Without a vision, the people perish.
– Proverbs 29:18
FOR PEOPLE AND PLANET
JUNE 2021 EVENT
PRAGMATIC FAITH-CONSISTENT INVESTING
OVERVIEW AND VIDEOS
FaithInvest’s first conference, entitled Pragmatic Faith-Consistent Investing: A working conference for faith-based asset owners took place in June 2021. This was the first time, since Covid, that members were able to come together to discuss the challenges and opportunities around aligning investments and values, and there was a real buzz and energy in the discussions.
Nearly 100 people joined our two-day event online and participants were spread across the globe – from the US, UK, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia (check out our brief conference-by-numbers video, right) – and we had excellent speakers from many fields.
We held a series of working group sessions which drew enthusiastic contributions from our members. And we showcased our new Member Portal and our Manager Database, aimed at sharing experience and expertise among members.
Below is a summary of the various sessions, with links to video recordings.
BEING STAKEHOLDERS: WEALTH FROM FAITHS' PERSPECTIVE
Introduction by FaithInvest CEO Martin Palmer.
Six minute video
FaithInvest's CEO Martin Palmer examined the role that faiths can play in creating a values-driven future on a global scale. ‘We are the largest values-driven group that there is,’ Martin said.
‘Most of the other sectors of the financial world are looking desperately for some kind of values to base themselves on. We, as faiths, have them. What we’re looking for now is to help you by providing, through FaithInvest, a kind of professional association for religious fund managers.'
'We’re taking seriously the fact that the
faiths could invest, almost single-handedly, in the kind of future the planet needs"
– Martin Palmer
A SUSTAINABLE INVESTMENT VISION
Welcoming participants, Dave Zellner, Chair of FaithInvest's Trustees. touched on his own experience as Wespath's Chief Investment Officer. He outlined Wespath's sustainable investment vision which seeks to achieve a sustainable economy (defined as social cohesion, prosperity for all and environmental health) and described its sustainable investment framework, which has three pillars: Invest, Engage and Avoid.
'The United Methodist Church... asks us to make a conscious effort to align our efforts with the values of the Church. And it's through evaluating and understanding the values of the United Methodist Church that we've developed what we call our sustainable investment vision.'
– Dave Zellner
Welcome from Dave Zellner, Chair of FaithInvest's Board.
Five minute video
PANEL: Pursuing an investment programme aligned to faith values: Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu perspectives
Gross national happiness
Ven. Amaro Bhikku spoke passionately about the use of ‘gross national happiness’ as a measure of a country’s success. He spoke about the Buddhist approach to resources and politics, and the downsides of short election cycles which can prevent those with the power to make changes from taking a longer view.
‘In terms of longer term thinking,’ he explained, ‘there’s an opportunity for a much, much longer view.’
He went on to talk about generational thinking and working towards long-term goals – even if this means taking on some challenges in the short term. That quality of integrity and, furthermore, how we apply a transparent and trustworthy approach to our investments, provides a clear standard about how we should manage our assets, he concluded.
‘There’s nothing wrong with money, and there’s nothing wrong with making money, It’s just how you do it and what you do with the proceeds’
– Shaunaka Rishi Das
Finding a balance in investment and finance
Shaunaka Rishi Das began his presentation with a famous quote from Gandhi, which sums up the approach to Hindu finance: ‘There is enough on the planet for every person’s need, but not enough for one person’s greed.’
He explained: ‘There’s nothing wrong with money, and there’s nothing wrong with making money, It’s just how you do it and what you do with the proceeds. We have to become the kind of person who’s not full of greed, it’s not just take take-take.’
The idea of balance – based on two key Hindu principles of doing no harm and on service to the world around us – will release us from poverty, Shaunaka concluded. Understanding that the root cause of anger, lust for wealth and power, and unless we start to deal with those, we’ll not have much of an effect.
