Relations, and serves as a board
member of TechnoServe.
Margaret M. Towle: We
thought our readers would find
it useful to hear a conversation
among people who are engaged
in forward-thinking ideas and
activities in the ESG investment
space. Before we begin the discussion, Ron, please tell us about
your background and what you are doing now.
Ron Cordes: For about twenty years, two partners and I built
an asset management consulting firm called AssetMark. In
2006 we had an opportunity to sell it to a global insurance
company, and my wife and I created a family foundation,
something we’d always wanted to do. If you had asked me then
what I’d be doing in ten years, I would likely have said we’d be
traditional philanthropists, giving money away, managing a
grants budget around issues that are important to us—global
poverty, women and girls, economic empowerment. I got
engaged in impact investing on the private side beginning in
2007. I was motivated by what I’d call a combination of frustration and opportunity.
The frustration was that I saw the scale of the problems we
were addressing and recognized the limitations of our own
small grants budget and of philanthropy in general. The
opportunity was that I saw a number of impact investing
opportunities beginning, in our case, in microfinance, and our
family foundation became somewhat of a pioneer in this area,
initially allocating 20 percent of our portfolio on the private
side in 2007. Not only did our impact investment portfolio
survive; it actually thrived in 2008 during the financial crisis.
These investments were completely uncorrelated with the rest
of our portfolio, and they were the portfolio’s best performers.
So we doubled down in 2009 and went from 20 percent to
40 percent, basically allocating our entire private portfolio—
private equity, venture capital, and private debt—to impact
investments, both in funds and individual opportunities.
It wasn’t until 2014 when our twenty-seven-year-old daughter,
Cordes, Rochelle Gunn, and Debbie McCoy.
Ron Cordes is a co-founder and former chief executive officer of
AssetMark, co-authored The Art of Investing and Portfolio
Management, and was an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the
Year in 2005. Since co-founding the Cordes Foundation in
2006 with his wife, Marty, he has focused on impact investing
and social entrepreneurship and currently serves on the boards
of MicroVest, ImpactAssets, and Fair Trade USA.
Rochelle Gunn is the chief investment officer of HRK Group,
Inc. (HRK), a single-family office in Saint Paul, Minnesota, that
provides integrated financial services to twenty fourth- through
sixth-generation family members. She is responsible for setting
the strategic asset allocation for two global investment portfolios and executing all investment activities related to the long-term goals for current and future beneficiaries of the family’s
wealth. Before joining HRK in 2008, she served as portfolio
manager at Waycrosse, Inc., a single-family office in Wayzata,
Minnesota, where she managed the global fixed income and
global active equities portfolios.
Debbie McCoy is a managing director at BlackRock, where she
is a portfolio manager and leads ESG and sustainable impact
investing for the Systematic Active Equity group. Before joining the firm in 2015, she worked for Stanford University. She
began her career at Bain & Company in San Francisco and
Johannesburg and later worked for Citigroup in New York and
New Delhi. She is a member of the Council on Foreign
Challenges and Opportunities
Ron Cordes Rochelle Gunn Debbie McCoy