Insights from the road: three conferences
FaithInvest's Director of Investment Solutions, Mathew Jensen, was recently on the road participating in events hosted by our friends at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative (CIIC), and Catholic Investment Services. Here is a summary of the events along with Mathew's key take-aways.
The ICCR Spring Conference
First, the ICCR, which has been pioneering the use of shareholder advocacy to press companies on environmental, social, and governance issues for 50 years. Its hybrid spring conference took place 14 March through 17 March in NYC, where members gathered to learn from subject matter experts and fellow investors about new and ongoing initiatives to improve corporate performance on a range of critical ESG concerns. Among the sessions were Advancing Worker Justice: The Right to a Safe and Healthy Working Environment, In Sync: Building Greater Alignment Within Asset Owners’ Financial & Investment Stewardship Teams, A Human Rights-Based Approach: The Thread that Binds Our Work Across the E, S, and G, and many others. Throughout the week there was also robust, small-group discussion of strategy, where ICCR members reviewed the previous proxy season's progress and shared insights about what they expect in 2023.
Mathew made several observations about this annual gathering: ‘It’s a reminder of the important role active owners (we shareholders!) have in focusing company management to act today and over time on long-term issues that will affect – at some point – the company’s results, even as they affect people and the environment today.
‘The event was immersive and emotional, with an undercurrent of persistence and deep knowledge of the issues and legal, process-oriented and regulatory methods for affecting change as corporate owners,' he said.
'Did everyone agree on the description and priority of every issue? Certainly not; faith and values investors are of many backgrounds and are grounded in different specific beliefs and values, but the broad themes of active ownership, and the importance of the long-term inseparable relationship among companies, the economy, people and the environment were alive at this event. If you are a faith-or values-based asset owner, or an asset manager or consultant working with these organisations, and not already part of ICCR, I highly recommend having a closer look.’
CIIC Advisor Forum
Next, CIIC, which is 'a community for Catholic investors and partners to spread the word of Impact Investing through mutual learning and sharing of best practices, resources and experiences', hosted its first-ever Advisor Forum in Chicago on 22 March to celebrate the launch of its new membership programme for financial intermediaries.
This new programme will allow the advisors, consultants and managers who work closely with Catholic asset owners on their impact investing efforts to join the CIIC community and to share their firm's unique expertise.
The goal for the convening was to invite these intermediaries to come hear directly from a select group of CIIC’s asset owner members about their experience and challenges in their impact investing journey, and to meet the CIIC community in a spirit of mutual learning and collaboration.
The agenda included an Asset Owners panel and a case study ‘fireside chat’ hosted by Jessica Cook, Managing Director, Business Development at Ascension Investment Management (AIM).
During the fireside chat, Mathew Jensen provided insights based on FaithInvest’s work with faith-based asset owners, focusing on smaller organisations as captured in their recently released paper Faith-Consistent Investing and Smaller Organizations, with two overall themes for the gathered asset managers, advisors and consultants:
‘First, meet the faith-based asset owner where they are: understand their organisation, their mission and values, their goals and objectives broadly for the assets, their resources and staffing, governance process and makeup, and internal and accessible investment knowledge,' Mathew advised. 'Finetune the message about your organisation, your approach and discussion, and offer of your capabilities to fit the situation. Faith-based asset owners are unique, or should be unique, in that they’re one of the few institutional investing groups consistently driven by a mission around beliefs, teachings and values.'
Mathew added: ‘Second, 'go beyond the sale’ - too many providers (asset managers, etc.) focus on the product or service sale. You’ll find faith-based asset owners need more than product, as outlined in our paper, they have a big job – big relative to other return-seeking investors and, likely, big relative to their internal resources.
'If you can be helpful to them, offering resources for education and research, guidance on various investing, governance and related topics relevant for the asset owner, you have an opportunity to establish a long-term, stable relationship that could expand well beyond the product or service you’re offering today.’
Catholic Investment Services
Finally, Mathew’s travels led to the Catholic Investor Symposium in Chicago. CIS is a non-profit investment organisation ‘committed to advancing both Catholic principles and solid investment performance'.
At this event, the first for CIS, the focus was clearly on investing, with investor panels on private equity, multi-asset, and bond market dynamics and outlooks, and leadership panels on investment oversight, governance and integrating Catholic Social Teachings.
CIS expanded on its excellent 30 January podcast Principles in Focus: “Mensuram Bonam” Faith-Based Investment Measures, with an extended interview of Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, President of the Board of the Vatican Bank, with lessons on good governance, transparency and the practical challenges, and necessity, of investing with (Catholic) values. Overall, a lively larger gathering in the US Catholic investment community.
Are you on a faith-values investing journey?
As a network within the faith-investment ecosystem, FaithInvest stands ready to support both FBAOs in the journey of faith-consistent investing, and providers looking to engage faith- and values-based investors. We’re here to help. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.