InvestmentNews debuts impact investing documentary at the UN

Financial advisers learn how to talk with clients about the subject, with women and millennials showing the most interest

Sep 11, 2018 @ 5:01 pm

By Sarah Min

As women and millennials lead the charge on impact investing, financial advisers are learning how to have conversations with clients on the subject.

InvestmentNews debuted a documentary short at the 2018 Sustainable Investing Conference at the United Nations today, "Impact: Investing with Purpose," which follows entrepreneurs and investors taking an ESG focus to make a difference in the world.

"I think our planet is facing a number of challenges like the great inequality we're seeing in both the developed and developing world, but also between the developed and developing world," said Judith Karl, executive secretary of the UN Capital Development Fund, at the screening of the documentary.

The project was a collaboration between Steve Distante, chief executive officer of Vanderbilt Financial Group, and Matt Ackermann, director of multimedia at InvestmentNews. It took nine months to shoot in Haiti, North Carolina, St. Louis and Florida.

"I want it to be a gift to the financial adviser community, to the impact community, to educate and inspire and show clients how their money can grow with their values," said Mr. Distante, the executive producer of the short film. He is also the global ambassador for the entrepreneurs organization at the UN.

(More: Behind the scenes: "Impact" cost me 15 pounds but the payoff has been priceless)

"It became about not just telling the story but showing the story," Mr. Ackermann said. "Telling people there's a problem in the world is one thing, but seeing those beaches in Haiti with the garbage on it is different, and it really opens your eyes to some of the problems in the world that ESGs can help solve."

For financial professionals attending the conference, the personal anecdotes in the short documentary were able to fill in gaps that ESG analytics can miss.

The documentary follows entrepreneur George Taylor, chief executive officer of TRU Colors Brewing Co. in Wilmington, N.C., who employs gang members to curb ongoing violence in gang communities, and David Katz, CEO of Plastic Bank, a business that turns plastic waste into currency in Haiti.

Max Mintz, chief investment officer and junior partner at Common Interests, said that he liked the inclusion of examples from abroad and at home.

"Bringing those two sides together really brings it home to our clients," Mr. Mintz said.

Other financial professionals felt that the documentary did not go as deep as it could have.

"It doesn't go far enough into the future of what's possible in this area," said Jina Penn-Tracy, financial adviser at Centered Wealth. Ms. Penn-Tracy, who has spent years working in the ESG space, hopes advisers will one day value the total return of socially impactful investing, rather than how it can simultaneously be financially profitable. She also noted the lack of investment professionals of color in the film.

Nevertheless, she applauded the choice to include personal stories in the documentary.

"I think because the financial system abstracts people from their own investments, we don't see the final outcome very often, and I think that was a really valuable tool of the film," Ms. Penn-Tracy said.

The documentary also follows Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana; Jon Hale, global head of sustainability at Morningstar Inc.; Hazel Henderson, futurist and economist; Jonas Kron, senior vice president and director of shareholder advocacy at Trillium Asset Management; and John Streur, president and CEO of Calvert Research and Management.

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