We chat with our new Chief Development Officer, Frank Freitas, about his motivations to join Four Twenty Seven after almost 30 years in finance and fintech, and his vision for new products and markets in climate analytics.
Why did you decide to join Four Twenty Seven?
First and foremost, the fact that our firm provides data-driven analytics that quantify real issues facing our planet today is very attractive to me. I have spent my entire career in finance and, like others, have increasingly come to see the need for alignment of investment decisions with those that preserve the future of our planet. To me, Four Twenty Seven’s mission and vision exist at the center of this nexus.
When I encountered the Four Twenty Seven white paper on climate risk in equity markets, I was impressed by the level of thought-leadership embedded in the research, and by the high level of quantitative rigor applied to the development of its risk scores. The acceleration of climate’s influence on corporate performance are upon us, and investors are rapidly awakening to the risks that climate change brings to financial markets. Four Twenty Seven’s sophisticated climate data analytics are at the forefront of identifying the most exposed corporations and assets globally.
My career to date has been focused on the development of analytical solutions for institutional investors, ranging from multi-factor risk models at Barra (now MSCI) to the solutions we built in my previous company, Pluribus Labs, where we combined data science and natural language processing with quantitative modeling to distill a variety of unstructured data sources into investible signals.
In my subsequent conversations with Emilie and the Four Twenty Seven team, I quickly came to realize that Four Twenty Seven’s research methodology really resonated with me, and that the culture here is fabulous. It’s rare that you have an opportunity to do what you love and also provide solutions that impact the planet’s future — my role at Four Twenty Seven enables me to do just that!
How is technology spurring innovation in research around financial risk?
There are a number of drivers at play in this respect. First and perhaps most obviously, the availability of computing power at our fingertips makes data analysis on large data sets more available and more affordable than ever before. If you had told me when I started my career that I would be able to create an account on a cloud computing platform like Google’s GCP or Microsoft’s Azure and have massive amounts of compute power available within minutes, I wouldn’t have believed you! Four Twenty Seven’s ability to distill terabytes of climate data from an ensemble of models into actionable insights at the asset level is a great way to leverage this computing power.
Relatedly, the ubiquity of meaningful data, both unstructured and structured, also provides a much broader set of lenses through which to view the world. Financial research has always focused on the development of insights from any and all available data sources on companies, industries and economies. Today, an ever-increasing volume of data sources are accessible for analysis. For example, features extracted from satellite images of our planet can be used to arrive at estimates on a wide variety of metrics, ranging from crop yields to consumer brand sales changes. Similarly, observations gleaned from the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) can provide us with insights into weather trends and CO2 emissions at the sub-city level. Moving forward, opportunities afforded by organizations’ self-reporting of their climate risks and mitigation plans specifically related to climate change will provide additional data points for firms like ours to incorporate into our ground truth analysis of companies, industries and economies.
Couple these two trends with increasingly sophisticated machine learning and feature extraction techniques and you wind up with tremendous opportunities to develop insights into both the physical risks of climate change and the steps that companies are taking to mitigate these risks.
What are the priorities during your first year at Four Twenty Seven?
Emilie and the team have translated their broad and deep base of intellectual property into purpose-built solutions for a number of key market segments in the financial sector. These solutions enable asset owners and investors alike to understand their holdings’ exposure to the physical reality of climate change.
Our goals for this year are to continue tuning our existing offerings through engagement with our clients and to position the firm for its next phase of growth. Thanks to entities like the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), market participants are increasingly aware of the need to incorporate climate risk analytics into their investment process, and we will continue to evangelize this message in our own interactions with the investment community. We are currently in fundraising mode and will use proceeds from our capital raise to support plans to leverage our proprietary facility database to quantify the relationship between weather and company performance. In addition, we intend to on-board additional data sources to inform our analytics and add desktop visualization tools to our client offerings. This promises to be a busy year!
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation (GCECA) have announced an initiative focused on building climate resilience in the financial sector. Throughout the project Four Twenty Seven and our partners, Acclimatise, are supporting the knowledge development on physical climate risk and resilience metrics for the financial sector. The project will culminate in an event in May in London: “Advancing TCFD guidance on physical climate risk & opportunities.”
