in 2013 and began to understand how she could combine her
passions with the work we were doing.
One of our investments is in a consulting firm called Align
Impact, which works with multigenerational families. In our
work with this firm, I’ve seen how some larger, multigenerational families struggle to get their arms around the concept of
impact investing, to determine how to adjust their investment
policy statements, and to figure out how to assess their investment portfolios. These challenges can often be debilitating in
getting a family off the starting block.
As a small family, we’ve looked for input from outside. About
four years ago, we were among the founding participants in a
group called the 100% Impact Network. Part of a global action
group called Toniic, it is composed of forty-five families around
the world who are committed to allocating 100 percent of their
portfolios to impact investing.
Some of us are already there; others are still on the journey
to get there. The network functions a bit like the Tiger 21
concept, in which families meet as groups four times a year both
here in the United States and in Europe. Financial advisors typically are not included (the exception is that with a single-family
office, the head of the office often attends). We try to get the
family members themselves together so we can learn from one
another, help each family achieve its goals, and potentially help
other families avoid roadblocks that we have faced.
What is keeping families from moving in this direction is not
necessarily the lack of available product. Investment vehicles
both on the private and public side of impact and ESG investing are expanding. For some families, it’s the process that stalls
or never gets started.
Margaret M. Towle: The idea of product options around
impact investing is especially relevant to this conversation.
When each of you started working in the impact investing
space many years ago, you faced limited product options.
However, recent data from both the asset management industry
and the academic community now confirm numerous positive
effects of ESG investing, e.g., the ability to capture both positive and negative inefficiencies. Thus, investors can now
choose from an array of product solutions across all asset
classes. Where do you see the missing elements in product
offerings, and what areas do you consider especially effective in
offering ESG/impact investments?
Debbie McCoy: A significant amount of product creation is
happening, but an ongoing challenge is that investors have
varying perspectives about what ESG and sustainable impact
investing encompasses. We generally refrain from telling
clients whether the issue they consider important is or is not
valid, but we do carefully listen to what our clients say they
Through the course of my career, I have ended up with a
front-row seat for participating in ESG and impact’s develop-
ment. My team utilizes research and data science to ascertain
more information about publicly traded companies than they
typically disclose, and I’m using those insights to inform a
set of portfolios to achieve measurable and transparent ESG
and sustainable impact outcomes alongside delivering finan-
Margaret M. Towle: Managing wealth across multiple generations of a family can be challenging, given the diversity of
values, goals, and objectives of various family members.
Rochelle, you mentioned legacy planning and the use of a
survey. Ron, you talked about the roles of your generation and
the next generation in your family foundation, and your experience and discussions around bringing external groups together.
How do members of the roundtable assimilate and convey various views on impact investing, and at the same time, manage
the multiple perspectives of family members or clients?
Rochelle Gunn: I feel lucky to be working with a small family;
there are only ten members in this generation. They sit around
a conference table and express essentially the same values and
goals. The survey results were pretty consistent. One thing that
has helped in our conversations is that along with starting
ESG or sustainability investing, we switched to a goals-based
asset allocation model. So when we discuss the portfolio, we
talk about investing solidly around the goals for their individual
households, what they want to accomplish, and what this wealth
Our conversations are unusual. We don’t start by discussing
risk tolerance or return objectives. We talk with the family
members about all facets of their wealth. And the concepts of
ESG, sustainability, and impact investing marry well with their
goals-based asset allocation framework. We haven’t had disagreements about the direction of the portfolio or the variety
of interests that are important to them.
Ron Cordes: Our family members sit around a smaller conference table because we’re a couple with one child. Marty and I
are first-generation wealth creators, and our missions are very
much aligned. Stephanie was ingrained with our philosophy
when she attended the Opportunity Collaboration in Mexico
A significant amount of product creation is
happening, but an ongoing challenge is that
investors have varying perspectives about
what ESG and sustainable impact investing