In the first half of my career, I had the pleasure of working with some of the largest and most prestigious firms in the investment world like KKR, CBRE, and Macquarie. They were impressive, ever challenging and increasing my knowledge regarding investing. When I pivoted my career into Impact Investing, I left the executive suite, the ties, and the culture of traditional finance. For a while, I felt like a fish out of water, but at the same time, it was also stimulating to look at things through a different lens.
An often-held view of Impact Investing is that it is soft on analytics and investment acumen, but heavy on the heart or feelings. You can find situations that back those beliefs (I certainly have), but I also have been shocked to see the amazing innovation and creativity present in Impact Investing. How can that be? It really shouldn’t be a surprise, but it is. It starts with the idea that many Americans struggle with the notion that “you can’t make money and ‘do good’ at the same time.” That’s for Philanthropy. On the other hand, I don’t believe most people would go to the other extreme and say to make money you also have to “do bad”. So where do you find the common ground of doing good and making money?
It really is quite simple. I am reminded of a concept that we all have heard in school, at home, in sports, and in business. “You will most likely hit what you aim for.” Traditional investing’s main goal is financial returns with an overlay of risk. This creates the lens of which we use to maximize or optimize the outcomes. However, when you broaden the goal or definition of success to include other non-financial metrics, it changes what you are aiming for and redefines the variables to consider. Consequentially, new ways of analyzing, thinking, and doing are required. It often unleashes the necessity for creativity and innovation. In fact, this is what makes ideas and business so powerful. It’s the intentional addition of non-financial outcomes alongside financial outcomes that helps drive creativity and innovation in a more holistic way.
—Jeff Shafer, CEO & Co-founder