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation (GCECA) are hosting an event: “Advancing TCFD guidance on physical climate risk and opportunities”, which will be held on 31 May at the EBRD’s headquarters in London. This event will build on the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), which crystallised a growing concern of investors and business leaders over the physical impacts of climate change on the economy and financial markets.
The TCFD’s final recommendations, released for the G20 summit in June 2017, recommended the inclusion of metrics on physical climate risk and opportunities into financial disclosures and called for further research and concrete guidance over what the appropriate metrics should be. Corporations and financial institutions need to agree on common metrics to ensure transparency and data comparability. Since then, the recommendations of the European Union’s High Level Expert Group on sustainable finance, released in January 2018, have also highlighted the need for a common taxonomy on climate change adaptation and metrics for physical climate risk and opportunity disclosures.
This event will be a forum for senior representatives from the financial and business community to discuss and identify the way forward for the development of metrics for disclosing physical climate risk and opportunities, as well as pointers for integrating physical climate risk considerations in scenario-based decision making by businesses and financial institutions.
The conference is sponsored by the EBRD and GCECA, and will feature the findings from expert working groups that include representatives from Allianz, APG, AON, Bank of England, Barclays, BlackRock, Bloomberg, BNP Paribas, Citi, DNB, Deutsche Asset Management, Lightsmith Group, Lloyds, Meridiam Infrastructure, Moody’s, OECD, S&P Global, Shell, Siemens, Standard Chartered, USS and Zurich AM, Acclimatise and 427 are providing the Secretariat function.
A detailed agenda will be circulated in due course. Please note that this is an invitation only event. Additional details are available on EBRD’s event page.
The year 2017 will stay on the record as one of the most expensive years to date for climate and weather disaster events. The U.S. experienced 16 weather and climate disasters that caused over $1 billion in damages, tying the record year of 2011 for the most billion-dollar disasters. From summer through the fall, wildfires in various parts of California led to fatalities, destruction of entire communities, and damage costs of $18 billion, with economic consequences that will continue to impact the region. These events have highlighted that climate change has already begun to and will continue to impact local communities and businesses, and that local economies will benefit from more coordinated resilience planning.
Communities across the U.S. are taking steps to identify their climate change risks and enhance their resilience to changing climate conditions. Many local governments have assessed their vulnerabilities and are developing resilience plans with support from local stakeholders. However, a key set of stakeholders are often not at the table: businesses. Collaboration between local governments and the business community on climate change resilience remains limited. As local and regional climate change planning continues, it becomes increasingly important for local governments to engage with businesses, both large and small, on these issues.
The success of businesses and communities is intertwined
Many larger companies recognize the impacts of climate change on their operations, including risks to physical assets, disruptions to supply chains, and impacts on their workforce. In fact, some businesses, like Google, are examining how to develop company resilience strategies that address changing climate conditions. Businesses are also dependent on public infrastructure and local government services, and climate risks on these “outside the fence” components are much harder for businesses to evaluate. In fact, a number of companies have highlighted these uncertainties as a major barrier in addressing adaptation.
Local governments are dependent on the private sector in many ways. Businesses are essential to the economic health and growth of communities. Business interruptions can affect the quality of life for residents, disrupt the local economy, and reduce tax revenues. The costs of Hurricane Harvey are still being evaluated, but preliminary estimates suggest that lost economic output from this storm was in the range of $9 billion to $11 billion, including $540 million for goods-producing industries and $141 million for oil and gas industries. The October 2017 wildfires in California’s wine country are estimated to have caused economic losses between $6 and $8 billion dollars due to property damage and business interruptions alone, with $789 million in commercial property claims. These costs do not include the potential losses to the wine industry for many years to come.
Local governments have a strong interest in ensuring that businesses are resilient and remain operational as the climate continues to change. Companies will also benefit from engaging with the public sector on community resilience to enhance their business continuity plans and support their employees. In addition to better protecting their employees and operations, this type of collaboration will help businesses better understand community needs.
