The Brief | March 13, 2020

The Week in impact investing: Resilience

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact!

Thanks to all of you who turned out for yesterday’s Call No. 13. We’ll post a roundup of ImpactAlpha U, and an audio replay, next week.

Impact Briefing. On ImpactAlpha’s newest podcast, host Brian Walsh talks with Amy Cortese about the disruption in energy markets and Dennis Price offers a personal take on this week’s Agents of Impact. Check out this week’s show – and subscribe on AppleSpotify or wherever you listen.

The Week’s Agents of Impact

Frontline healthcare workers. Sports leagues can suspend their seasons. Tech workers can go remote and schools can shutter classrooms. Politicians can flinch. Doctors and nurses and other healthcare workers are facing the pandemic directly. The coronavirus has claimed Li Wenliang, the Wuhan doctor who first warned of the outbreak; thousands of other medical workers in China have been infected. Italian medical chief Roberto Stella died days after testing positive. One in six of the Netherlands 614 coronavirus patients are healthcare workers. In Seattle, three staff members of the nursing home at the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak have been hospitalized and more than 20 healthcare workers in Washington state are under observation. Courage has consequences.

“The doctors on the front lines of this – from Wuhan to Lombardy – have shown tremendous courage and heroism,” tweeted MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. As they plan for possibly millions of hospitalizations, they’re rationing respirators, goggles, face masks and hand sanitizer. The COVID-19 healthcare heros are working double- and triple-shifts, sometimes in pop-up clinics and tents. Coronavirus heroism isn’t burying your head in the sand. It’s speaking up in China, even when authorities forbid it. It’s going rogue to force more testing, as Helen Chu and other scientists in Seattle did to identify early cases. It’s calling out systemic failures that prevent many people from skipping work even when they’re sick, or getting tested or treated. Associations of doctors, nurses and hospitals are calling on President Trump to declare a national emergency. As the pandemic threatens to bring the world to its knees, frontline healthcare workers are standing up. – Dennis Price

The Week’s Big 7

1. Community funds build community resilience. The spreading coronavirus is shining a spotlight on community resilience. Deep bonds of trust and localized supply chains make communities better able to reduce harm and speed recovery. A growing number of funds designed by and for communities are financing local enterprises and projects. “What was made visible for us by the coronavirus is we are all so interconnected,” says Runway Project’s Jessica Norwood. “The investment has to feel that way.” Go local.

2. Cushioning the blow for local economies. Local leaders are being forced to sacrifice local economic activity, from conferences to sporting events, in the national interest of stemming the spread of COVID-19. Any public response will be judged on whether people are helped when they do the right thing. “America needs more bailing out of little people who make and create things, like products we need and jobs that pay the bills,” says Seattle Mayor Jenny DurkanDig in.

3. Will oil’s freefall tip the low-carbon transition? A modest downturn in demand triggered a crash in oil prices that will strand billions of dollars in fossil fuel assets. Already, the crisis has dramatically reduced carbon emissions. That the inciting incident was a worldwide pandemic and not, say, the adoption of electric vehicles or the establishment of a price on carbon, may not matter. Oil, says CarbonTracker’s Mike Coffin, “is in long-term structural decline.” Put a fork in it.

4. Sustainable investing in a down market. The growth in impact investing and sustainable finance corresponded to an historic bull market. As markets tumble into bear territory, investors want to know: How are sustainable funds weathering the coronavirus correction? The dust from this week’s market blowout has not settled, but year-to-date through March 6, nearly three-quarters of sustainable equity funds ranked in the top half of their category, according to Morningstar. Nearly half ranked in their category’s top quartile. Cheer up.

5. Impact investors and the ‘new capitalism.’ Impact investors have been reimagining, reinventing and resetting capitalism for decades. At the Aspen Institute’s “Toward a New Capitalism” gathering in Washington, D.C. last month (one of the last such events of the season), ImpactAlpha’s David Bank asked four impact investing practitioners what they’ve learned that the financial markets need to know. “Capital gaps are real,” said MacArthur Foundation’s Debra Schwartz. “The market cannot solve every single thing.” See their insights.

