Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Canadian Responsible Investment Conference Update: Tips from the experts

The credit crisis has created lots of mistrust among investors. But advisors specializing in responsible investing can capitalize on that lack of trust, simply by explaining to clients that investing can be more than just about making money.

“That conversation is incredibly important,” says Steve Schueth, president of First Affirmative Financial Network in Colorado. “More so now than a few years ago. The general description [of our clients] is people who want to make money and make a difference. It's not either or and neither one takes priority, it's both.”

“I believe we can use money in a much more positive, healthy, life-affirming way,” Schueth said on the second day of the Canadian Responsible Investment Conference in Toronto. “As investors, we have an obligation to understand how our money is impacting the word and the legacy we will leave for future generations.”

“I'm passionate about the people I serve,” added Cara MacMillan, an investment advisor with BMO Nesbitt Burns in Ottawa. “And as advisors, we tend to attract people who are similar to us. So you have to have the values discussion. Link the conversation to where people are as individuals and make sure it honours where they are now.”

The BP oil spill has shocked and saddened people around the world, and although it may seem crass, it has also created the perfect opening for a discussion with clients who want their money to change the world in some way, says Schueth. “Think about this: this planet is a closed system. We screw this up, and we all die. More and more people get that. There's more opportunity for us to help people put their money to work in a more positive and transformative way.”

The panelists also agreed that many advisors are ignoring, though likely not purposefully, a huge under-served market receptive to responsible investing: women.

Long-time responsible investor Beth Jones noted that 1.2 million people work in Canada's non-profit sector. Seventy percent are women and their average is 43.

“Women are demanding more say in their investment portfolios,” said MacMillan.

Schueth agrees. “Targeting women is really smart and not that hard to do.”

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