Businesses can assist local governments with expertise and solutions
Larger businesses often already understand local risks because of internal risk management processes. Risk management and emergency management plans, along with drills and training exercises with employees, help businesses prepare for extreme events. Local governments can coordinate with businesses on risk management, including participating in drills and trainings, to build and maintain community resilience.
Local governments can also use larger companies’ expertise and data on risk. Businesses may be monitoring information that could be relevant to local resilience planning. For example, utilities often track potential risks to their assets, such as those related to storms (e.g., wind, precipitation, flooding), wildfire, and temperature impacts on energy demand. This information can be helpful to local decision-makers in both emergency management and long-term resilience planning.
The private sector also offers opportunities in services and solutions. Businesses are often interested in developing and improving technologies, engineering approaches, technical assistance, and opportunities to connect with their communities. For example, Airbnb offered disaster relief to people impacted by the California wildfires, connecting displaced residents to available housing. The company also worked with the City of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management to share their lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy. Airbnb is also partnering with various local governments to help communities prepare for and recover from disasters. Local governments’ suggestions for climate change solutions and services can help businesses tailor their products to best serve the community.
In addition, financing for implementing community resilience can often be a challenge for local governments. The private sector can offer financing solutions to help fund climate change resilience. For example, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is investing $1 million over five years through their Better Together Resilient Communities grant program to support local climate resilience initiatives in California.
Local governments can share data and information with businesses
Some local governments have undertaken vulnerability assessments and climate change scenario planning for their regions. The data and results from these studies can be shared with businesses to help them understand what assumptions are being used by local governments, and whether their scenarios align, which will be increasingly important to ensure regional coordination as conditions change.
While larger companies may undertake scenario planning and vulnerability assessments, most small businesses do not. However, small businesses can also benefit from data and information sharing. Small companies do not often have the expertise or resources to adequately assess climate change risks and undertake resilience planning. Local governments can share information with small businesses to help them better understand their potential risks and prepare for extreme events. In California, Valley Vision has developed the Capital Region Business Resiliency Initiative to help engage the small business community in resilience planning. This effort helps small businesses engage with local stakeholders to understand potential risks and provides resources to help these businesses plan for disaster resilience.
Local governments can engage with businesses through existing networks or by creating new processes to assist with engagement
Local governments can engage with both small and large businesses through networks and organizations for the private sector, like local chambers of commerce, trade associations, and other business networking groups. For example, the City of Annapolis has engaged the Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Annapolis Partnership in its Weather It Together initiative, which is focused on adapting the historic community to minimize the risks associated with flooding. Through this effort, local businesses are part of the planning process to help the community become more resilient. The City of Cambridge, Massachusetts has also engaged businesses in long-term planning efforts like the Cambridge Compact and the city’s Climate Change Preparedness & Resilience Plan. Establishing public-private partnerships focused on climate resilience will also help to facilitate conversations and collaboration between these two sectors.
Local governments may already engage with businesses individually, but it can be helpful to set up an ongoing process for involving the private sector in resilience planning. For example, business representatives can participate in local planning and advisory committees, contributing their perspectives and identifying any key issues for the business community. Effectively engaging the business community will often require targeted outreach and potentially different strategies, as businesses may not be aware of ongoing stakeholder processes or may not realize their relevance to company needs. Some communities have incorporated businesses into resilience planning through regional climate collaboratives. Several regional climate collaboratives in California focus on engaging different stakeholder groups, including businesses, to further climate change planning. For example, the Sierra Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Partnership was founded by the Sierra Business Council and has various business members, including ski resorts and forestry companies.
Effectively preparing for climate change’s impacts requires that cities coordinate with many different stakeholders. Businesses, public agencies, community groups, and citizens are all important to the discussion on community resilience, as they will all be impacted by climate change and have important ideas to contribute. Engaging the private sector is an important way for local governments to improve community resilience, and will benefit both the public and private sector through information sharing, aligning needs and goals, and developing multi-sector networks.
