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Engine No. 1 to launch $100 million ETF focused on ESG engagement

June 22, 2021, 3:20 PM UTC

The San Francisco-based investment firm that went head-to-head with Exxon Mobil last month has a new project: an ETF.

Engine No. 1 said Tuesday that it would launch the fund, officially called the “Engine No. 1 Transform 500 ETF” with $100 million. The fund will go by its ticker name—”VOTE”—and will seek to draw the army of passive, or index, investors into its mission of impact investing.

The firm said that Betterment would include the fund in all of its socially responsible betterment (or SRI) strategies. Engine No. 1 said the fund would invest in the largest 500 stocks and would aim to track Morningstar U.S. Large Cap Select Index.

Rather than divesting or excluding certain companies or industries, Engine No. 1 said it would focus on shareholder voting and active campaigns.

The campaign approach has already brought Engine No. 1, which is less than a year old, headlines and attention. In December, the firm officially launched with a campaign against Exxon Mobil, arguing that the oil and gas giant has not taken the energy transition seriously and pointing towards the company’s flagging returns.

The campaign succeeding in pushing institutional investors to back a proxy vote to replace four of the company’s board members with the firm’s own candidates.

In a stunning upset, major shareholders including BlackRock and Vanguard backed that campaign in last month’s AGM, voting for three of the four candidates to join Exxon’s board.

The momentum behind sustainable and ESG-focused funds, particularly passive funds, has been one of the major finance trends of recent years. In the first quarter of 2021, net inflows into sustainable-focused funds hit a fresh record of almost $21.5 billion, breaking the previous record—set in the last quarter of 2020—and five times the level seen in Q1 2019, according to Morningstar.

Engine No. 1 was founded by Chris James, a hedge fund veteran and cofounder of Partner Fund Management and Andor Capital Management. The ETF project will be led by Yasmin Dahya Bilger, formerly an executive director at JP Morgan, and developed under Jennifer Grancio, who was formerly a founder of BlackRock’s iShares business, the firm said.

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