1929: Laying the Foundations

Just weeks after the Wall Street Crash, seven Rotterdam businessmen formed a syndicate to invest peoples’ savings and manage money collectively. They named it the Rotterdamsch Beleggings Consortium, later shortened to Robeco. They thought stocks had hit at a low point, but due to the Great Depression, they lost half their money in the first two years. However, they persevered, laying the foundations for the modern Robeco.

1930s: Creating a global reach

Robeco’s first director, Wim Rauwenhoff, attached great value to research, striving for a scientific approach to investing. The founders also believed in global reach, buying stocks in South America as early as 1930 and expanding into Europe and North America, before listing on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange in 1938.

Wim Rauwenhoff
Robeco's first director (from 1933 to 1960)

Every investment strategy should be research-driven.

1940s: Emerging from war

During World War II, more than half the portfolio was safely invested in the US, and between 1941 and 1946, Robeco’s assets almost doubled in size. The wartime period also saw Robeco further develop its scientific approach to investing, including a partnership with what became the world-leading Erasmus University in Rotterdam. This dedication to research eventually led to pioneering work in quantitative and sustainability investing.

1950s: Making investing accessible

The 1950s saw further innovation, led in 1953 by the introduction of a share-saving system that allowed people of more modest means to save up to buy Robeco shares, making investing more accessible within the Netherlands. The postwar period also saw steady expansion, and Robeco listed on its first foreign stock market, in Paris, in 1959.

1960s: Swinging ahead overseas

In the ‘Swinging Sixties’, further overseas expansion continued with listings for Robeco on the stock markets in Brussels in 1960 and London in 1962, along with several other European financial centers. In 1963, Robeco became the first European company to enter the Japanese stock market. Two years later, a second investment company, Rolinco, was founded for investors more interested in capital growth than in taxable dividends.

1970s: From bonds to new businesses

Innovation and diversification continued apace, with the establishment of Rorento, Robeco’s first bond fund, as an antidote to the oil crisis which saw share values plummet in 1973. Diversification also took place in a different vein after the Ford Foundation asked Robeco to run part of its portfolio, marking the start of the institutional asset management activities which now account for roughly 50% of assets under management. The 1970s also saw a string of mergers in which Robeco took over many of its main rivals to become the largest fund provider in Europe. Geographical expansion also continued unabated, opening new offices in France, Luxembourg and Switzerland, and listing on stock markets in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

1980s: Turning turmoil into triumph

Robeco’s experience of the first great stock market crash came good when the second occurred in October 1987, when it had learned the lessons of history and developed a crash policy. Minimizing risk through diversification averted panic behavior and led to a milder downfall in assets values compared to that of the Dow Jones.

1990s: Enter quant and sustainability

The 1990s was a key development period in which Robeco pioneered the use of quantitative and sustainable investing. The first quant strategy was launched in 1994, followed by the first sustainable product, the ‘Groencertificaten’ (Green Certificates), created in conjunction with new parent company Rabobank in 1995. Robeco later launched the first sustainable equities fund in the Netherlands.

2000s: New millennium, new milestones

The new millennium brought its own milestones for Robeco Group, with the US initially the focus of expansion as Harbor Capital Advisors and Boston Partners Asset Management joined the growing family. By the early 21st century, total assets under management broke through the EUR 100 billion barrier. Meanwhile, international expansion continued as offices were opened in the Middle East, Europe and Asia, where a joint venture with Canara first tapped the vast Indian market. Robeco Group’s sustainability reach solidified with the purchase of Zurich-based Sustainable Asset Management, later rebranded as RobecoSAM, and now as Robeco Switzerland.

2010s: Global leadership in selected areas

Robeco began the new decade by starting to integrate environmental, social and governance factors into the investment decision-making process. This would provide the bedrock for maintaining Robeco’s dominance in sustainable investing in the years to come. The company began an exciting new chapter when the Japanese financial services group ORIX Corporation acquired Robeco Group in 2013. The deal meant that Robeco became part of an international company with a solid reputation. Robeco increasingly focused on areas where it really stands out and can build true leadership. In 2019, Robeco celebrated its 90th anniversary as a world leader in sustainable investing and quant, and the only asset manager to routinely integrate sustainability factors into its entire range of fundamental equity and fixed income strategies.