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Impact washing in the desert

ImpactAlpha, Oct. 29 – The controversial Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia gets underway today.

The secret agenda (until yesterday) of the Saudi investment conference is full of legacy investment firms now trotting out impact investment products.

Last year, business and investment leaders largely boycotted “Davos in the Desert,” after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was tied to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi and the subsequent cover up. Wall Street and Washington are mostly returning this year (Bloomberg’s reporters pulled out at the last minute).

ImpactAlpha reached out to some of the would-be impact investors on the agenda, none of which responded to requests to comment.

  • Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman, whose $512 billion firm is pushing an impact investing initiative, will join hedge fund manager (and impact investor) Ray Dalio, Mastercard’s Michael Froman and HSBC’s Noel Quinn on a panel to discuss how businesses can “optimize positive outcomes.”
  • Eric Cantor (the former U.S. House majority leader and current managing director at investment bank Moelis & Co.) is on an “Investing for impact” panel weighted toward corporate responsibility issues. He’s joined by Mastercard’s Froman and Societe Generale’ Frédéric Oudéa. Both firms have very public inclusion or climate investing initiatives.
  • Jim Yong Kim, the former head of the World Bank, now a vice chair and partner at Global Infrastructure Partners, will be interviewed about investing to “close both the physical and human capital gaps.”
  • Heather Henyon of gender lens investor Mindshift Capital and Shelley Zalis of The Female Quotient are set to speak on “the diversity dividend.”

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