Tomorrow’s leaders: Investing in the future

15 March 2023

HFTP competition winner Shivam Sharma writes why environmental, social and governance (ESG) mandates hold signifi cance in asset management, while runner-up Ricardo Tellez tackles the fall of the traditional dining experience

Investors have always been the key force for asset managers’ adoption of ESG strategy. About 85% of hedge fund managers have estimated that institutional investors are the biggest drivers of ESG funds, and the percentage of investors implementing ESG rose by 18% from 2019 to 2021.

With ever-increasing risks surrounding environment, renewable energy, human rights, business ethics and labour standards – governments, companies, institutional investors and their asset managers are now questioning the extent to which their assets are responsible for the damage that has been caused.

They are also exploring what can be done to mitigate these risks in the future, so that they are optimising each asset to its best capacity. Investors and asset managers are smart enough to identify which assets show genuine ESG compatibility and, with the help of the regulators, provide oversight of green funds. To make the most of the funds and fulfil their purpose, asset managers are required to define the overview and context of what ESG means to them when identifying the metrics for their assets’ performance. It comes not only from the financial point of view, but the ESG lens can be a solid riskmanagement tool with non-financial outcomes. The non-financial factors that affect the performance of the asset must be managed well because they tend to be more efficient, aligned with the preferences of the investors and generally less exposed to the risks by various regulators from different domains.

Asset managers must work closely with investors to create their own policies and standards. A lack of standardisation risks operational burden on asset managers, thanks to additional due diligence requests and customised reporting for prospective investors. As asset managers begin to set their own ESG policies and/or offer ESG products, managers must consider their overall ESG investment strategy (for example, activist versus passive ownership) and implement policies to support that chosen strategy.

Emphasis on ESG investment is picking up globally and regulatory bodies either already mandate how asset managers meet and disclose ESG objectives, or they are determining how they should bring forth regulations. For managers and investors that decide to set an ESG policy and offer responsible investment products, they must determine the regulatory requirements for each region and legal jurisdiction in which they operate, as there is not yet alignment on global standards.

While it may come with operational challenges, asset managers must consider ESG across the whole office. Front office teams must ensure their investment screening and portfolio construction decisions align with ESG mandates and investors’ expectations, while compliance and regulatory teams in the middle and back offices have to provide a review function for adherence to mandates and regulations. Thus, asset managers will want to explore how to proactively include ESG mandates in the assets to help ease pressure and support the smooth transition of socially responsible investing.

An emphasis on ESG investing may be in the early stages in most regions of the world. Still, its impact will only advance as governments and society place more importance on managing climate risks and socially equitable business practices.

Part two: Four walls, tables and chairs

Unlike most other sectors, the food and beverage industry prefers to stick to tradition. Fortunately, there are a few companies now experimenting with augmented reality (AR) and 3D modelling that aim to revolutionise the traditional dining experience. These technologies can transcend the gap between what we see on a screen and what we see in real life.

Restaurant group Vino Levantino partnered with technology company Kabaq to modernise the traditional static menu by allowing customers an unprecedented view of their dishes. Utilising their smartphones, customers can load the restaurant menu and see a list of dishes offered by the venue.

 Unlike traditional menus, customers can select any dish and a 3D representation of it will appear on their table, which they can see on their phone screen. This allows the guest to visualise the dish from multiple angles before they place an order, see its texture, presentation and how each ingredient is used.

Not only is this technological application beneficial for the customer – who gets to experience the restaurant menu in a unique way – but it also brings benefits to the owner. A study conducted by Kabaq found that since the implementation of AR in the menu, dessert sales increased by 25%. This proves that not only can technological innovations elevate a traditional dining experience, they can also reward its adopters.

Though this partnership between Kabaq and Vino Levantino showcased the power of AR for restaurant menus, its application does not need to be limited to that sole aspect of the restaurant industry. In fact, the company Le Petite Chef has created an entire dining experience around the use of AR and 3D modelling.

Le Petite Chef is a two-hour experience where screen projectors display a virtual film on the tables. Customers select dishes from a set menu of at least four courses, then the restaurant’s lights dim and the show begins.

Diners witness a cartoon chef walking around their table and interacting with virtual elements that are used to prepare the customer’s selected dish. Once the cartoon chef has finished, the restaurant’s lights brighten and the real dish is brought to the table.

Le Petite Chef has become a worldwide sensation and can be found in more than 30 countries, on luxury cruises and in hotels such as the Ritz Carlton in Los Angeles. This is a one-of-a-kind experience that customers are clamouring to witness with many locations fully booked months in advance, meaning it has the potential to bring enticing profits to its owners – the Ritz Carlton charges $145 per person. Today’s customers are tired of the traditional restaurant experience; they want something new and fresh. Fortunately, social media platforms allow the opportunity for restaurants from anywhere around the world to receive global exposure.

The increase in dessert sales after a restaurant implements AR in the menu.

Restaurants that can harness innovative technology and implement it in their venues to create unique experiences will likely be the ones to gain the most notoriety and, crucially, profits. Thus, it is imperative that restaurant owners and managers seek ways to use these technologies to gain market share and avoid the risk of becoming obsolete.

HFTP Global Hospitality Business Student Blog Competition

The students of today are the hospitality leaders of tomorrow. All hotel managers had to start somewhere and oftentimes the spark that ignites someone’s career trajectory is found while studying a university programme.

This is the case for students on the master of science in global hospitality business programme, a partnership between the Conrad N Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership at the University of Houston, the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and the École hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) in Switzerland.

Each semester, graduate students conduct unique research as part of the Global Hospitality Business Student Blog Competition – and for many, this is an exciting opportunity to explore their passions within the industry.

Shivam Sharma, who tied for first place during the competition’s most recent edition (Autumn 2022), aspires towards a career in asset management and believes that ESG mandates are the future of sustainable investing. Second-place recipient Ricardo Tellez enjoys learning about the strategic evolution of restaurants to entice modern-day consumers and how technology solutions can be leveraged by restaurant owners to increase profitability.

Both students demonstrated great enthusiasm for their respective areas of interest in the award-winning research they produced, and they offer a valuable, fresh perspective on some of the most talked-about industry topics today.

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