River & Mercantile has promoted fund manager James Sym to head of equities.

Sym (pictured), who runs the £256m R&M ES River and Mercantile European fund, joined the firm from Schroders in 2020 to establish the business's European Equities franchise. In his expanded role, Sym will focus on driving the firm's equity products forward.

Based in London, Sym will continue to report to R&M CEO Alex Hoctor-Duncan. The announcement follows the Financial Conduct Authority approving the change of control of River and Mercantile Group to AssetCo last week.

FCA approves AssetCo takeover of River and Mercantile

Hoctor-Duncan said: "As we look toward to the next stage of our journey as an integrated part of AssetCo, I am delighted that James will be steering our equities business forward."

Meanwhile, Sym has compared the current phase of ESG to the dot-com bubble.

In the same way companies had to adapt to the internet boom at the turn of the millennium, in the coming decade companies will have to transition to become sustainability-led businesses, or cease to exist, he explained.

"In 2000, in the TMT bubble, there was a narrow focus on a certain type of company, and we all know that ended really rather badly. A few of those companies went on and became Amazon and Google and some of those companies went bankrupt," Sym said.

"ESG in 2022, is in a similar phase. There has been a very narrow focus on a certain type of company that has therefore attracted a very big premium in the stock market."

Sym said the focus of funds managers has changed from targeting the best possible return to achieving the best return in a way that helps decarbonise the world.

"[Society is] doing nothing less than changing capitalism here…The financial services industry is right at the centre of that and it is a very exciting place to be.

"We are going to see a big broadening. After the TMT crash, every company became a tech company. You could not be a retailer without a functional website. Retailers became tech companies.

"Over the next five to 10 years, every company is going to be a sustainability-led business, or they will die. And we can get in now - today - at the beginning of that transition. It is going to have both a big real-world impact and deliver exciting investment returns."