The role of Business in our society

The sustainable investing world has been on fire this week, after the Business Roundtable made a groundbreaking statement on the Purpose of the Corporation in modern society. For the first time, corporate leaders at the highest level are changing how they think, replacing the mantra of “maximize profits at all costs” (you’ll see the words ‘shareholder supremacy’ thrown around a lot) with ideals that acknowledge the impact businesses have on more of their stakeholders: customers, employees, suppliers, the communities they work in, and their shareholders. Read more

Igniting Impact

The new trailer for the film Igniting Impact debuted last week at the United Nations! If you would like to screen the full version of the film at an event, click here for the Igniting Impact Screening Info, or visit http://impactu.film/ to learn more.

Common Interests Supports the Investor Agenda on Climate Change

Common Interests is proud to be a part of the global investor network, including Amundi, California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), Legal & General Investment Management, Natixis Investment Managers, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, and Sumitomo Trust Mitsui Asset Management, making up a record number of signatories to the Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change.

Today, we are joining with investors from around the globe to urge world government leaders to step up their ambition on climate change and enact strong policies by 2020 to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, including phasing out thermal coal power and pricing carbon. 477 investors with $34 trillion (USD) in assets, a record number of signatories, are behind the urgent call-to-action to limit average global temperature rise to no more than 1.5-degrees Celsius.

“As institutional investors with millions of beneficiaries around the world, we reiterate our full support for the Paris Agreement and strongly urge all governments to implement the actions that are needed to achieve the goals of the Agreement, with the utmost urgency,” the investors wrote in a Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change.

The statement comes as world government leaders gather at the Group of Twenty (G20) Summit in Osaka, Japan and as the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres calls on “countries to build no new coal power plants after 2020.”

“Climate change affects all sectors of the economy and all countries,” said Christiana Figueres, Convener of Mission 2020 and former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). “It is the biggest and most urgent challenge currently facing the world. As we face a true climate emergency, limiting temperature increase to 1.5-degrees Celsius is necessary for survival, and achievable!”

Figueres added, “Investors have a vital role to play in providing the trillions in capital required to support the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient future. It is therefore hugely encouraging to see so many investors unite around such a clear and powerful statement to governments. They are showing a sentiment shared across the global community: exponential scale-up and acceleration of climate action is not a choice but a requirement, and represents our best opportunities for financial stability and economic prosperity.”

“As an investor in global markets, we are exposed to the increasing risks and opportunities that climate change presents to our portfolios, especially in Asia where the physical impacts of extreme weather events will be the harshest and of the greatest cost,” said Seiji Kawazoe, Senior Stewardship Officer, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management. “To enable us to effectively invest in the necessary transition to net-zero carbon economies around the world, we have signed this statement to urge governments to take the actions needed to set us on the course to limiting global warming to 1.5-degrees Celsius.”

In particular, investors are asking world government leaders to:

Achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals

  • Update and strengthen nationally-determined contributions to meet the emissions reduction goal of the Paris Agreement, starting the process now and completing it no later than 2020, and focusing swiftly on implementation
  • Formulate and communicate long-term emission reduction strategies
  • Align all climate- related policy frameworks holistically with the goals of the Paris Agreement
  • Support a just transition to a low carbon economy.

Accelerate private sector investment into the low carbon transition

  • Incorporate Paris-aligned climate scenarios into all relevant policy frameworks and energy transition pathways
  • Phase out thermal coal power worldwide by set deadlines.
  • Put a meaningful price on carbon
  • Phase out fossil fuel subsidies by set deadlines

Commit to improve climate-related financial reporting

  • Publicly support the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations and the extension of its term
  • Commit to implement the TCFD recommendations in their jurisdictions, no later than 2020
  • Request the FSB incorporate the TCFD recommendations into its guidelines
  • Request international standard-setting bodies incorporate the TCFD recommendations into their standards.