Venerable Amaro Bhikku, Abbot at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery
Nana Francois, Director of Membership, FaithInvest
Martin Palmer, FaithInvest Founding President and Interim CEO
Hayu Prabowo, Chairman of Environment and Natural Resources at Ulema Council of Indonesia
Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director at Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies
‘Everything runs on trust. If people trust you, they know you’re true to your word and they’ll go to you’
– Ven. Amaro Bhikku
Transactional structures in Islamic finance
Hayu Prabowo, Chairman of Environment and Natural Resources at Ulema Council of Indonesia, gave us an introduction to transactional structures in Islamic finance. He spoke about purchasing and selling assets using a deferred payment basis, known as a murabaha contract.
He also talked us through investor-entrepreneurship relationships, known as mushkarakah and mudarabah contracts, and spoke about financing of services or work, such as buying a house; a similar arrangement to hire-purchase financing.
WORKING GROUP SESSIONS
We ran three Working Groups on each day, which were not recorded so that people could speak freely. Afterwards the leaders of each session reported back with an overview of the discussion and three key learnings as well as next steps.
Day One working groups
Time, Resource and scale efficient solutions for investors. Led by Nana Francois, FaithInvest, and Susan Makos, FaithInvest Board Member
Faith-consistent Investing – Converting various religious plans into actual portfolios. Led by FaithInvest's Mathew Jensen, and Dr Lorna Gold
Launching a commingled fund for a faith-based audience. Led by Michael Even, FaithInvest's Director of Strategy and Investment Research, and Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies
Day Two working groups
What do we mean by an Impact Programme? Led by Nana Francois, FaithInvest, & Kayoko Lyons, Director of Impact Investing, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Opportunity Discovery and Diligence. Led by FaithInvest's Mathew Jensen, and Amanda Joseph, Director of Faith-based Initiatives at Calvert Impact Capital
Impact Fund of Funds. Led by Michael Even, FaithInvest, and Mark Campanale, founder, CarbonTracker
Time, Resource and scale efficient solutions for investors
Nana Francois said key questions focused on:
how we can find new solutions for investment
how we can take advantage of technology to free up resources, and
the ways in which we communicate faith and investment needs.
The working group identified a number of next steps, including an appetite for the design of an opportunities database for asset managers. The database would be ‘from the faiths, for the faiths’, said Nana, and would go some way towards doing the legwork of finding relevant, value-driven opportunities.
Faith-consistent investing – converting religious plans into actual portfolios
Mathew Jensen's first piece of feedback was that the session had been too short and the group certainly needed more time to dig into the subject in depth.
The burning issues identified included a common theme of communication: with the leadership of faith organisations, with the faithful, with investment partners, and in general.
Key actions from the group included a need to create tools to help faiths get started, and practical support on the ways in which asset managers can quickly and accurately identify suitable partners
Launching a commingled fund for a faith-based audience
Director of Strategy and Investment Research Mike Even said although this was a smaller session than Mathew’s, there were a number of important actions to take forward.
The group discussed the development of specific investment criteria, and how to make sure these are embedded in commingled funds.
As a key action, they identified a need to involve other FaithInvest members more, to let them know how the project is progressing and how this might affect other working groups.
What do we mean by an impact programme?
Nana Francois said her group discussed the fact that there are at least three different ways in which we could think about setting up an impact programme:
one that focuses on managed assets (indirect impact)
one focused on programmatic investment (direct investment into youth, schools, hospitals etc)
one that is based on what the faith group itself wants to set up to achieve impact needs
Discussions focused on whether delivering an impact programme was about more than just money. The group concluded that faith institutions should share their experiences more with each other.
Impact opportunity, discovery and diligence
Mathew Jensen described his 'great group' as 'the ODD group', from the title 'Opportunity, Discovery and Diligence'. Key learnings included:
Make sure you have your infrastructure set up early on
Get into the right networks and identify the right partners
If you're just getting started, keep your scope narrow initially (this will help control some of the resources you need)
Key actions identified included: Share resources between faiths and connections for establishing infrastructure. Facilitate connections among faiths to enable networking and impact.
impact fund of funds
Mike Even reported that some of the burning questions explored during the session included:
What does the fund of funds space look like and what does it offer?
Do fund of funds offer a safer entrée for members not yet experienced in illiquid markets?
Do they offer an interesting exposure to less 'centrist' or broad impact managers, allowing for more adventurous impact investing?
The group felt FaithInvest should explore this area further, with all the feedback received from the group.