“Impact” Investing

Dear Garden State Trust:

What is this “impact” investing I’ve been hearing about? Can trust assets be invested for social impact?

—Seeking Social Justice

Dear Seeking:

There is no simple definition of “impact” investing. One writer called it “a movement that aims to force social change by minimizing or eliminating investors’ exposure to companies that harm the world” while still achieving a solid return. Putting a more positive spin on the idea, another writer suggested “a movement that aims to maximize investors’ exposure to companies that improve the world.”

This approach can include negative screens—avoiding tobacco and liquor companies, say—or positive screens—looking for companies that have women in leadership positions, or strong environmental records, for example.

Trust assets are invested according to guidelines provided in the trust instrument. The grantor of the trust is free to impose any desired restrictions on the buying and selling of holdings for the trust. However, in most cases the grantor plans to rely on the investment expertise of the trustee, rather than put handcuffs on the decision.

If the trust does not provide specific guidance for investment decisions, might the trustee take the initiative? When this question came up in the 1990s, when the concept of “socially responsible investing” was popularized, the initial answer was no. A trustee who invests for any purpose other than risk-appropriate return on assets would, it was thought, be violating a fiduciary duty to the trust beneficiaries. In part this observation may have been influenced by the fact that some socially responsible strategies were seen as significantly underperforming the market.

Proponents of “impact” investing have argued that their more sophisticated approach may prove less risky than the market as a whole, without sacrificing returns. Time will tell.

Do you have a question concerning wealth management or trusts?  Send your inquiry to contact@gstrustco.com

(May 2018)
© 2018 M.A. Co.  All rights reserved.

 

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Whether you’re at the stage in your life where you have a work-optional lifestyle, or just have a green thumb and time to garden on the weekend, it’s time to plan and plant.

At Garden State Trust Company, we believe there are many parallels between having a successful garden and successfully managing wealth. “Garden” is right there in our name, after all.

Here are our top three tips for gardening and thoughts on them:

  1. This location vs. that location

What nutrients exist in the soil that can promote your plant’s growth? How will the climate affect your plants? Will they get enough, or too much sunlight?

Just as there are some areas where there is little or no potential for the growth of a particular plant, there are also areas where there is little or no potential for growth of an investment.

Sometimes the potential is in tech stocks, sometimes in utilities, sometimes in energy stocks. Sometimes bonds are the better bet. There are a lot of variables to consider when considering if a particular investment will flourish. Our investment advisors can tell you more about today’s potential.

  1. Cultivating vs. weeding

What forces are preventing the perfect growth of the most beautiful flowers, vegetables, or fruits? What can you do to combat those forces?

Just as there are many dangers that arise in a garden – not enough water, weeds, other flora or fauna that wants to take over, there is also a constantly changing environment for your investment portfolio.

An untended garden will quickly become overrun with weeds and be difficult to fix, but cultivating daily will preserve the garden in a fraction of that time. Cultivating is the process of turning over the soil before aggressive seeds can take root and then steal precious resources from the plants that you are tending.

Similarly, with an investment portfolio, economic forces can take root and quickly change the risk dynamics, but daily supervision and automatic asset allocation adjustments can ensure that the portfolio remains appropriate for the investor.

  1. Annual (plant every year) vs. perennials (come back from their root structure)

What is the life cycle of your plants? Will they need to be planted every year, or will the come back on their own?

There are many beautiful and delicious plants that exist as annuals and need to be planted every year, but also some that will develop roots to grow the following year without planting.

Asparagus is considered a cash crop plant, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a perennial plant that lasts from year to year without needing to be planted over again, and it can be harvested as often as twice a day and a single 100 foot row could yield 25 pounds (see a crop profile on hobby farms here).

With an investment portfolio, you do want something that will develop a root structure and provide growth every year rather than something that will get used up and needs to be planted again.

At Garden State Trust Company, we tend to our clients’ investment gardens, so they have time to relax and tend to their plant gardens. We’ve shared our gardening tips; feel free to share your gardening tips with us too by clicking here.

P.S. In New Jersey, even though we are small in area, we are the fourth largest grower of asparagus in the nation (see the list of top grown exports here) with 5.6 million pounds grown over 1500 acres.