Transcript of Liesel Prtizker-Simmons

Gino Borges:

I am here with Liesel Pritzker Simmons who is joining us and sharing her journey to impact. And a few things I just want to go over. This series has focused on different impact investors such as Jed Emerson, John Fullerton, Joel Solomon, Erika Karp, Lorrie Meyercord, Danny Almagor, and many others to come. Our focus is on trying to understand people’s journey to impact. As I’ve mentioned to Liesel a little earlier, a lot of us in the investment business and impact investment realm as well, often put forth a particular vision, a particular identity, a front-facing platform that often sometimes camouflages or covers up the real human side of what we’re going through.

There are a lot of times where we’re vulnerable, bewildered, confused, and just really sorting things out in real time and trying to make sense of things. As a collective, as we bring our voices together and share a behind-the-scenes look about that migration to the outer world, then it really helps us all understand that we’re not in this alone.

For those of you who don’t know Liesel, she is the co-founder and principal of the Blue Haven Initiative, one of the first family offices created with impact investing as a focus. She’s also the co-founder of the IBP foundation, a private Chicago-based foundation focused on achieving universal primary education. She attended Columbia University and is on numerous boards. Liesel and I connected through Toniic, an organization of which we are both members. They’re really trying to bring awareness to how we are responsible and stewarding our resources for the outer world – not just for profits’ sake, but also all these externalities. Are we really taking into consideration social, environmental, and governance outcomes as well?

So, welcome Liesel. Start with where you’re at right now because I’m all the way on the other side of the coast. Take me to where you’re based with Blue Haven Initiative.

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

I’m currently at my home. I’m in Concord, Massachusetts. Hopefully, my two kids that are both napping right now will not make a surprise appearance. Physically based, our offices are in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but we manage a portfolio of investments that’s really all over the place. Most of our direct investing is in sub-Saharan Africa and East Africa. We’ve got a team that’s there, but also here in Cambridge. We work with lots of partners that are all over the place. So, we are very tied and proud to be in Concord and in Massachusetts, but a lot of our investing is all over the map.

Gino Borges:

Concord, the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson – we were just talking about how history plays such a deep role in the east coast versus the west coast is still in its teenager phase. I want to talk about this connection to Africa a little bit. You studied African history from what I understand, but there’s a difference between studying African history in college and then becoming mission-focused about affairs in Africa. Can you take us through that journey on where that pivot occurred?

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

One of the things that I always thought was interesting was my grandmother. My mom’s mom was British by heritage, but born and raised in Calcutta, under the rise of her father who was an English civil servant. She was raised in colonial India and didn’t set foot outside the country until she had to go back to Ireland to marry my grandfather. That was the first time she’d ever left India, which was fascinating for her. I remember hearing her impressions of this colonial era, which growing up in Chicago in the 80s and 90s felt fairly far removed, but also not very far. This wasn’t that long ago. The remnants of colonialism in many places all over the world are really complicated, peaking my interest in this colonial past that I was a part of by my own heritage.

When I got to college, I definitely knew I wanted to be a history student. I ended up taking a lot of colonial history classes. I just ended up being more interested in African history. One of the reasons was because I was actually trying to be an African history major, but there weren’t enough classes in the history department to even let that happen. So they kept kicking me over to sociology and to anthropology, which is not okay. They are different disciplines. It also got me pissed off around this idea that academia thinks that Africa doesn’t have history.

There’s no history. It’s really, it’s anthropology, right? That’s become obviously less and less of a popular point of view. But, there was something about that that also pissed me off and made me definitely want to be an African history major. That was really why I wanted to study that. I was at Columbia when Jeffrey Sachs came over and started the Earth Institute; there was a lot of conversation about sustainable development versus traditional development assistance in the form of grants and money. How do we use market-based solutions? Microfinance was really popular. It was right around when Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize. I thought that was really interesting, and I wanted to go into international development. I like this idea of market-based solutions. I come from, on my dad’s side, a very entrepreneurial family.

Excelling in business was also something that was very important to my dad and to my uncles on that side as well.  I liked that combination of international development, but then also using private solutions. What I ended up doing was I took some time off school and volunteered. One of my placements was at a microfinance institution in Tanzania. One of the other things I always thought was particularly interesting was that I was out of pretty ineffective MFI. It was right around when people were starting to get more mobile phones and mobile money was beginning to proliferate. This idea of digital finance was barely starting to enter the microfinance scene. I thought this is really interesting because traditional microfinance isn’t working very well in these parts of Africa, but maybe through some of this technology innovation, we’ll be able to expand access. Here we are several years later, over a decade later, and that’s why we have a syntech portfolio focused in Africa all the way from my grandmother’s colonial history.

