies. These are related to its labour rights, customers, governance, environment and human rights impacts. It faces significant concerns related to labour management relations, collective bargaining & union, anticompetitive practices, and bribery & fraud. Amazon faces controversies over business ethics and anticompetitive practices, particularly allegations of antitrust violations in jurisdictions such as India and EU, and penalty faced in Japan. Amazon employs a gigantic workforce (798,000 employees, as of FY 2019), including valuable tech talent, and has heavy reliance on part-time workers. Due to this, the company continues to face labour management challenges. While wages for its US, Canada and few EU-based employees were increased, it faces allegations of poor working conditions and inadequate safety measures for employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in France, Italy and the US.
Facebook is currently excluded because it is involved in several serious controversies. These are related to its governance, customers, labour rights and human rights impacts. It faces significant concerns related to privacy & data security, discrimination & workforce diversity, bribery & fraud, product safety & quality, and anticompetitive practices. The scope of ongoing privacy controversies continues to suggest structural problems in data security management. The US Federal Trade Commission's antitrust case against Facebook (2020) over monopolisation of personal social networking continues to highlight its weak corporate behaviour. The European Commission's draft Digital Services Act (expected in 2022) may have substantial implications for Facebook and its big tech peers. Apart from platform safety issues, Facebook has also come under scrutiny for inconsistent enforcement of content moderation rules. Independent auditors found certain content decisions caused 'significant setbacks for civil rights'.
Microsoft’s ESG score is currently AAA. The company maintains robust cybersecurity threat management practices and is one of the few software companies to explicitly commit to privacy-by-design principles. Microsoft is widely held and follows the 'one share one vote' principle, which sets it apart from many industry peers where founders wield disproportionate voting power relative to their economic stake. Founder Mr. Bill Gates stepped down from his non-executive board position in 2020, making the board completely independent of management, except for CEO Mr. Satya Nadella. There was substantial (28%) support for a shareholder proposal in AGM 2020 to disclose Microsoft's gender pay gap. While the company has a recent history of discrimination lawsuits, training, programs, and detailed quantitative disclosure around diversity and inclusion suggests Microsoft has taken ownership of these issues. In 2020, gender diversity at the board level reached 41% (vs. industry average of 23.67% in the same year). Microsoft's substantial R&D capability and its involvement and strategic focus in several clean technology fields, may position it well for low-carbon-economy opportunities.
Tesla has an ESG rating of ‘A’, largely due to its pure electric vehicle (EV) leadership. Tesla also derives cleantech revenues from solar energy, energy storage solutions, and from regulatory carbon credits. While not totally immune to issues, Tesla is clearly a leader in helping solve one of the world’s biggest issues.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) has an ESG rating of ‘AAA’. It is the world's largest contract chipmaker, maintains an industry-leading position on most ESG key issues analysed for this industry. It operates a large network of fabrication facilities, of which around 59% are in the water-stressed regions of Taiwan. Evidence suggests TSMC continues to demonstrate robust water conservation and recycling programs. TSMC's overall governance structure compares favourably with that of industry peers. In particular, its board has an independent majority and all designated board committees are fully independent. On the corporate behaviour front, it has a robust anti-corruption framework with measures such as staff training and mechanisms to report unethical behaviour. The company's robust compensation schemes, engagement programs, and well-defined career progression plans may help foster loyalty among employees. TSMC appears committed to conflict-free sourcing, with supplier oversight mechanisms such as audits and due diligence programs.
You can get regular updates on the top 10 holdings of the Plans in their respective Fund Updates as well as a complete list of holdings here:
The Trustees of the Medical Assurance Society KiwiSaver Plan and the Medical Assurance Society Retirement Savings Plan are the issuer and manager of each of those Plans.
This article is of a general nature and is not a substitute for professional and individually tailored advice. Medical Assurance Society KiwiSaver and Retirement Savings Plan Trustees, Medical Assurance Society New Zealand Limited, JBWere (NZ) Pty Ltd and Bancorp Treasury Services Limited, their parent companies and associated entities do not guarantee the return of capital or the performance of investment funds. Returns indicated may bear no relation to future performance. The value of investments will fluctuate as the values of underlying assets rise or fall.
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