Investing After Parkland…

Mark Bateman - March 27, 2018

Columbine…Sandy Hook…Las Vegas…Parkland.

Each tragedy has raised the question, “What can we do?”  For some, in addition to advocating for changes in public policy, they are pushing for changes by companies involved in the firearms industry.  Pressure to change can come from consumers, employees, community members, and investors.

The firearms industry includes both manufacturers and retail distributors.  The distribution part of the industry has been highlighted by announcement from companies like Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kroger (more…)


Proxy Voting: One More Tool to Align Your Investments to Your Values

Mark Bateman - March 9, 2018

Proxy voting—voting shares at company annual meetings to elect directors to the company board and set other policy directions— is often described as a primary activity for responsible investors.  We’re currently approaching prime annual meeting season, which means proxy voting is about to kick into high gear.

Some very active responsible investors work to file shareholder resolutions for companies every year.  These investors are religious investors, self-described socially responsible mutual funds, large institutional investors (like state pension plans), and some individuals. (more…)


Are there good companies?

Mark Bateman - February 18, 2018

When investors are first exposed to the concept of “socially responsible investing” (SRI)—or Bilblically Responsible (BRI), or ethical, or sustainability investing—they often summarize their strategy as investing in “good” companies or avoiding “bad” companies.   But is there really such a thing as a “good” or “bad” company?

Coming from the research side of the ESG (environment, social governance) industry, I’ve often said, “Name a company and give me 10 minutes, and I’ll find something bad about that company.”  No company is perfect. (more…)


Investing with Your Values

Mark Bateman - November 27, 2017

Values [noun]–Deeply held beliefs and attitudes.


While investing is only a part of your life and action, it is something about which we all have control and make decisions. What do our investments say about our values? Are we comfortable with what they say?

Do you have any idea what your investments say about your values?

First, consider whether you know enough about your investments to answer these questions. Figuring that out what you own can be difficult, especially if you invest in mutual funds.


Whether you are an individual trying to answer these questions yourself, or a financial advisor helping your clients, the process is one of gathering information, figuring out the balance of issues and concerns, and making the best available decision. (ENSOGO Analytics helps financial advisors work with their clients to have these conversations.)

None of this is to say that there is a right or wrong approach to investing or that anyone has the right to tell you what your values should be or what your investments should be. Your values may be different than my values and there’s nothing that makes mine right and yours wrong (or yours right and mine wrong).



The Election and Values-based Investing

Mark Bateman - July 28, 2016

With one convention done and the other nearly so, political silly season can’t be far off.  But what’s the relationship between these political campaigns and your clients?

Whether your clients are supporting Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, in most cases, their support is premised on deeply held beliefs.  It may be a self-described belief in social justice or a firmly held personal conviction on the primacy of freedom.  Your question as a financial advisor should be: how do these firmly held political beliefs translate into their investment portfolios?



What are in my investments?

Mark Bateman - April 15, 2016

Frequently, negative screening issues, often referred to as “divestment issues”, are the topics that spark the first question a client will ask about values-based investing.  In my discussions with big and small investors over the years, they often have much more clarity about the things they don’t like, than the things they do like.  Whether it’s wanting to divest from fossil fuels, or animal testing, or firearms,  they know  they don’t want it in their portfolio.

And the question investors will ask will be, “What’s my exposure?”  Or, “How much of that do I own?”  For the equity investor with a (more…)


Attracting Millennial Investors to Your Practice

Mark Bateman - February 8, 2016

What percentage of your investor clients are Millennials?  Are you—like everyone else–trying to figure out how to increase this percentage?  There are certainly no shortage of articles or blogs that try to dissect the Millennial psyche, and a fair number that even try to analyze the Millennial bank account to determine likely investment strategies.

Unfortunately, too few look at the link between core Millennial values and the business approach financial advisors should take to work with this generation of investors. (more…)


ESG and Financial Performance

Mark Bateman - January 8, 2016

Conventional wisdom holds that taking “non-financial” factors into account when making investment decisions will cause an investment fund to underperform.  Non-financial factors include environment, human rights, labor, gender equity, etc.

Conventional wisdom is wrong.

Wrong, at least,  according to a newly released meta study published in the Journal of Sustainable Finance & Investment.  The study, “ESG and financial performance: aggregated evidence from more than 2000 empirical studies” concludes that “roughly 90% of studies find a nonnegative ESG-[corporate financial performance] relation [and] . . . the large majority of studies report positive findings.” (more…)


Guns (Again)

Mark Bateman - December 9, 2015

In the wake of the San Bernadino shooting on December 2, the New York Times reported that, on average, one mass shooting occurs every day, that’s four or more people wounded or killed in a single incident.   Last month, in my post “Guns and Investors“, I asked the question:  “If one of your clients asks whether she is invested in firearms, how are you going to answer her question?”  The line of investors seeking to divest from guns is getting longer.

On December 4, two days after the California massacre, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio called for divestment of firearms manufacturers by the city’s pension funds.  He’s certainly not the first to suggest such a step.  In June, the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) divested from gun manufacturers, and many others have done the same. (more…)


Fiduciary Duty and ESG Issues

Mark Bateman - November 9, 2015

You have a fiduciary duty to your clients.  Period.

But is it counter to your fiduciary duty to consider environmental, social, or governance factors?  A frequent refrain say, “Yes, it is counter to your duty to consider anything except financial return!”

In new interpretive guidance, the Department of Labor (DOL) soundly rejects that argument with regard to pension investments.  The new guidance, issued effective October 26, 2015, actually rescinded guidance issued in early 2008 as the Bush Administration wound down, restoring the essence of guidance from 1994.