Gino Borges:

For those who are on the call that don’t have a deep background like you do in micro finance, why is it the intention and how has that worked out over the years? Where is it currently?

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

That’s highly debatable and I’m sure whatever I say, someone’s going to argue the other way. The original idea is, how do you extend credit, right? Micro credit. How do you extend credit to people in communities that don’t have formal banking institutions, people without bank accounts, but who want to start, need a loan to buy supplies for their hair dressing salon or whatever the micro enterprise is? One of the big innovations around that was how do you extend credit to somebody where you don’t have a lot of information on them and they also don’t have the assets to lend against. The big innovation was around creating group lending models. When you don’t have collateral, can you create social collateral amongst a group of people who will? You give the group a loan and therefore you’re more likely as a lender to get paid back.

The repayment rates traditionally in a lot of places that do this group lending model have been pretty high which is great. It’s just that, the transaction costs for this style of microfinance is exceedingly high. It’s very hard to get to these places, train loan officers to get there, and then meet once a week with a group. It’s terribly inefficient. It’s stayed in the realm of nonprofits for several decades. In some areas in India and Mexico particularly, there were some institutions that were actually able to create efficiencies and IPO their microfinance institutions and scale. But then there were a lot of concerns that they were raising interest rates to be really, really high and usurious. So that’s been a concern. Then there’s also a lot of debate over whether or not extending credit to people actually improves their income level.

There are studies that say it does and some studies that say it doesn’t, but there are other kinds of products that are really important things like insurance, which is extended the same way. So if it’s not just credit, savings, and insurance, being able to help people pay school fees, in a more reliable way, that ties directly to their savings accounts. There are a lot of other financial services that people need besides just credit. The real innovations have been around those different financial products beyond just credit and different delivery mechanisms. Now that pretty much everyone in the world has a phone, what we’ve also realized is, maybe people are more credit worthy than we initially thought. So people are doing micro-lending directly to consumers on their phone. There’s lots of different kinds of products. But roughly speaking, that’s where microfinance started and now it’s moved more into this digital finance world.

Gino Borges:

Does your impact focus travel through to the businesses that you’re willing to fund? Or is it likely they could be doing a gas canister business on the side of the road? How far does the intentionality travel through and then if it does travel all the way through, how do you reconcile this idea of how much control do I really want of this situation? Then, because you’re trained in historical background and colonization, how does African culture experience African-ness with the colonial tools of credit and so forth? I’m trying to understand where the edges between the intentionality and trying to honor their culture is.

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

Credit as a concept has a lot of historical African roots. Like in Ghana, for example, for as long as anyone can remember, they’ve had a Susu loan. That’s their method. They’ve got a Susu collector. There are actually versions of credit in these markets already. I guess I’m not approaching it as something that’s imposed. It’s more how do you take these concepts that are already there and just make it easier for people, for those transactions to take place. The kinds of companies that we’ve invested in now, we want that company to be providing a product or service that we think does have a positive impact. For the companies that are doing payments processing or invoice discounting or something like that, what we think is the impact is that we’re making it, we’re advancing an innovation above the status quo.

We’re making it easier. For example, one of our companies in Nigeria does the payments processing for online businesses. We don’t check every business that uses Pay Stack, but we think it’s a good thing that that market is able to run more efficiently and more people have less friction to bring whatever they want to the marketplace. So that’s a more ecosystem level impact that we think is important and we get to enjoy in this country. Shouldn’t everybody have that ability to bring things to market easily? We wouldn’t dictate what business people can do in that sense. We just want the thing that we invest in to be helping markets run more smoothly.

That’s one of the benefits also of being a fairly nimble family office. For example, like Pay Stack, the company I was just referencing, we don’t have to have companies that look good on glossy reports like paste. It doesn’t photograph well, right? It’s a backend. It’s a technical tool. How do you photograph Stripe in the U.S. or PayPal? It doesn’t photograph well, but I think it’s hugely important to build that market out. It’s plumbing to make part of an economy much more accessible for a lot of people. And so, we are okay with taking a step back from the beneficiary. There are a lot of impact investors that don’t have that luxury because they’ve got other funders that need to see that direct connection. But we still think it’s really important, the market-making as well.

