‘Every investment has an impact.’ That was the message from Worthstone’s Social Investment Academy (SIA), held on November 29 at the LSO St. Luke’s in London. The event, which brought together some of the biggest names in wealth management and financial advice, welcomed a record crowd of 135 attendees, indicating that growth in this investment space is starting to snowball.
Worthstone founder Gavin Francis compered the event, and reflects positively on the seventh iteration of the academy. ‘Social impact investment has real momentum, because we’re all thinking very differently than we did in the past,’ he says. ‘It’s not just the younger generation. The impact of all of our consumer decisions has become more apparent.’
The SIA featured a mixture of panel debates, keynote speakers, and a series of presentations from leading social impact funds. Each of these funds aims to provide wealth preservation and returns, while providing a positive impact to society. An optimistic outlook was to be expected, though this perspective has been reinforced by growing traction for social impact investment. The publication of the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals provides ample evidence for this, as do the U.K government reports on how to grow a culture of sustainable investment.
‘There is a wave of people recognising that every investment has an impact,’ adds Francis. ‘That’s not something that we’ve always considered. People are recognising that they want long-term financial security, but not at all costs.’
This year’s academy also provided comfort for those concerned about forfeiting investment return. Among the funds discussed were the Columbia Threadneedle Social Bond fund, the Sarasin & Partners Responsible Bond fund, the Janus Henderson Global Care Growth fund, the Foresight Solar fund, the Triodos Sustainable Pioneer fund, the WHEB Sustainability fund and the Resonance SITR fund. With the exception of the Sarasin fund, which was launched late last year, all of the above funds perform comparably or favourably to their benchmark. Janus Henderson Global Care Growth is a notable example, returning 121.4% over five years relative to the 85.4% delivered by the IA Global benchmark.
Francis also notes that wealth managers and IFAs can add value to clients by engaging with this world of funds, and reports that this sentiment is starting to resonate. ‘The biggest change is that people are recognising that this is a big opportunity,’ he says. ‘One of the main things I’ve noticed is that this change has been brought about through dedicated efforts, but it is also being encouraged by general changes occurring in society.’
With the number of attendees growing, Francis is enthusiastic about the future for the SIA and social impact investing in general. ‘It’s exciting that it’s becoming mainstream,’ he says. ‘It’s appealing to a broad cross-section of people across the wealth management and financial planning sectors. We’ve seen every style of firm at the SIA, and it’s something that’s being recognised regardless of the style of business being run. They’re all dealing with people, and people are really thinking about this.’
The event also highlighted the work carried out on the ground to provide positive social outcomes. Luminary Bakery, a social enterprise offering training, employment and community to women from disadvantaged backgrounds, provided cookies for those in attendance. The event concluded with a musical beneficiary performance to highlight the work carried out by LSO Discovery, which is the London Symphony Orchestra’s education and community outreach department.