“As shareholders, we are engaging with companies about their emissions, and how their Boards and their business plans are preparing them for a carbon constrained future,” said the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) CEO Jack Ehnes. “We need the governments of the world to implement the Paris Agreement and regulate emissions on a clear timeline so that businesses know what the interim targets are and the timeline for their action.”

“Renewables are the cheapest energy source across more than two-thirds of the world today. The direction of travel is clear: the economics of wind and solar will continue improving,” adds Carola van Lamoen, Head of Active Ownership, Robeco, a global asset manager with $203 billion in assets under management. “Renewables are expected to outcompete new coal-fired power plants by 2030 almost everywhere. As investors, in our view the development of new coal power plants after 2020 puts at risk both the return on investment and the world’s chance of limiting global warming in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

“As one of Australia’s largest industry superannuation funds, and a major institutional investor, we believe we have an important role to play in bringing about positive action on climate change to protect the retirement savings of our members,” said Deanne Stewart, Chief Executive Officer, First State Super. “This aligns with the view of regulators in Australia, and internationally, who have identified climate change as a significant material and foreseeable risk and have called for immediate action. While we are responding on behalf of our members, this issue will require a coordinated, collective and collaborate response from governments, business and investors to ensure that critical changes are made now for the long-term interests of our members and the community.”

The Investor Agenda Founding Partners strongly welcomed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5-degrees Celsius which emphasised the urgency for average annual sustainable energy investments of up to USD $830 billion to transition to a zero-carbon and climate resilient global economy. The report also said that in order to achieve a 1.5-degree Celsius pathway, global net emissions need to decline by 45 percent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions around 2050.

The statement was drafted through a collaboration among seven partner organisations – AIGCC, CDP, Ceres, IGCC, IIGCC, PRI and UNEP-FI – that are the Founding Partners of The Investor Agenda. Launched in 2018, The Investor Agenda calls on investors to step up action on climate change in four key focus areas: Investment, Corporate Engagement, Investor Disclosure and Policy Advocacy. Signing the statement is one of the actions investors can take in line with the policy focus areas of the agenda. The statement is published at www.theinvestoragenda.org.

About The Investor Agenda

The Investor Agenda has been developed for investors to accelerate and scale up the actions that are critical to tackling climate change and achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement with the aim of keeping average global temperature rise to no more than 1.5-degrees Celsius. It provides investors with a set of actions that they can take in four key focus areas: Investment, Corporate Engagement, Investor Disclosure and Policy Advocacy. It has been developed by seven Founding Partners: Asia Investor Group on Climate Change,CDP, Ceres, Investor Group on Climate Change, Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, Principles for Responsible Investment and UNEP Finance Initiative. Visit www.TheInvestorAgenda.org for more information.

Celebrating Pride Month 2019

Reflections for Pride Month

I joined Common Interests full time on January 1, 2013, after walking what I call ‘the zig-zag path’ to financial services. As part of my early training with Bob, I was working with a LGBTQIA+ couple that had planning needs unique to this community. As a newcomer to the team, I was driven to learn how to plan and protect for all our clients but those from marginalized communities were especially important to me. Working closely with an LGBTQIA+ couple highlighted that basic rights that allies like Bob and myself take for granted are seemingly out of reach for millions of Americans.

I remember sharing my background with these clients. In high school, I was an editor for Sex, Etc., a resource for teens that aims to educate them about sex, drugs and alcohol. I saw first-hand the struggles that LGBTQIA+ youth experience and empathy drove me to want to solve these problems. As I grew, so did my understanding of the challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community both through a personal and professional circles. As a firm that values solving tough problems in creative ways, Common Interests deepened my appreciation for the sometimes nuanced and often blatant struggles this community faces daily.

Given this background, I was closely following the landmark civil rights case Windsor v. United States as the United States Supreme Court considered the federal interpretation of “marriage”.  So, imagine how happy I was when I woke up on June 26, 2013, only 6 months in my new role, and found the announcement that the Court had overturned The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Court held that restricting U.S. federal interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse” to apply only to opposite-sex unions is unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.  Finally, our clients could get married and enjoy the same protections and tax advantages as “everyone else” without jumping through the legal hoops we were recommending at the time.

