Responsible Investment Approach


 

Matthews Asia

Responsible Investment Approach

As engaged shareholders and bondholders in our portfolio companies and issuers, we seek to foster their sustainability—and profitability. We also strive to be good global neighbors and citizens. We believe economic progress requires a healthy environment where people can live and work and a broad middle class supporting economic growth and social inclusion. Economic progress is also supported by transparent corporate governance structures that can help attract domestic and international capital. Working diligently to help our clients reach their financial goals, we are mindful of the role of capital in shaping the world we want to live in.

A Client-Centric Culture

Our clients' assets are tied to their goals and aspirations. As a fiduciary, we have a legal and ethical obligation to act in our clients' best interest. Fostering a client-centric culture begins with understanding clients' goals and creating investment solutions designed to support those goals over the long term. It continues with maintaining and enforcing a strict Conflicts Policy and Code of Ethics for all employees. In addition, we strive to align employee incentives with clients' interests over the long term. Accordingly, our portfolio managers are:

  • Encouraged to invest their own capital in our strategies so they are invested alongside clients
  • Compensated based on the long-term performance of the strategies they manage and their adherence to the stated objectives of their respective investment strategies
To help manage risk across our strategies, we take a disciplined approach to risk management. Our  Chief Investment Officer oversees key investment team functions through regular meetings and one-on-one interaction with portfolio managers and investment group leaders. Portfolio managers understand material risks in portfolios through in-depth analysis and proprietary research into our investee companies, including ESG. We also have a Corporate Governance and Stewardship Sub-Committee charged with implementing Matthews Asia's Responsible Investment activities, active ownership principles, stewardship, and ESG integration. Together with the Proxy Working Group, this group also oversees the proxy voting process.

A Strong Focus on Corporate Governance

Paul Matthews, founder of Matthews Asia, started our firm with a strong belief in the long-term growth potential of Asia. He fostered a culture of carefully considering corporate governance structures as part of our due diligence process. A deep appreciation of corporate governance is built into our DNA. Good governance is important in all markets where we invest, and especially so in emerging and frontier markets. When assessing management quality, we look at how well a company articulates and executes its long-term vision. We believe high-quality businesses run by capable and principled managers are healthier and more sustainable. Our business-quality assessment also includes determining the ability of a company to grow sales and profits with attractive returns over the long term.

We require trust, transparency and accountability from our investee companies and entities. As part of our proprietary investment research, we typically consider a company's:

  • Track record for allocating capital
  • Board quality, diversity and composition
  • Alignment of incentives for controlling shareholders, minority shareholders and management
  • History of protecting minority stakeholder rights, especially in a crisis
  • Ability to attract and retain talent
  • Exposure to regulatory, market and other risks
  • Management of material environmental and social risk
  • Potential for successfully entering new areas of business by leveraging existing strengths
To develop a 360-degree view of investee companies, our due diligence process includes meetings with one or more of the following stakeholders: company management, employees, customers, suppliers, research and civic organizations. This helps us gauge the strength and quality of management teams, as well as the viability of a company's business model. We may also consider a company's potential for successfully entering new areas of business by leveraging existing strengths. In markets that are rapidly growing and still inherently inefficient, we believe identifying companies with strong corporate governance is essential to helping manage our clients' investments.

The Role of ESG

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are often synonymous with long-term investing. Accordingly, ESG factors tend to be highly compatible with our bottom-up, fundamental investment process. We see at least two potential benefits to investing with a long-term view. Issuers focused on the long term may be better equipped to identity future growth opportunities ahead of competitors. This helps issuers invest in research and development, production and marketing resources ahead of time and proactively create new growth opportunities or benefit significantly when those opportunities materialize. In addition, companies that look ahead can scan the horizon for long-term threats to their businesses. These forward-looking issuers can potentially invest in mitigating strategies and address material risks to their long-term prospects more effectively.

Corporate governance is the ESG factor we look at most closely across all our portfolios to identify risks. We believe governance influences social and environmental factors, providing a starting point for analysis. While we generally do not employ negative screens based on environmental or social factors, poor corporate governance may exclude an issuer from consideration for our portfolios. . In addition, our portfolios are typically not constrained by sector or industry, and often look quite different from our benchmarks. In-depth knowledge of local markets helps us to evaluate and prioritize ESG-related risks according to their potential impact on portfolios. In some of our portfolios, ESG considerations may rank high. In other portfolios, ESG considerations may be simply one set of inputs among many that we consider as part of our fundamental research.

In addition to identifying risks, ESG factors can help identify opportunities. As incomes rise across markets where we invest, domestic consumers will naturally seek to improve the quality of their lives, creating opportunities for businesses alert to this trend. Governments across Asia, as well as broader emerging markets, are also focused on improving the quality of their economic growth, which may involve closer regulation of environmental and social issues. We believe the developing world's response to ESG challenges will have a major impact on businesses worldwide. Companies that ignore consumer preferences may miss out on business opportunities, while those that ignore regulatory risks may face higher regulatory costs and risk damaging their brands. In contrast, companies with strong or improving ESG track records may find it easier to attract capital from increasingly sophisticated, institutional capital market participants.

Through our fundamental approach to investment research, we get to know our portfolio holdings very well. In some cases, we may consider issuers that faced ESG challenges in the past but are now improving. Inflection points, such as companies taking positive steps to improve their corporate governance structures, can present attractive buying opportunities. Thus, we are open to investing in technologies and industries that can help bridge the gap toward better ESG solutions, but only after careful research, analysis and due diligence.