Gino Borges:

Take me to the point where you’re in the situation where all of a sudden you have an abundance of resources, more than what you can use, your family can use, and so forth on a day-to-day basis or in the future. Take us through the moment where you decided to, not just to create a family office, but decided to do this in an impactful way. Some of the conversations that you had to have with the outside world to say, this is what I want to do.

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

I was in a strange position because I inherited control over all the assets that I was going to get when I was 21, basically with no strings attached, which is a little nuts and was also pretty overwhelming. This was when I was in college. This is actually part of why I took some time off and volunteered, because it was really scary and I wasn’t sure what to do. I do what any touchy-feely-rich kid does – I went to India. I came back from that experience and I thought I don’t feel like I deserve it.

But, this is a really powerful tool and I want to do something good with it. I started off by doing what I was told to do, which is you take a portion of it and you set up a foundation. You give it away. That’s what you do when you have a lot of money and you care about the world – you set up a foundation. I took a portion of my assets and we set up the IDP foundation, which my mom runs. It was focused on microfinance for low cost private schools in Ghana. It is still working on that and has now served almost 700 schools throughout different regions of Ghana with loans and other kinds of trainings and service offerings for low cost private schools. I worked with her on that program for about four years, but one of the things that I started to realize is that I was spending 100% of my time working at this foundation, which was set up traditionally where you give away 5% of the assets a year.

I was spending 100% of my time on 10% of the assets that I actually had control over. That just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So I started to get a little bit frustrated by that. I felt like I was pigeonholing myself to only look at the impact of a particular set of dollars that I had arbitrarily decided was the right amount to pay attention to impact with. But the rest of the money, I really didn’t quite know what it was doing. I’d call into my quarterly meetings. I had very professional financial advisors,  but I just didn’t know what any of those investments were doing. Then, I was also curious because since we’d been building out this microfinance program and trying to raise funding for it, I started to ask my financial advisers about microfinance investment vehicles which at that point had been around for awhile.

They were pretty resistant. They were like, it’s very risky, I’m not sure you understand the currency exposure. I’m like, no, I do. I’m working in Ghana and the CD just tanked 24%. I get the risk. What I like is that I know what that money’s doing or I know where it’s going. Luckily for me, all of this started happening right around when the term impact investing was coined. SOCAP started, the engine formed there and started to be a name for what I wanted. I was very lucky in my timing to come around when there was enough infrastructure to actually help me to build a portfolio.

Starting in about 2009 I think is when I made my first investment, and then kept marching through. Then, in 2012 decided that I wanted to do it with 100% of my assets. That to me philosophically makes sense. The dollar is a dollar. I don’t understand why $1 can have impact and we’re not going to care about the other dollars. I don’t philosophically understand that, and I’m in an incredibly luxurious position to be able to make that choice.  I’m not trying to call bullshit on other people. There’s a lot of reasons why people can’t do that. But I can structurally, so I think, I damn well better.

Maybe it comes from the guilt around being an inheritor. I’m now feeling like I don’t deserve any of this. But I do have a mandate to steward this to the next generation. So on my watch, I want to know what everything is doing. I want to be able to explain to my kids why we made that investment and why we said that was going to have a positive impact. I think helps ease the guilt just a little bit. But that’s why we have taken that approach. First just wanting to know what everything’s doing and then if we can make its impact more positive than we should.

Gino Borges:

So was that moment when you inherited at 21, was that a timing element or was it the passing of one of your parents?

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

That was actually neither. It was a very contentious lawsuit that got settled finally. I think part of it was coming out of a testy period in our family’s life, which has since been water under the bridge now. It’s been enough time.

Gino Borges:

How has your family been involved with the creation? Take us through what your role has been since that 2012 moment where you took full control. I’m guessing there were some conversations with the one dimensional financial advisers who probably thought you were nuts. But you also brought your husband Ian along for this journey. Just curious about how as a family you move forward, and not just as a family office from a business perspective, but how did you integrate your family into the family office process and what does sort of the day-to-day look like?

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

One of the first things we did that was really, really helpful was to meet with Jed Emerson, as we were finding our investment committee and he came on as an advisor to help us think about this stuff which was amazing. One of the first things he had us do was sit down and think about our family mission statement and our values. One of the ones that came up as we were doing this exercise was this sense of integration. Holistic transparency is really important to us as well. Although some assets might be mine and some assets might be his, we want to think of everything together. This is our family.

