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Sycomore Happy@Work from A to Z...

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A happy employee is more efficient, more engaged and more creative. Sycomore Happy@Work invests in companies that value human capital. Discover the fund’s philosophy through some of our stock convictions!


Value creation is only sustainable if it is shared amongst all company stakeholders: its investors, suppliers, clients and the environment, but also, and above all, its employees. An employee who is happy at work is, without question, more efficient, more engaged and more creative.

Valuing human capital kickstarts a virtuous circle within companies. They are more productive and can generate sustainable growth while minimising their risks, with lower employee turnover and less absenteeism as well as lower accident rates in the workplace for instance.

Armed with this assessment, based on more than 20 years’ experience working alongside corporates, Sycomore AM launched a unique fund in Europe in July 2015: Sycomore Happy@Work1.[1]. Its key principle: investing in companies where particular importance is given to their employees who are the main performance drivers over the long run.

A complete and objective assessment of well-being in the workplace

For Sycomore Happy@Work, stock picking is based on an in-depth and proprietary analysis of a company’s fundamentals, including a thorough ESG analysis (Environmental, Social and Governance) where employee dimension is particularly emphasized.

The extra-financial component of the analysis primarily draws on public data. Annual reports provide initial indicators on the integration of human capital within the global strategy of companies. In addition, websites such as Viadeo, Glassdoor and provide numerous opinions of employees on their company.

Then comes the groundwork where the investment team meets with management and carries out onsite visits (plants, stores, headquarters, etc.). The latter provide insights into employees’ working environments and often result in informal discussions. Exchanges over employees’ satisfaction surveys also take place (when these exist) with the human resources departments.

Portfolio managers thus collect all this information to piece together the most complete and objective assessment possible of the level of well-being at work within the companies examined.

Five key aspects essential to employee job satisfaction


Information collected can be organized around five key aspects essential to employee satisfaction: Sense of Purpose, Autonomy, Competence, Working Environment and Fairness. In pratical terms, what does each of these key aspects mean? Here are some illustrations of companies among the investment management team’s main convictions.


Ontex, one of the global leaders in personal hygiene products, consulted more than half of its 11,000 employees to establish its new corporate values. This exercise helped bring the teams together and created a sense of belonging to a community and a “buy-in” into the Ontex adventure. On this occasion, the corporate mission, vision and values of the Belgian multinational group were reviewed. Ontex has also set itself the objective of becoming a “good employer” by 2018.

For further information on Ontex, discover our “Spotlight” dedicated to the company >>

A true revolution ahead for the French tyre manufacturer: following pilot schemes at around 30% of its sites, Michelin is currently adopting a wider application of its organisational structures based on a sense of responsibility. Employees now have free reign to decide, at a local level, on their own organisational structures, training, production monitoring methods, etc, which leads to a true “empowerment” of the staff. Managers must of course adjust to their new role as coaches, however the mechanism for ongoing dialogue has proven to be virtuous in the autonomous pilot structures. This new organisation also relies on the pairing of a long-standing employee and new employee to ensure the efficient transfer of expertise and true accountability, principles held dear by CEO Jean-Dominique Senard. Moreover, following brainstorming sessions with employees, more than 25,000 of the resulting ideas were applied in 2015 to drive progress in various fields ranging from product safety and quality to working conditions. In concrete terms, these ideas generated an annual net gain of EUR15 million for Michelin and led to total bonuses of almost EUR2 million for the people behind them.

Starbucks recruitment policy focuses first and foremost on the character of candidates and their sense of customer service rather than on their expertise, as once they are integrated into the company all employees receive coffee culture training. At the same time, the multinational has a highly active internal development policy with several baristas promoted to store managers. In the United States, many of its employees, of which 70% are students or aspire to be, struggle to gain their degrees while juggling studies with work. The chain of coffee shops therefore introduced the “Starbucks College Achievement Plan”, in partnership with Arizona State University, which reimburses all tuition fees for certain employees. Starbucks also offers to pay for online training for its US employees.


The French electricity supplier and producer continuously strives to improve working relations and the atmosphere among employees. The company has moved into new, pleasant premises, providing spaces for both formal and informal discussions. The new cafeteria hosts quarterly meetings aimed at celebrating all new aspects within the company, such as the arrival of new employees. Addressing members of the management team and employees by their first name is now part of corporate life and more than 1% of the group’s expenditure is dedicated to the Workers Council’s budget. Moreover, the transformational merger with Poweo in 2012 appears to be firmly behind, thanks to the gradual building of a strong working environment framework: social harmonisation notably focused on an agreement over working hours, mutual health insurance, retirement, work contracts as well as compulsory and discretionary profit-sharing agreements.

In 2017, 20,000 Spie employees (out of a total of 38,000) and 400 managers owned more than 10% of the company’s share capital. The group aims to involve its employees in the company’s performance through the implementation of its employee shareholder schemes. It also introduced a discretionary profit-sharing agreement in France, Belgium and the Netherlands as well as a compulsory profit-sharing agreement in France. In terms of diversity, the percentage of women in the workforce of this independent European leader in energy, communication and facilities services remains relatively low (13% in 2016). However, Spie manages to keep this percentage among management positions (14% in 2016), which is encouraging. Achieving better gender equality is a key development priority for the group.

The proof is in the figures…

The Sycomore Happy@Work[2] investment philosophy is supported by a strong engagement process, through constructive dialogue with company managers for an ongoing improvement and sharing best pratices in terms of social innovations.

Moreover, we regularly work with a committee of experts with diverse backgrounds, more specifically on the topic of human capital challenges, to constantly improve our understanding in the field.

Today the figures speak for themselves and confirm our conviction that the well-being of employees contributes to the value creation of a company. Since its launch, Sycomore Happy@Work[3] has posted a performance of +32.3%[4] compared with +12.3%[5] for its benchmark index, the Eurostoxx TR[6], with substantially lower volatility[7].

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Risk and reward profile



Past performances are not a guarantee of future performances. The fund does not guarantee returns or performance and might entail capital loss. The performance of the fund can be explained partially by ESG indicators of the companies appearing in the portfolio, but these last ones are not the only factors determining the evolution of this performance.

Communication promotional in nature. This communication has not been prepared in accordance with regulations to promote the independence of financial analysis. SYCOMORE Asset Management or management companies involved with the preparation of this document are not subject to the ban on conducting transactions on the instruments mentioned by the publication of this communication.

Prior to investing, please read carefully the key investor information document available on our website :

[1] Sub-fund of Sycomore Fund Sicav, Luxembourg.

[2] Sub-fund of Sycomore Fund Sicav, Luxembourg.

[3] Sub-fund of Sycomore Fund Sicav, Luxembourg.

[4] I share data at 31 July 2017. Performances prior to 4 November 2015 relate to an identical French fund which was liquidated on this date in favour of the Luxembourg sub-fund; the French fund had been established on 6 July 2015. Fund volatility: 11.6%. Index volatility: 18.9%. Source: Bloomberg

[5] I share data at 31 July 2017. Performances prior to 4 November 2015 relate to an identical French fund which was liquidated on this date in favour of the Luxembourg sub-fund; the French fund had been established on 6 July 2015. Fund volatility: 11.6%. Index volatility: 18.9%. Source: Bloomberg

[6] TR: on a total return basis.

[7] I share data at 31 July 2017. Performances prior to 4 November 2015 relate to an identical French fund which was liquidated on this date in favour of the Luxembourg sub-fund; the French fund had been established on 6 July 2015. Fund volatility: 11.6%. Index volatility: 18.9%. Source: Bloomberg

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