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To Be Young, Wealthy and Committed to Impact: Millennials Move from Talk to Action



You may have heard more than enough about Millennials, but possibly not from wealthy Millennials themselves.

Meet Alexandra and Josephine, Seth, Steph, Antonis, Adam and Chloe, Sapphira, Talia and Eric. These 20- and 30-somethings recount their personal journeys toward impact investing in “Millennials and Impact Investing,” from Toniic, the global community of impact investing practitioners that has been gathering its Millennial members since 2014.

[blockquote author=”Lisa Kleissner, chair, Toniic” pull=”pullleft”]Many millennials want to invest with their families and they also want to work with their advisors. However, they also want to partner with them, be heard and co-learn about impact.[/blockquote]

The ongoing “generational transfer of wealth” — the estimated $30 trillion expected to pass from Baby Boomers to their heirs in the next three to four decades — has wealth advisers salivating and impact entrepreneurs and fund managers strategizing.

The potential has spurred the creation of a new crop of networks…from Nexus Global Summit (“a global movement to bridge communities of wealth and social entrepreneurship”), Resource Generation (“organizes young people with wealth and class privilege in the U.S. to become transformative leaders working towards the equitable distribution of wealth, land and power”) and the new ImPact (“provides families with knowledge and networks to make more impact investments more effectively”). In 2014, for example, Nexus brought together more than 600 largely millennial participants representing nearly $750 billion in assets.

…And the requisite batch of white papers, including Morgan Stanley’s “Sustainable Signals,” Deloitte’s “Winning Over the Next Generation of Leaders,” and ImpactAssets’ “The Millennial Perspective,” to name just a few.

Personal Journeys
Toniic’s report, backed by Bank of the West’s Family Wealth Advisor unit, rounds up the usual obstacles (lack of investment knowledge and investor education, resistance from family members and financial advisors) and suggestions (education, peer networks, communities of practice and most importantly, access to attractive deals).

What’s distinctive about the report are the detailed accounts from 10 next-gen investors who provide personal perspectives on moving from Millennial talk to action. “A couple of compelling messages came through loud and clear from the interviews,” said Lisa Kleissner, a co-founder of Toniic and its board chair. “Many millennials want to invest with their families and they also want to work with their advisors. However, they also want to partner with them, be heard and co-learn about impact.”

Some of the interviewees, who are identified by first name only, are easily recognizable, such as “Steph,” described as a “Millennial ambassador,” who joined her parents’ Cordes Foundation in 2014 and made her first impact investment in Soko, an ethical fashion company. It’s a family affair: see ImpactAlpha’s piece on Ron Cordes, “How One Investor Is Finding Profit in Social Change,” and Marty Cordes’ post, “The Power of Investing in Women.”

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“Seth” must be Seth Tabatznik, a 29-year-old from London whose father was raised in South Africa and mother in the U.S. south. He had worked on a sustainable farm and drove around the country with a solar-powered film projector showing social-issue documentaries from his van. But he wasn’t engaged with his family’s investment portfolio until 2011. “I was horrified at what we had shares in,” he says in the Toniic profile. “I knew that films were fighting against some of the companies we had shares in.”

Seth convinced his family to stake him to five million pounds (about $7.2 million) to start Berti, a social investment company focused on environmental sustainability in the UK. He had to overcome skepticism from the family’s trustees, but was able to make his first investment in the sustainable asset management company Wheb and another in Belltown Power, a renewable energy investment manager. Berti’s portfolio is here.

“The way to do it is just to bring deals,” he says. “Don’t let them say we haven’t seen anything…bring them deals that tell the story of what’s happening in the world.”

Seth has moved to Somerset, installed a solar farm on his property and runs a retreat center to support others on their personal journey. He is pursuing a part-time MBA program to get a better grounding in finance and business.

“It’s a generational thing: young people get it but parents and trustees are still in power,” he says. “It’s a matter of time before the new generation comes in who totally gets this.”

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