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The Central Bank of Ireland’s ICAV register is a very useful tool for monitoring both fund directorships and fund manager relationships held by Irish non-executive directors.

It reveals that some Irish fund directors have an astonishingly large number of manager relationships. Some appear to have more manager relationships than in any other fund jurisdiction, including Cayman. 10 Irish independent directors, with the largest number of funds, have 312 different relationships with asset managers.

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There has been more of a focus on the ‘E’ and ‘S’ in ESG investing. But investors are now interested in the ‘G’ too. The NED is consulting on governance ratings for managers and conceivably for fund boards according to agreed ESG criteria.

According to Pascal Blanque, Chief Investment Officer at Amundi Asset Management, there is now $30 trillion of assets invested in ESG mandates. He says that ESG assets have grown by 34% over the last two years.

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Discovering that Woodford IM’s NEDs were hardly independent shows, yet again, why board and director ratings would help investors. Investors need to know if an independent is actually independent or a sham.

The Financial Times reports that two supposedly independent directors at Woodford Investment Management – Martin Walton and Marcia Campbell – had numerous links with the now disgraced manager. Both have resigned. The FT says that there was no hint of their association with Neil Woodford recorded at Companies House or in their LinkedIn profiles.

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2020 looks like it will be the year of BEPS – definitely for Luxembourg but possibly in offshore jurisdictions too. BEPS affects the boards of alternative funds in several ways (but not long only ones).

Contrary to popular belief it will not be the offshore fund domiciles that will be first into the BEPS firing line. BEPS targets jurisdictions that have relied upon complex bilateral tax treaties for their tax advantaged status more than low tax domiciles like Cayman, Guernsey and Jersey. Luxembourg is in this category.

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What can boards do to be more forward-looking in their risk oversight? And how should they cover issues that impact funds from outside the day to day, up and down of markets?

Given that every fund is different it follows that the risks they face are not the same either. But they all have some sort of risk and it is not clear that every board is on top of what these might be – at least outside the day to day issues that markets routinely encounter.

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