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Exclusive interview: Ted Franks, Partner and Fund Manager, WHEB Asset Management

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Edward ‘Ted’ Franks, Fund Manager of 3D 5-star rated WHEB Sustainability Fund, always looked for a way to deliver good things through finance and economics. He spent his early career getting together all the skills he could: he studied economics, philosophy and law, and qualified as an accountant and a chartered financial analyst. Then he moved into renewables, energy, and water investment banking, and built up his experience over “lots of long hours”. And then in 2009 he got the opportunity to put it all together with WHEB. Today he speaks to Blue & Green.

What triggered your initial interest in sustainability?

My father worked in water and development, and I grew up travelling the world with him and wondering how it was that such differences could exist between peoples’ situations. That sparked my interest in economics and sustainability, which to me are two sides of the same coin. Remember the Rio Declaration: development today must not threaten the needs of present and future generations. It sounds commonplace now but I do think it is very profound. So it’s the same question that still fascinates me to this day: how society allocates resources, but spread across time as well as regions and societies.

We see you have a degree in Philosophy and Economics – did a career in politics rather than finance not beckon?

To be honest I never really considered it. I guess I always thought that politics wasn’t as useful as being technical, and applying technical skills: it also seemed somehow dishonourable. But strangely, in a way, I’ve become less cynical as I’ve grown older and now I think that the scope for positive change by politicians is huge.

You’ve been with WHEB since the sustainability fund’s inception in 2009. What’s been the highlight of the last six years?

This will sound corny but it’s all been a highlight. That’s not to say there haven’t been lots of knockbacks: investing is a tough business and if you’re trying to do something a bit novel and innovative then it’s even harder. But, we’ve been involved in and contributing to the response to one of the greatest challenges the world has ever faced – up close to some of the real agents of change. It’s a huge privilege and I have loved nearly all of it.  And all of the people who have been involved at WHEB, they are a highlight in themselves.

What have been the biggest changes in the investment world over the last six years?

There have been some pretty big changes in the general investment world in that time. Two big obvious ones of questionable value are the new dominance of passive investing, and the rise of rules- (as opposed to principles-) based regulation. More positively, there is no question that investors of all types are more interested in the impact their money has than ever before. It’s amazing some of the conversations we have now, and who we have them with.

And what do you envisage the biggest changes will be over the next six years?

Well I think in the next six years I think the massive impact of climate change will become more apparent.  It’s very clear if you look for it already: for instance, in how weather patterns have impacted the Middle East over the last decade. But I think it will become clearer and clearer, and more and more resources will be invested to remedy it. I do also think that scrutiny of companies’ behaviour and impact will increase for the same reasons.

Any emerging sectors our readers should watch? (this does not constitute investment advice.)

Probably our best weapon against the havoc of climate change will be the power unleashed by digitisation. Intelligent and responsive systems are already emerging in all aspects of life, to save resources and improve performance. In plainer English that means things like sensors, intelligent design, software and analytics. The potential is staggering.  Spotting the digital disruptors in any given industry won’t be easy, but figuring out the knock-on effects will be even more interesting…

We’re right up against COP21, are you optimistic it will deliver a binding agreement that averts catastrophic climate change?

Sorry, this will be a very measured response. I am optimistic there will be an agreement, I don’t think it will be meaningfully binding (I honestly don’t know what ‘binding’ could mean in a global context) and I’m sure that it won’t be the key thing that averts catastrophic climate change. Technology has to do the heavy lifting there.

If we made you Prime Minister for the day with the mandate to make one change to government policy what would it be?

Ha. There are too many. Two environmental ones that I will never understand are the new nuclear deal and the tax breaks for fossil fuel production. For anyone who believes in the power of markets, and can do maths, those two are really hard to get your head around.  But since I need to pick just one, I’ll go for something less directly linked to sustainability but more profound: I would stop any interest payments from ever being tax-deductible. It’s only really by accident that they were ever made so, and sorting it out would put an end to our lethal debt habit.  This is such a huge issue that I don’t think people even realise we can do anything about it.

What is the one question we should have asked you and didn’t?

Well that’s a good one anyway. We’re getting a lot of good questions now about how we think about measuring and improving the impact of our investments. There should be some interesting answers in our next impact report which is due in the New Year.

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What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?

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shaker kitchen designs

A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.

When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.

1. Modern

New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.

modern kitchen designs

This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.

2. Classic

Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.

classic kitchen designs

With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.

3. Shaker

Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.

shaker kitchen designs

The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.

Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.

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Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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