As I think back to that moment and reflect on how it impacted our practice, I am actually glad I entered the industry before Windsor. The skills and techniques I learned then still serve our clients well now. We work with “non-traditional” relationships on a regular basis, from people in long term stable partnerships to families that don’t have children but care deeply about their legacy and who will take care of them as they age, to relationships that are defined fluidly by their members.

In the post-Windsor world, we have continued to advocate on behalf of our clients. Recently, we signed the Investor Statement on Gender Equality, joining with investors representing a total of over $1.61 trillion in Assets Under Management to ask that companies increase investors’ accessibility to information related to their workplace equity policies and practices across gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other federally protected classes. In 2017, we joined with other investors to put pressure on Verisk Analytics (which, full disclosure, was my first professional employer after college), to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression. This was one of our first engagements, and as a former employee of that firm, I was excited to see how their management worked with our partners to reform their policies. We continue to search for opportunities to use the power of our investments to create change in corporate behavior, and to empower our clients to engage with the companies they own and band together with other investors to magnify the impact of their dollars.

This is not to say that this is where the story ends. As an ally to the community, I know I will never truly “get it.” I still work to empathize with a life different than my own just as the LGBTQIA+ community still has to work to enjoy rights and liberties given freely to cisgender Americans. I know that the work might not even end during my lifetime. But I am proud to help. I am proud of my LGBTQIA+ friends and family for having the strength to be who they are. I am proud of my LGBTQIA+ clients for not laying down and letting themselves be treated anything less than equal. And I am proud of Common Interests for committing to deliver the same level of protection and planning to all communities.

We are proud to serve all of our clients no matter how they define their race, sex, gender, and orientation. Our aim is to reduce anxiety and provide coaching and strategies to help our clients in their desire to achieve their goals. Windsor v. United States changed the planning landscape, but we take pride in following the lessons we learned in the pre-Windsor world, and keeping those skills fresh to help those who still need them. If this speaks to you, I hope we’ll be hearing from you soon as we are here to help.

Max has been recognized as 40 under 40!

I’m proud to announce that InvestmentNews has recognized my partner, Max Mintz as a 2019 40 Under 40 Honoree! Max was chosen from a pool of about 1,000 nominees by a panel of reporters, editors and other representatives of InvestmentNews, to make a list of 40 talented individuals.

“I’m honored to be included in this year’s 40 under 40 list, and it highlights the increasing importance of my specialty in Sustainable, Responsible and Impact investing” said Max “I credit this award to our firm’s commitment to managing and communicating the impact of our investments.”

InvestmentNews’ 40 Under 40 project strives to award the young talent that is rarely recognized in the financial advice industry. By rewarding these honorees, InvestmentNews hopes to reveal the promising future for the industry.

“The men and women chosen as this year’s 40 Under 40 honorees were selected based on their level of accomplishment, contribution to the financial advice industry and leadership,” said Frederick P. Gabriel Jr., editorial director of InvestmentNews. “They serve as role models for other young professionals and suggest the financial advice industry has a bright future.”

Max Mintz, along with the others making the 6th annual 40 under 40 list, is highlighted in the June 17th issue of InvestmentNews and online at investmentnews.com.

To learn more about Max, the other 2019 winners, awards and the luncheon please visit the profile they wrote on him by clicking here. 

Quantifying the risks from Climate Change

CDP (formerly the Climate Disclosure Project) came out with a new report this week, their Global Climate Change Analysis for 2018. The summary of the report is well worth a read (it has some really great interactive charts if you’re a data nerd like I am), but there were a few takeaways that were so spectacular that we felt compelled to write a short post highlighting their findings. I’ll go through a few of the top quotes from the report and provide a little commentary of my own.

215 of the biggest global companies report almost $1 trillion at risk from climate impacts, with many likely to hit within the next 5 years

5 years is not a long time, especially for clients nearing retirement. We believe we have a duty to manage these risks in our investment portfolios.