Four Twenty Seven provides the technical secretariat for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation (GCECA) initiative focused on building climate resilience in the financial sector. Over the coming months, Four Twenty Seven and our partners, Acclimatise, will be releasing briefing papers on physical climate risk and resilience metrics for the financial sector. The project will culminate in an event in May 2018 in London: “Towards a Resilient Financial Sector: Disclosing Physical Climate Risk & Opportunities”.
Read EBRD’s full press release below:
“The EBRD is partnering with the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation (GCECA) in a joint initiative to help strengthen the resilience of the financial sector to the impacts of climate change.
Investors and businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the need to understand and manage the risks associated with climate change. In order to explore options for addressing these issues, the EBRD and GCECA will organise a conference entitled “Towards a Resilient Financial Sector: Disclosing Physical Climate Risk & Opportunities”, to be held at the EBRD’s London Headquarters on 31 May 2018.
The conference will bring together the financial, technical and policy perspectives to shape market action on climate resilience. The focus will be on improving financial sector awareness of climate risks and their impacts on investments, as well as facilitating the emergence of climate risk and resilience metrics, and identifying ways on which investors and businesses can integrate climate change intelligence into their business strategies and investment planning.
Announcing the cooperation Craig Davies, EBRD Head of Climate Resilience Investments, said: “We are very pleased to partner with the GCECA, the first international institution with a specific focus on climate change adaptation. Building climate resilient economies requires broad market action by businesses and investors, alongside effective government policies. We see great opportunities for working with the GCECA and a wider range of other stakeholders to enable businesses and investors to realise the value that can be created through building climate resilience.”
“We are grateful that the Paris Agreement has put Climate Adaptation on a par with mitigation but there is a long way to go. Understanding Climate Adaptation is crucial if we want to put paper into practice.”
Christiaan Wallet, Operations Director of GCECA
The announcement was made today in Bonn at the COP23 climate conference which this year is focussing on the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The EBRD is organising four panels on key climate issues and Bank representatives are also taking part in many more events.
The EBRD is a major investor in climate finance in many of the 38 emerging economies where it works, a driving force in energy efficiency projects, a pioneer in the development of renewable energy sources and an increasingly important player in adaptation to climate change, having signed almost 180 climate resilience investment since 2011. Under its Green Economy Transition (GET) approach, the EBRD aims to dedicate 40 per cent of its annual investment to green finance by 2020 and is well on the way to achieving this objective.
The Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation helps countries, institutions and businesses to adapt to a warming climate, which is increasing the frequency of natural disasters and causing economic disruptions. It is bringing together international partners, including leading knowledge institutes, businesses, NGOs, local and national governments, international organisations and financial institutions. A technical secretariat has been created and funded by the EBRD.”
The Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) released their final recommendations in late June. The changes to the recommendations reflect the extensive feedback the Taskforce received from the stakeholder engagement process in the past six months. Some key changes include:
The recommendations were presented at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, with hopes that the world leaders would formally endorse the guidelines. Climate change was high on the agenda for the summit, where all but the United States voiced a strong recommitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement, and the G20 included by reference, the TCFD recommendations in their Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth.
The TCFD final recommendations were endorsed by over 100 CEO’s from a wide range of companies, including large financial institutions like Barclays and Morgan Stanley as well as energy and manufacturing companies like Suez, DuPont, and Unilever. Reactions from a broad range of financial analysts were also positive, noting the need for improvements and wider adoption of climate risk disclosure practices.
A number of initiatives are already under way to think through and plan the implementation of the TCFD recommendations, such as the UNEP FI’s effort with major banks from around the world who have pledged to work towards adopting these recommendations, and put forth actions they see as needed for broader adoption of climate risk reporting.
Four Twenty Seven helps investors, Fortune 500 companies, and government institutions understand how to quantify and monetize climate change impacts on operations and asset portfolios. Our clients rely on Four Twenty Seven’s tools and models to factor into financial and operational planning processes. Learn more about how we are helping our clients assess and adapt to climate risks.