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Special Agent of Impact: David Bank, ImpactAlpha

Editorial note: The ImpactAlpha team has hijacked this week’s “Agent of Impact” to pay tribute to our very own David Bank on his birthday.

ImpactAlpha, May 7 – The editor and CEO of ImpactAlpha decided to treat impact investing as a journalism “beat”… then it became one. 

“The new lords of finance come, not to bury capitalism, but to refine it,” Bank wrote back in 2012, when the ashes of the financial crisis were still smoldering. The Occupy movement had tarred Wall Street with a broad brush; financial innovation had earned a bad rep. Bank’s story in The Atlantic (and then later, the first post on ImpactAlpha) opened inside the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, with him struck by “statistical whiz kids” pitching “complex new bonds, loan-guarantees, and hybrid structures of debt and equity.” Their target wasn’t mortgages, he wrote. “It was women’s economic empowerment. It was energy efficiency improvements and ranch-land conservation. It was small businesses in Africa.” 

The Atlantic: How Financial Innovation Can Save The World

In a profession that prides itself on trend-spotting, Bank’s gift is calling them earlier than most. As a young muckraker at the Los Angeles Daily News and Mercury News, he put a human touch on local issues. Later at the Wall Street Journal, he narrated tech’s transformation of business as it upended notions of value, risk and opportunity. Bank founded ImpactAlpha to tell the story of how social and environmental “impact” would do the same.

Bank has grown ImpactAlpha from an occasional blog to an essential daily read (or listen) for professionals across the industry – from impact’s boldface names to its B-school beginners. Week in and week out, he challenges, critiques and champions the field, celebrating “agents of impact” while pushing them to think bigger and go bolder. Perhaps his ultimate motive: “Willing into existence, by sheer force of exhortation for the alpha in impact, the reversal of polarity of tens of trillions of dollars in assets,” he quipped recently. 

When the COVID crisis hit, sending towns into lockdown and markets tumbling, Bank willed a counter narrative: that COVID would provide the urgency to make progress on challenges like climate and inequality, rather than an excuse to abandon them. Bank led his team in charting the disruption, from OMG and Mobilization, to the Trillions in impact capital needed to respond and then usher in a sustainable and inclusive future. “This is history in the making,” he told his editorial team this week.

If we’re able to turn a global pandemic into a tipping point for inclusive prosperity, it will indeed be the story of a generation. We wouldn’t want any other Agent of Impact narrating it.

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