Davos WEF

Bank of America CEO says clients want to invest in companies 'doing right by society'

Key Points
  • Bank of America clients have invested $25 billion in environment, social and governance (ESG) funds and investor interest in ESG will continue to grow.
  • "All investors are saying, 'I want you to invest in companies doing right by society,'" Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said at Davos.
  • Bank of America is investing $300 billion over the next decade in sustainable business projects.
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Bank of America CEO: Interest in ESG among investors will continue to grow

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan says money will keep flowing to environment, social and governance funds (ESG) as more investors send the message that they want to own companies with a mission that aligns profits with broader social goals.

"We have $25 billion in ESG funds, and more is going there," Moynihan said on " from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The bank's wealth management business has a total of $3 trillion in investor assets. "All investors are saying, 'I want you to invest in companies doing right by society.'"

Assets in ESG mutual funds and ETFs reached a record level in 2019, according to Morningstar, with more than $20 billion invested, four times the level of 2018, which had been the previous record.

Last week the CEO of the world's largest money manager, BlackRock, issued an annual letter saying that climate change will lead to a fundamental reshaping of finance the likes of which the world has never seen, and a significant reallocation of capital is set to take place "sooner than most anticipate."

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said: "Climate change has become a defining factor in companies' long-term prospects." He added, "Climate change is almost invariably the top issue that clients around the world raise with BlackRock. From Europe to Australia, South America to China, Florida to Oregon, investors are asking how they should modify their portfolios."

BlackRock announced broad changes to its investment strategies aligned with ESG.

Bank of America has committed $300 billion to sustainable investments over the next decade. Since 2007, when the company issued its first Environmental Business Initiative, Bank of America has deployed more than $126 billion to environmental business efforts.

"There is a huge opportunity, whether it is green bonds or different types of financing for solar installations or wind installations," the Bank of America CEO said of the bank's opportunities to deploy the capital. He added that as more companies seek carbon neutrality, that will drive demand for new technology, though it will require power companies, above all, to make real progress.

The key is to think about the balance and let industry and owners drive it.
Brian Moynihan
Bank of America CEO

"What we're trying to say is, you deliver profits and success for customers, employees and shareholders. What managers like Larry Fink are saying is, success is along these dimensions. ... The key is to think about the balance and let industry and owners drive it," Moynihan said.

Moynihan dismissed skepticism about the effort as being more public relations than substance. "People say, 'Isn't this greenwash?' Which part of $300 billion do you understand is not greenwash? This is not some small process, it is a business force."

A poll released ahead of Davos found that a majority of the public believe capitalism does more harm than good.

The theme of this year's Davos World Economic Forum, often criticized as a forum for the global elite, is "Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World."

This year critics have noted that many Davos attendees arrive by private jet before speaking about the importance of climate change.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg, who does not fly, said at Davos on Tuesday that time is running out. "With today's emissions levels, the remaining budget is gone in less than eight years. These aren't anyone's views. This is the science. ... I've been repeating these numbers at nearly every speech I've given for the last 18 months. ... I know you don't want to talk about this," Thunberg said before adding that she intends to keep repeating herself until the appropriate action is taken.