These are things we’re building to go forward. I want to make sure that there’s transparency and integrated decision making as well. So, we sit atop of all of these assets. We have two investment committees, one for the African strategy and then one for the whole family office generally. One of the things that we did was form an investment committee that can vote and sit on both of those investment committees. Then we have some external people as well. Our managing director of our venture portfolio also sits on them. We have some internal staff and some external advisors as well. From a governance standpoint, he can see everything that’s going on and vote on everything that happens.

Our plan is also when our kids are old enough to bring them into that process pretty early. The other part that Ian has really informed me in is his background in community organizing, student organizing. He’s a political creature. He also understands that we can do the best we can over in the private sector, to think about some of these large problems, but ultimately a lot of the problems that we’re facing are policy failures. How do you get a well-educated, engaged citizenry who can actually make it to the polls to vote? How do you get a diverse group of candidates? How do you get a better pipeline, a more diverse pipeline of candidates that can run? How do you take money out of politics?

The public sector correlates to some of the things we’re trying to tackle in our investment portfolio. That’s what he cares a lot about. Before we met, I wasn’t very engaged on that at all I’m ashamed to say. I thought “oh, you know, it’s all ineffective and it’s bureaucratic. Let’s just have companies solve some of these problems.” That’s a very dangerous point of view. So what’s been nice in this partnership is he has really made us think about how we can also use our convening power and our capital and influence in all different ways to make a dent on some of these structural issues as well. We should be standing up for people exactly like I should be standing up for a wealth tax publicly.

We should be talking about wealth and equality, and what are we doing to really combat that from a policy standpoint as well. That part of our work over the years has started to elevate and with political events going the way that they have. It’s so important. In the impact investing world, we just want to focus on the investment piece, but we also need to be regulated. We need good rules in place because investors are just terrible at self policing.

Gino Borges:

You loosely mentioned that you plan on bringing in your kids. What does that look like in terms of your current image in terms of integrating your kids into the impact?

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

I don’t know yet and I’m sure that whatever I do, I will make the wrong decision. I feel like that’s like my right as a mom. One of the things that I think is important, and I see a lot of wealthy families try to almost deny that they’re wealthy to their kids even though they still take a private jet or things like that. But, they pretend that their kids have no idea that they come from a wealthy family. If your kid can use Google, they know, and their friends are telling them. Just because you haven’t had the conversation with them doesn’t mean that they don’t know. I think it’s very much like sex just because you haven’t told your kids about sex. They know.

So then, why don’t you be the person to start a healthy dialogue about what wealth means in the context of your family? We try to do that, and I recognize I’m probably on the radical transparency end of the spectrum. I don’t know if that’s the right approach, but, my husband and I are very transparent with the world about why we think it’s important to use our wealth in this way. I think the cat’s out of the bag for them. What I just want to do, what we’ve started to do is just show them. We invest in community solar projects here in New England. So we’d go visit them, we go see them get put up, and we talk about where power comes from.

We talk about why this school is now going to be powered by the sun instead of by oil, or by dinosaurs. We try to bring it down to their level, and at least to show them things that we are a part of. My oldest is four, but my plan is at least to show them this is our family business, but I also recognize they may be totally uninterested in investing or in business and that’s okay, too. I at least want them to know what we have done and then we can figure out how they want to take it going forward.

Gino Borges:

What does radical transparency look like? Let’s dive into that a little bit more and then how do you navigate feeling vulnerable? There is a connection between our inner world of vulnerability and our willingness to be transparent. It takes a certain amount of faith, that centeredness. I’d like to learn a little bit more about how you’ve negotiated the human frailties of existence and sharing things and yet having this interest of radical transparency. You touched on it, but maybe you can dig in. Then also, was it hard to get there?

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

I think that part of the delicate balance is sharing what we’re trying to do and genuinely working hard at. But then there’s always a risk that we’re gonna find some horrible thing in our portfolio where there’s a hypocrisy that’s going to get exposed underlying all of it. The thing is, I’ve always tried to be very careful about our intentions. This is where we are trying to pay attention to these things, but we’re not perfect and we screw up. That’s definitely likely to happen. We’ve never had a massive blow up, but that’s not to say that it’s not going to happen. We try to be careful and I try never to sound preachy or holier than thou because I’m not.

That’s the part that I’m the most concerned about is that there’s some awful, horrible thing in our portfolio, some scandal that gets exposed. Luckily, we weren’t in TPG, so we avoided that one. I think that the benefits of just being honest, vastly outweighs the negatives. The other thing though that I also want to be clear about is that it’s a privileged position to be able to be honest. I’m not representing a bank. I don’t have to go and collect clients. I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to get promoted. I don’t have to worry about what my sales are or how many tweets I’m getting. I don’t have to worry about that because I don’t work for anyone.