Companies report potential $250 billion in losses due to the write-offs of assets

These are assets on the books, that contribute to the current valuations (and therefore stock prices) of many of these companies. In addition to “stranded asset risk” from fossil fuel reserves that cannot be extracted or burned, this number includes the damaging impacts from severe weather and other impacts from climate change.

Climate business opportunities calculated at $2.1 trillion, nearly all of which are highly likely or virtually certain

THIS is the opportunity for sustainable investing. By investing through the lens of sustainability as we do, we hope to capture these opportunities in our portfolios while mitigating the risks from climate change.

Potential value of sustainable business opportunities almost 7x the cost of realizing them ($311 billion in costs, $2.1 trillion in opportunities)

There are more takeaways, which you can read a summery of at CDP’s Press Release on the report, (where these quotes were pulled from). They highlight the challenges that disclosure still faces, but as investment advisors, the message to us is clear:

  • Climate risk must be managed in investment portfolios.
  • These risks are not something that future generations alone will bear – we are feeling the impacts today, and business leaders expect these impacts to accelerate to the point where there are material effects on their bottom line within the next 5 years.
  • We have to act. Our firm is doing our part as much as we can – from building sustainable portfolios, to offering no-minumum fossil fuel free portfolios so anyone can join our movement.

I hope you’ll be motivated to join us. Click the link in the bottom right corner of this page to schedule an appointment with us to learn how you can join our community and use your investments to create change.

 

Common Interests Forms Cadre of Allied Professionals

Common Interests is very proud of the holistic nature of our work and has now created a Cadre of Allied Professionals in order to fully meet our mantra of “Empowering Financial Wellness.”  We are actually driven to make sure our clients and their families have their entire financial houses in order!  In this regard we have discovered that we need to have a group of ‘experts’ to turn to for the “heavy lifting!”

  • Senior Care Specialists

    This group of professionals (who are all MSW, LCSW, C-ASWCM, or similar) is very proficient in helping families create a plan for their aging adults.  They liken themselves to the “Healthcare General Contractor” to build this needed program. They will be with the family every step of the way, from initial assessment to determining the level(s) of care needed, to implementation of the plan.

  • Medicare Planning and Insurance

    These days there are many plans and solutions to solve the Health Insurance problem for Seniors.  And, more and more rules and deadlines all the time! These experts are trained to help find the proper solution, in the correct time frame, with the correct benefits to fit the clients needs. They will fully discuss the options, educating the client and building the plan with your needs and concerns in mind.  

  • Student Coaching Service

    This service is able to help college bound students with Test Prep, Scholarships and financial aid, applications, essays, school selection, interviewing and resume writing and tutoring in specific subjects that may be needed. We work with professionals that are members of the IECA, who are held to a higher ethical standard. 

  • Mortgage Origination Experts

    These experts know their way around the mortgage business and have multiple mortgage options which helps them ‘shop’ for solutions.  These folks handle both Forward and Reverse Mortgages (which are tricky, but have enabled a number of our clients to retire with dignity when used properly), as well as Lines of Credit. They are able to tackle the really tough situations, and have helped rescue some financial situations.

  • Attorneys and Elder Law Attorneys

    These Attorneys have special practices set up in order to work through the legal maze of documents needed.  Elder Law, especially, has a lot of unique problems that need to be solved in order to protect and pass a family’s estate correctly. We will help direct you!

  • CPAs

    We are pleased to be working with a number of CPAs with varying specialties. Accounting is a huge field and we decided long ago to find CPAs with different focuses. We will direct you to a firm that fits your needs, from simple returns to complex estates. 

In the case of all of professionals above we have worked judiciously to select the person(s) who will relate well with our clients, can fulfill the needs in each case, and be part of the team.  We also wanted to have professionals in various geographic regions. Lastly, and most importantly, our RULE is that “They work for the client. The client pays them for their work and Common Interests does not receive any payment from them or from our client. There are No Referral fees, No ‘Kick backs,’ No Non-Cash Compensations. We do not want our clients to be paying any more for this work than they ordinarily would if they dealt with these professionals directly! Also, in this way there will No Conflict Of Interests!  To use a sports analogy, Common Interests is the Quarterback, these professionals are part of the team, and we all get paid according to what we do and how well we do it!  This keeps it very clean and problem free!

