Insurance giant Zurich Germany has appointed Columbia Threadneedle to run a new ESG-focused European equity, the company has announced.

The strategy will be managed by Columbia Threadneedle’s Ann Steele, who currently runs the Columbia European Equity fund and the Threadneedle Pan European fund.

Columbia Threadneedle has a significant long-term partnership with Zurich Germany and is one of the firm’s primary asset managers, across a broad range of different asset classes and strategies.

Columbia Threadneedle EMEA currently manages €11 billion in responsible investment mandates for clients around the world. A dedicated team of five work with the broader investment team to deliver ESG solutions to clients.

Commenting on the mandate, CIO at Zurich Germany, Michael Leinwand. said: 'We believe that proactively integrating ESG factors in our investing helps us to generate better long term financial returns for customers and shareholders. As a result we are focused on enhancing the integration of ESG practices adopted by our investment managers.'

He added that Zurich appointed Columbia Threadneedle to manage the new 'key strategy' utilising their expertise in this area. 'Ann Steele has an excellent track record in managing European equities and we are confident that she will deliver outstanding performance for us,' he said.

Global head of insurance at Columbia Threadneedle, Andrew Nicoll, added: 'The case for long-term responsible investment is clear: well-run sustainable businesses, will adapt, endure and deliver long-term sustainable investment returns.

'We have seen an increase in demand for ESG type strategies, particularly from our European clients, as investors clearly recognise the benefits that a responsible investment approach can bring.'

The US-only Columbia European Equity fund returned 15.27% in euro terms, in the three years to the end of January 2017. This compares with a 22.56% rise, by its Citywire-assigned benchmark the FTSE World Europe TR, over the same time period.

Elsewhere, the more widely available Threadneedle Pan European fund returned 20.45% in euro terms, in the three years to the end of January 2017. This compares with a 22.56% rise, by its Citywire-assigned benchmark the FTSE World Europe TR, over the same time period.