Three Pillars of ESG Integration 

Committed to incorporating ESG considerations within the very fabric of our investment process.

Firm-Wide Architecture

Alignment of Mission, Culture and Talent to Support Performance Goals: 
  • Mission: Champion Asia investment solutions that build wealth for our global clients over the long term
  • Culture: Diverse teams create better outcomes for clients. Culture Working Group, Diversity & Inclusion Working Group and Sustainability Working Group
  • Commitment: UNPRI Signatory
Community and Environment:
  • Matthews Asia Charitable Giving
  • Annual employee volunteer day
  • LEED certified HQ since 2014
  • Carbon offsets for firm-wide travel emissions

Investment Team 

Foundations for ESG Integration: 
  • Company Engagement
  • Responsible Investment and Stewardship Policy
  • Emphasis on Governance: Deep understanding of corporate governance across markets, strong focus across all strategies
  • ESG Research: Third party data and research complemented by proprietary tools and analysis
  • Risk Monitoring: Reputational risk screening tool
  • Oversight Structures: Corporate Governance & Stewardship Sub-Committee
  • Industry Collaboration and Memberships: Asian Corporate Governance Association, International Corporate Governance Network, CDP

Investment Strategies 

Tailored ESG Integration by Strategy: 
  • Active Security Selection: Fundamental and bottom-up investment process
  • Materiality: ESG issues are considered where material for industry or sector
  • Context Matters: Each strategy draws on ESG inputs in a way that reflects:
  • Objectives and philosophy
  • Availability of ESG data within the strategy's universe
  • Market cap of securities the strategy invests in
  • Region or country and stage of development
  • Materiality: ESG issues are considered where material for industry or sector
  • Appreciation for Client Preferences
ESG considerations are not a specific requirement for all portfolios at Matthews Asia. ESG factors can vary over different periods and can evolve over time. They may also be difficult to apply consistently across regions, countries or sectors. There can be no guarantee that a company deemed to meet ESG standards will actually conduct its affairs in a manner that is less destructive to the environment, or promote positive social and economic developments. Parameters set by Matthews Asia are subject to change.


Active Ownership

Active ownership and stewardship form the cornerstone of our commitment to foster strong corporate governance. With a long history of investing in Asia and emerging markets, we are often a significant shareholder in company registries. Each year, we have roughly 2,700 touchpoints throughout Asia and across broader emerging markets, which can include company, supplier, customer and other stakeholder meetings. With a large team that has a strong background in Asia and emerging markets, we are fluent in the region's languages and familiar with its cultures. Respectful of diverse cultural landscapes, we take an in-person approach to company engagement, which we find more productive than filing shareholder resolutions. We also take a thoughtful and conscientious approach to voting proxies on behalf of our clients. 

Investing for the Long Term

We take an active role in key organizations that advance and protect the interests of our clients. Our objective is to raise the standards of the companies and markets in which we invest on behalf of our clients. As a global investor, we understand that regulations play an important part in setting corporate governance standards for each country. We believe that a good regulatory framework complements market forces, while looking after the interests of a variety of stakeholders. 
 
We strive to maintain active relationships with relevant market institutions, governmental and public bodies that may be helpful for keeping up to date with local legislation and market practice for improving the institutional framework. We also support different forums for promotion of good market practice, corporate governance, other responsible practices and other relevant topics that may be in the joint interest of our investors. Some of these organizations with which we engage include the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, the Asian Corporate Governance Association (ACGA), the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN), the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and the CDP.

The United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI) encourage and promote investing with a long-term view, a goal deeply aligned with our mission. As a signatory to the UNPRI, we are committed to reporting our responsible investing activities every year and welcome dialogue with our clients about their goals and interests related to responsible investing. We strive to provide investors with regular communication about issues that impact financial performance, including ESG topics. To educate and engage our clients, we publish insights, commentaries and articles describing our investment approach and philosophy.

Important Information
Matthews Asia is the brand for Matthews International Capital Management, LLC and its direct and indirect subsidiaries.

The information contained herein has been derived from sources believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of compilation, but no representation or warranty (express or implied) is made as to the accuracy or completeness of any of this information. Matthews Asia and its affiliates do not accept any liability for losses either direct or consequential caused by the use of this information. The views and information discussed herein are as of the date of publication, are subject to change and may not reflect current views. The views expressed represent an assessment of market conditions at a specific point in time, are opinions only and should not be relied upon as investment advice regarding a particular investment or markets in general. Such information does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell specific securities or investment vehicles.  This document does not constitute investment advice or an offer to provide investment advisory or investment management services, or the solicitation of an offer to provide investment advisory or investment management services, in any jurisdiction in which an offer or solicitation would be unlawful under the securities law of that jurisdiction. This document may not be reproduced in any form or transmitted to any person without authorization from the issuer.

In Singapore, issued by Matthews Global Investors (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. (Co. Reg. No. 201807631D). In Hong Kong, this document is issued by Matthews Global Investors (Hong Kong) Limited and has not been reviewed by the Securities and Futures Commission in Hong Kong (SFC). In the UK, this document is issued by Matthews Global Investors (UK) Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”), FRN 667893. In the UK, this document is only made available to professional clients and eligible counterparties as defined by the FCA. Under no circumstances should this document be forwarded to anyone in the UK who is not a professional client or eligible counterparty as defined by the FCA. This document has not been reviewed by any regulatory authorities.