We have a table in our Conference Room with the brochures and business cards for all of these people.  During our meetings we will introduce these professionals if their services are needed. If you need a referral, just give us a call and we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction!

We are very happy to have built this Cadre to help add the abilities to help more people “Empower (Their) Financial Wellness.” 


Although we’ve tried to make this clear in the text above, there are a few things our Compliance Department wants you to know in connection with this program: The Cadre’s professionals are not employed by or associated with Common Interests or Vanderbilt Securities, LLC or its’ parent companies or subsidiaries (“VFG”). Neither Common Interests nor VFG are responsible for the advice provided by any of the Cadre’s professionals. By design, neither Common Interests nor VFG receive any remuneration of any kind from the Cadre’s professionals. Membership in the Cadre is based only on our experiences working with the Cadre’s members, and the roster of members can and will change if we feel our clients would be better served by such a change.

Common Interests has been awarded the 2019 Flourish Prize for Global Goal #8: Decent Work and Economic Growth!

It is our great honor to share that Common Interests has been awarded the 2019 Flourish Prize for Global Goal #8: Decent Work and Economic Growth!

We were selected based on the AIM2Flourish story written about our organization: Investing for a Reason Beyond Money. Our firm is one of 17 Flourish Prize Honorees for 2019.

This award would not be possible without Professor Joseph Markert from Rutgers Business School, and the student authors who wrote the piece: Swetcha Ananthu, Silas Okoth, Matthew Hennessey, Jeffery Shen, and Paul No.

AIM2Flourish, a program housed at the Fowler Center, is used by professors around the world to facilitate student interviews with business leaders about positive and profitable business innovations that advance the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals) established by the United Nations.

If you’d like to learn more, please visit the Fowler Center’s Facebook and Twitter pages to participate in the 2019 Flourish Prize Virtual Celebration where they are announcing all 17 Honorees. Check out the hashtag #FlourishPrizes2019 to see all of the reactions and related content!

Impact with Purpose

How you invest your money makes a difference. This documentary was created to inspire investors to consider impact investing – investments that generate a measurable positive impact alongside a traditional financial return. The latest cut of this film features a variety of experts, including:

• Peter Turkson, Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church

• Jon Hale, global head of sustainability research at Morningstar, Inc.

• Hazel Henderson, futurist, economist and author – one of the founders of the movement to responsible investing.

• Judith Karl, executive secretary of the U.N. Capital Development Fund

• Jonas Kron, senior vice president and director of shareholder advocacy at Trillium Asset Management

• John Streur, president and CEO of Calvert Research and Management

“Impact” also follows the entrepreneurial journeys of David Katz, founder and CEO of The Plastic Bank, and George Taylor, CEO of TRU Colors Brewing Company.

David and George embody the artistry that takes place when entrepreneurism aligns with purpose.

You can learn more about this project at http://impactu.film/, join the ImpactU community at https://impactu.me/, and get more resources about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through the ImpactU Foundation at https://impactu.foundation/ 

Common Interests Model Portfolio Featured in Citywire RIA Magazine

As a part of our commitment to expanding the reach of sustainable investing, I sat down with Citywire RIA Magazine to talk about how we approach the design and implementation of our portfolios. We talked about our Investment Philosophy, the investment models we offer to clients, and how we add new investments to our portfolios.

We even shared our Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) screened Moderate risk model with them so other advisors get tosee how we think about these issues.

We hope that by giving interviews like this one, we can encourage the larger community of financial advisors to take a harder look at investments that use Environmental, Social, and Governance factors. The interview also includes a discussion on the different approaches we take when clients come to us with specific requests, like Faith Based investing or Fossil Fuel Free Investing. If you’re curious, or would like to read more about our approaches, we’ve done a great blog post on the subject already!