The discussion during a panel titled “Mainstreaming Impact Investing” at this year’s Social Impact Conference sponsored by Wharton’s Social Impact Initiative, focused on millennials and how they are interested in investing with purpose. Christopher Geczy, an adjunct professor of finance at Wharton, noted that he believes we’ve reached a tipping point as more students have enrolled in his impact investing class versus his traditional investment management course.1
With the increasing demand for investments that take environmental, social, and governance factors into consideration, it might be time for all investment advisors to become familiar with ESG investing. “We have 15,000 advisors,” said Surya Kolluri, managing director for policy and market planning at Merrill Lynch, a subsidiary of Bank of America, during the Wharton panel. “Within them, there’s a huge range in their understanding of the whole area of ESG/impact investing. Some know a great deal, some know virtually nothing.”
In a survey, Bank of America found that while 58% of respondents said they were interested in socially responsible investing in 2016, far fewer said they were actually making those investments.2 To close the gap, it’s necessary to educate financial advisors properly, so they can make investors feel comfortable with how their wealth is being invested and managed to align with their missions and values.
Helping Impact Investors Connect with a Story
With all the talk on ESG labeling, analyzing impact metrics, and scrutinizing returns, it’s easy to forget about what impact investors are mostly drawn to – the story. Storytelling is an essential component of successful impact investing initiatives. This is the reason why we at CCM are committed to serving our clients by providing impact investment examples upon their requests. These examples describe the story of the investment, including descriptions of the projects, groups primarily impacted (i.e. women, children, minorities, etc.), and impact themes targeted.
In the past few years, we have created a few videos and gone onsite to properties and small businesses our bonds are financing in an effort to give life to our stories. This past summer, David Sand, CCM’s chief impact investment strategist, and Jamie Horwitz, chief marketing officer, visited Manhattan Plaza, a 1,689-unit affordable rental property in New York City. They met some of the residents and learned more about the property’s onsite social services which include workshops and seminars on a variety of topics including financial services, retirement planning, wellness, and health. Last year, they were featured in a video for a property in Detroit – Newberry Hall – that shows the positive impact it is having in the community. The video is available by visiting www.ccminvests.com.
Impact investing is a way for people to feel like they are working toward building their wealth, but also impacting the world in a positive way. If they were only interested in seeing returns, they would be taking their dollars elsewhere—but they want to connect to a cause and that cause’s story.
“People change their investment behavior when something moves them,” said Suzanne Biegel, founder of Women Effect, speaking on another panel at the Social Impact Conference. “Storytelling is absolutely critical.”