So, we don’t run other people’s money. We just run our own. I have very little accountability. I have the privilege to talk about whatever I want and that’s extremely privileged and I understand that. I never want to sound like everybody should be doing this. Not everybody can. But for those of us that can, I think it’s helpful to do it. What do I have to lose? I’m the luckiest person I know. That’s the privilege of this wealth and this autonomy.

Gino Borges:

What do you think the opportunity cost is to a culture that’s not creating conditions for people to be vulnerable amongst these capital markets? It just really acts so anonymously and without any sense of consequence for on the social and environmental realm.

You have your situation and you’ve really articulated well in terms of how fortunate and privileged you are. I’m wondering if maybe part of the gift is how we all contribute to conditions that create trust and nonjudgmental moments to unleash the human social capital within. My belief is that the allocation of capital often runs in parallel to the energetic, this position of the person. For example, someone who’s restless inside, may be very exploitative outside.

If I’m not loved and I’m hurt, I’m probably going to be very violent in the world. Now all of a sudden if I have money, if somebody’s going gonna be violent in the world and has money, they can do a lot of damage really fast. You said as an example, you’re aware of the privilege position, but what can we do as a collective to really support vulnerability inner work as a way of redesigning capital into more intentional worlds and ways of being?

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

I don’t know the answer to that one, but I think listening, taking time to really listen and give somebody the benefit of the doubt.

Try to see it from their point of view and don’t rush to judgment so quickly. That’s tough to do in the impact investing space. We’re very judgy, and I think allowing time and space for nuance. We were talking about this a little bit earlier. I think that’s a really powerful thing – just being a patient listener. Unfortunately, that’s not something that we value that much in this society. Patience and listening doesn’t feel like an output even though it really is. It is, but we haven’t structured any kind of compensation for that kind of an output.

Gino Borges:

That’s a good point. Could you imagine if people just got paid to listen and then they got subtracted for talking? Our balance sheet would readjust really fast. So, do you think that the impact investing space is judgy amongst itself inside? Or is it more in the outer world that the impact investing space is judgy?

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

I think it’s both. I definitely think that, but I also agree with the point that impact investing is superior to traditional investing because I think we’re being more honest about what things cost. It is a superior way to interact in the financial world. Otherwise, I genuinely do.

But even within ourselves, there can be a thought that this investor is, it’s bullshit and they’re green washing. Then other people saying, oh, it’s too touchy feely and they don’t know anything about markets. There are squabbles within the realm, but I think that’s okay though. That’s a sign of a market that’s maturing or a community that’s maturing is that you start to get factions within it and styles within it.

Gino Borges:

At what point does maturation of the space become its own limitation? It’s in a really full blown evolutionary space right now where a lot of people get to come in with a lot of energy, but there tends to be a disciplinary imperative to constantly try to organize it. I know you’ve been very instrumental in helping Toniic get off the ground and a lot of other impact groups. What conversations are going on and how do we keep the aliveness behind our community present, alive, and upfront and making sure that the imperative to organize and bureaucratized is present, but it’s not the leading initiative.

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

Being patient with people who are new to this or entering from their particular point of view is important. I think it was Stephanie Cohn Rupp whoe wrote a piece on EFT around impact investing is losing its way. It was a great piece and there’s lots of things in there that I agree with, but I also think that article could have easily been published three years ago and it will easily still stand in two years and in five years and in seven years. We’re always going to think we’re in a crisis mode or that something is wrong. But then again, there are also people at large financial institutions that have been trying to get impact investing on their books for awhile and they come to market with one product they’ve been trying to jam through the investment committee and they finally got it on. Is it good? Is it perfect? Is Jed gonna think it’s going to change the world? Maybe not. But for them it was a huge win. For me, I think that’s okay. We’ve got to let people come to it from where they are, and then hopefully we will all get better. We can improve, but everyone has got to start somewhere. What I don’t like is when people come to market with something that is marginally impactful and pretend it’s absolutely going to save the world. If this is a screened ETF, we’re not saving babies, but it’s better than this other ETF. At least we can be honest about where things are.

