Saint Mary’s Hosts Responsible Investing Panel

Investment ClubLasallian tradition and capitalism came together at Saint Mary’s last week when the school’s new student-run SMC Investment Group and SEBA’s Elfenworks Center for Responsible Business hosted a night dedicated to responsible investing. Students from the Investment Group and a panel of experts from Nelson Capital, BlackRock and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board discussed what constitutes responsible investing and how interested investors should approach it.

“Discussions like this are critical,” said SEBA Dean Zhan Li. “Discussion about responsibility and sustainability are at the core of the school’s vision of Think Globally, Lead Responsibly and also echo the overall mission of the College.”

The Investment Group, which is still fine-tuning its own definition of responsible investing and how it will be applied at SMC was represented by club president Simon Tryzna, controller Amanda Kopp, and vice president Max Teranan. The three students began the evening’s presentations with an overview of their organization, including a discussion on the goals of the club, as well guidelines, policies and procedures. The new student-run group will manage the Responsible Investment Fund, a privately fundraised $100,000 portfolio dedicated to responsible investment.

Investment PanelFollowing the introduction of the student club, the Elfenworks Center hosted a panel of experts, made up of some of the most prominent and well-respected names in investing, including Lloyd Kurtz, chief investment officer at Nelson Capital; Doug Park, director of education at the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board; and Chad Spitler, managing director of responsible investment at BlackRock. SEBA Professor Jim Hawley, who wrote The Rise of Fiduciary Capitalism: How Institutional Investors Can Make Corporations More Democratic, joined the guests in the discussion.

To illustrate the difficulty of defining the phrase du jour, "responsible investment," Kurtz gave an entomological history of the phrase. As a product of dozens of tweaks over the course of decades, the idea has been difficult to define.

Spitler agreed and noted that everyone has their own take on what constitutes a responsible investment. “You’re going to have to decide what’s ‘responsible’ for yourself,” said Spitler. “We’re not going to be able to do it for you.”

Investment PanelEach of the panelists articulated a particular element of responsible investing, giving the students and audience a different perspective. For Kurtz, responsible investing ultimately centers on the desires of the customer. Park spoke extensively about the vital role information plays in making responsible investments, while Spitler emphasized the need for investments to not only serve a social good, but also generate positive yields.

Following the presentation, panelists fielded questions from the Responsible Investment Club and the audience.