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AllianceBernstein: Emerging-Market Sovereign Debt Needs ESG Scrutiny

AllianceBernstein: Emerging-Market Sovereign Debt Needs ESG Scrutiny

Published 04-14-22

Submitted by AllianceBernstein

Christian DiClementi| Lead Portfolio Manager—Emerging Market Debt
Patrick O'Connell, CFA| Director—Fixed Income Responsible Investing Research


Patrick O'Connell: At AllianceBernstein, we feel like we have a differentiated way to approach ESG investing. We have a 360-degree view of analyzing ESG risks from all parts of a company or country's stakeholders. Further, we have our proprietary methodology to bring that information to bear, to score that fairly. Christian, can you talk us through your approach to investing in sovereigns with an ESG-considerate lens?
Christian DiClementi: The way we think about investing in sovereigns from an ESG perspective is very much aligned with how we think about investing in corporates from an ESG perspective. Clearly, governance concerns rank quite high whenever we take on a new sovereign investment.
PO: Can you walk me through a specific example of how ESG materially impacted a country's bonds?
CD: Suriname would be a great example. In 2016, the country came to market touting plans of increased transparency, strong governance and separation of power. A few years after the country issued, we started to notice some red flags, particularly around transparency, as the government was unwilling to release some important financial data we deemed critical for the investment.
PO: After the government failed to release that information, what was the end result? What happened to bond prices?
CD: Well, by 2020, about four years after their debut issuance, the country defaulted on their debt. And because the issuer has been unable to resolve or achieve a comprehensive debt restructuring with investors, those investors are now left with meaningful losses, upwards of 30%. So these ESG considerations are not only impactful from an environmental, social and governance perspective, but they're also very impactful for client outcomes.
PO: Thanks, Christian, for your insights today. We can clearly see that ESG risks are true credit risks.

The views expressed herein do not constitute research, investment advice or trade recommendations and do not necessarily represent the views of all AB portfolio-management teams and are subject to revision over time. AllianceBernstein Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the United Kingdom.

The views expressed herein do not constitute research, investment advice or trade recommendations and do not necessarily represent the views of all AB portfolio-management teams.

About the Authors

Christian DiClementi is a Senior Vice President and Lead Emerging Market Debt Portfolio Manager at AB. He is also a member of the Global Fixed Income, Absolute Return and Income portfolio-management teams, and oversees emerging-market investments across AB's suite of fixed-income products. DiClementi joined the firm in 2003. Prior to becoming a member of the Emerging Market Debt portfolio-management team in 2013, he served as a member of AB's Economic Research Group, focusing mainly on sovereign fundamental research for the Caribbean, Central American and Latin American regions. Previously, DiClementi worked as an analyst in the firm's Quantitative Research Group, with an emphasis on global sovereign return and risk modeling, and as an associate portfolio manager responsible for municipal bond portfolios. He holds a BS in mathematics (summa cum laude) from Fairfield University. Location: New York

Patrick O'Connell, CFA is a Senior Vice President and Director of Fixed Income Responsible Investing Research. In this role, he is part of the leadership team that develops responsible investment strategy across AB's Fixed Income business, particularly related to integrating environmental, social and governance considerations throughout the team's research and engagement. Previously, O'Connell served as a corporate credit research analyst, focusing on emerging-market corporates in Latin American and African countries. He joined the Emerging Markets research team in 2013 after working as a credit analyst covering US high-yield energy credits at AB. Prior to joining the firm in 2012, O'Connell was a desk analyst at UBS Investment Bank, where he helped to allocate capital on the trading desk. He holds a BS in accounting and finance (magna cum laude) from Villanova University and is a CFA charterholder. Location: New York

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AllianceBernstein (AB) is a leading global investment management firm that offers high-quality research and diversified investment services to institutional investors, individuals, and private wealth clients in major world markets. We believe corporate responsibility, responsible investing and stewardship are intertwined. To be effective stewards of our clients’ assets, we strive to invest responsibly—assessing, engaging on and integrating material issues, including environmental, social and governance (ESG), and climate change considerations in most of our actively managed strategies. We also believe that strive to hold ourselves as a firm to similar practices that we ask of issues. Our stewardship practices, investment strategy and decision-making are guided by our purpose, mission and values.

Our purpose—pursue insight that unlocks opportunity—inspires our firm to act responsibly. While opportunity means something different to each of our stakeholders; it always means considering the unique goals of each stakeholder. AB’s mission is to help our clients define and achieve their investment goals, explicitly stating what we do to unlock opportunity for our clients. We became a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) in 2011. This began our journey to formalize our commitment to identify responsible ways to unlock opportunities for our clients through integrating material ESG factors throughout most of our actively managed equity and fixed-income client accounts, funds and strategies. AB also engages issuers where it believes the engagement is in the best financial interest of its clients.

Because we are an active manager, our differentiated insights drive our ability to deliver alpha and design innovative investment solutions. ESG and climate issues are important elements in forming insights and in presenting potential risks and opportunities that can have an effect on the performance of the companies and issuers that we invest in and the portfolios that we build.

Our values provide a framework for the behaviors and actions that deliver on our purpose and mission. Values align our actions. Each value emerges from the firm’s collective character—yet is also aspirational.

  • Invest in One Another means that we have a strong organizational culture where diversity is celebrated and mentorship is critical to our success. When we invest in one another, we empower our employees to reach their potential, so that they can help our clients realize theirs. This enables us to partner with clients to design and deliver improved investment outcomes.
  • Strive for Distinctive Knowledge means that we collaboratively identify creative solutions to clients’ economic, ESG and climate- related investment challenges through our expertise in a wide range of investment disciplines, close collaboration among our investment experts and creative solutions.
  • Speak with Courage and Conviction informs how we engage our AB colleagues and issuers. We seek to learn from other parts of our business to strengthen our own views. And we engage issuers for insight and action by sharing ideas and best practices.
  • Act with Integrity—Always is the bedrock of our relationships and has specific meaning for our business. Unlike many other asset managers, we’re singularly focused on providing asset management and research to our clients. We don’t engage in activities that could be distracting, or create conflicts—such as investment banking, insurance writing, commercial banking or proprietary trading for our own account. We are unconflicted and fully accountable.

As of September 30, 2023, AB had $669B in assets under management, $458B of which were ESG-integrated. Additional information about AB may be found on our website,

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