So, it’s the dishonesty piece that I think is what we want to watch, but I’m okay with there being a spectrum because at the end of the day, here’s the other thing: I don’t care what a big financial institution calls their fund. If they want to use impact language when it isn’t, I don’t care because we’re going to find that out in the due diligence process. It’s going to get exposed when we look at what the underlying investment is. I don’t know a whole lot of investors that would take a funds document that says we’re going to return 120% and they go, “oh, well it says right there it’s going to return 120%. So we’re good.”

Who would look at the marketing materials of a fund and say it’s impactful because it was right there on the cover? We have to do the work. The thing is that that’s okay. That’s fine. If they want to green wash something, it’s the job of the investor to call bullshit on it and say, I’m not gonna do that. I’m not going to put my money there. It’s okay. So that’s why I get less worried about that because that’s part of the job. That’s part of our job as investors is to look under the hood and say, “nope, this is bullshit.”

Gino Borges:

If you look out ten years from now, more investors will be able to discern those kinds of things. In addition to that, what does the impact space look like a decade from now to you?

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

The things that I’m starting to get excited about is, there seems to be a little bit more consensus around some of these impact management and measurement tools which a few years ago I think everyone would have said there’s no way that we’re ever all going to agree, but I’m really encouraged by some of the uptake of the impact management project. I know they just came out today or yesterday with the new toolkit. I don’t think it’s going to solve everything because I don’t think we’ll ever all agree about what metrics we think are the most important, but that’s okay. I think that’s all right too. But I think we will get better at what reporting and management looks like. I’m also hoping that there is more conversation on the policy front as well. So what are ways that we get environmental and social risks embedded in how companies report? What material financial information is available for investors? What actually needs to go on a 10k? We’re going to make some progress there because people are doing some really great work around why ESG indicators are actually material to financial performance. That’s where I hope we go as well. There’s just more information and more disclosures that investors can parse.

Gino Borges:

Wouldn’t it be interesting if externalities flowed all the way down to the k-1 statements, where all of a sudden you’d see, oh, there is an environmental loss of with this business or an environmental gain? Then, all of a sudden we see the social loss or the social gain or governance loss or governance gain because right now k-1s obviously just pure finance.

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

I think that would be amazing. Another form I would love to see improved is what if foundations had to report on their 990 what percentage of their endowments were aligned with their mission. Every foundation has to have a mission statement. It can be gobbledy gook, but you have to have a mission statement. What if foundations had to self-report; they have to report every investment. Rather what if they had to self-report what percentage of that they thought was aligned with their mission? You know, these are tax-exempt entities. They’re supposed to be for the public good. An endowment is invested for the public good. That’s a lot of money in there. Foundations have been real slow anyway.

Gino Borges:

Most of us don’t know what a 990 is. So, what is the 990?

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

That’s the form that foundations need to fill in every year to maintain their charitable status. It’s a reporting requirement.

Gino Borges:

Suggesting that if they had to report on the gap between what is currently their existing portfolio and their mission? An example would be maybe their mission is environmental protection of wetlands, and yet their portfolio has Exxon, Shell, and Chevron in it who have oil rigs in precious wetland.

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

Right, exactly. If that already wasn’t a problem with the board or the investment committee of that foundation, maybe if the accountant brings it up, or the tax attorney, maybe that’ll get through.

Gino Borges:

So do you think that there’s going to be occupations that are going to grow out of the impact investing space, like impact accountants and impact attorneys to feed the ecosystem? Such as when people say I want to do impact investing and they say “my current financial advisor, I share information with them, but they’re really not impact.” I say, you’ve got to go to somebody that’s just doing it full time out there otherwise you’re wasting your time. There’s enough people out there doing it full time to do it. I’m thinking that we also need not just financial advisors, but we need accountants. We need an impact accountant just so we’re part of this larger ecosystem that are all supporting each other in integrative ways using the same language so that when you and I get on the phone with accountants and lawyers, we’re not starting at ground zero constantly because every supporting profession is like starting at ground zero.

Liesel Pritzker-Simmons:

Yeah, I agree. Lawyers, I think that’s been an area that’s overlooked, but they’re starting to organize impact conferences for lawyers as well – a few law firms that really said, we’re gonna make this part of our brand identity; that we’re good at this.

I would like it to be pervasive throughout all of those professions eventually, but maybe it’ll start as an area of expertise within law firms. If you’re going to that law firm to help you with estate planning, then they’ll go get the person who’s the expert in estate planning. Maybe there’ll be an impact expert as well. I do think it would be great if these things were to be integrated into actual law schools and business schools as well. I’m starting to see it more in business schools, which is fun.

 

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