6. Gender dividend. Expanding women’s access to education, healthcare and economic opportunities is the key to ending poverty and strengthening communities, especially in emerging markets. Who can help do that? Female fund managers, who are apt to invest in other women. Women-owned businesses represent “a vast untapped source of job creation and economic growth” according to WIC Capital in Dakar, Senegal. In public markets, Veris Wealth Partners tallied $3.4 billion in gender-lens funds as of June 30, up from $2.4 billion a year earlier. Get empowered.

7. Chicago’s impact ecosystem. Chicago’s three dozen impact investing funds and intermediaries comprise one of the U.S.’s most active impact ecosystems. Since the 1980’s, the group as a whole has made at least $10 billion in impact investments, according to a survey by Impact EngineA samplingIroquois Valley Farm REITEntrepreneurs of Color Fund and S2G VenturesCheck it out.

The Week’s Dealflow

Capital on the frontier. Field Intelligence raises $3.6 million for Africa’s pharmaceutical supply chain… Engineers Without Borders Canada spins off Hummingbird Impact for early-stage Africa tech investing… Northern Arc closes $23 million for India debt fund.

Financial inclusion. Accion Venture Lab invests in Egyptian neobank Khazna… Blue like an Orange finances MOVii to expand financial services in Colombia… Fintech MoCaFi scores funding from N.J. CoVest Fund.

Inclusive economy. BNP Paribas invests in social impact bond for Belgium’s homeless… Rest Less raises £3 million to support aging workers.

Climate finance. Prudential Financial issues $500 million green bond… Canada’s CDPQ takes majority stake in Azure Power.

Water and energy access. ARCH’s Africa Renewable Power Fund invests $16.5 million in CrossBoundary… Incofin and Danone team up to back water access ventures.

Impact tech. Gates Foundation, Wellcome and Mastercard launch $125 million accelerator to speed coronavirus therapies.

The Week’s Talent

National Cooperative Bank’s John Holdsclaw named board chair of the Coalition of Community Development Financial Institutions… LOCUS’ Teri Lovelace will become executive director of the Community Investment Guarantee Pool (see, “Funders pool $33 million in credit guarantees to catalyze community investments)… Triodos Investment Management names Shawn Westcott as investor relations manager for the Nordics… KKR’s Global Impact team names Chee-Wei Wong to head global impact for Asia. He joins Stanislas de Joussineau, head of global impact for Europe, and Sharon Yang, a senior investor for KKR Global Impact in Asia.

Anne Simpson of California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Meryam Omi of Legal & General Investment Management, Mindy Lubber of Ceres and Jane Ambachtsheer at BNP Paribas Asset Management are among the investors on GreenBiz’s 25 badass women shaking up the climate movement in 2020… In Global Landscapes Forum’s list of 16 women restoring the earth, Calvert Impact Capital’s Jennifer Pryce is “The Investor,” Sixth World Solutions’ Janene Yazzie is “The Activist,” and Green Climate Fund’s Jyotsna Puri is “The Evaluator.” Linda-Eling Lee at MSCI and Karina Funk of Brown Advisory represent sustainable finance on Barron’s 100 most influential women in U.S. finance.

The Week’s Jobs

Citi is recruiting a vice president of venture investing for its Citi Impact Fund in New York or San Francisco… Veris Wealth Partners is hiring a San Francisco-based wealth manager… Transform Finance is looking for a director and a program manager for its Capital Strategies Program in New York… GP Renewables and Trading is looking for a compliance and regulatory analyst in New York…

Boston Common Asset Management seeks an office administrator in Boston…  The Bertha Center seeks a director in Cape Town… Arabesque is hiring a head of compliance and other roles in Boston… The International Finance Corp. is looking for an economist in Washington D.C… Common Future launches Common Future Bridge Fellows to support local economy leaders in the southern U.S. who are closing the racial wealth gap.

Thank you for reading.