How the investment firm William Blair is creating value for clients, colleagues, and communities across business linesNew research from investment management firm William Blair creates more complete picture of the risks and opportunities facing companies today. Download the report here.
February 21, 2019 12:23 PM — CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–William Blair, a premier global boutique with expertise in investment banking, investment management, and private wealth management, announced the availability of a whitepaper, “Impact Investing at William Blair: Our Journey to a Sustainable Future.” The whitepaper highlights how the firm creates value for clients, colleagues, and communities across business lines.
“By incorporating sustainability and corporate governance factors into every aspect of our firm’s culture, we are working to create a more complete picture of the risks and opportunities facing companies today,” said John R. Ettelson, William Blair’s president and chief executive officer. “We will continuously evolve our sustainability effort to best help our clients achieve long-term success.”
By guiding companies in understanding how their ESG (environmental, social, governance) exposures will be viewed by investors and acquirers, William Blair’s Investment Banking team is focused on positioning clients for success in today’s capital-raising and deal making environment.
By incorporating sustainability and corporate governance factors into every aspect of our fundamental analysis, William Blair Investment Management is working to create a more complete picture of the risks and opportunities facing companies today.
Private Wealth Management
The proliferation of ESG and impact-focused strategies and products has created numerous options for how to make an impact with our clients’ capital. William Blair’s Private Wealth Management team believes, however, that all of these conversations should start with why.
Across sectors, sustainability is an increasingly important factor that shapes the growth prospects of many of the companies in William Blair’s research coverage universe.
Excerpts from the Q&A with Jed Emerson, internationally recognized author and thought leader within the field of impact investing
Q. Why is it important for asset managers and other financial services providers to think about impact
and sustainability issues?
Across the industry, firms are coming to grips with the limitations of a traditional approach to finance—one that defines value too narrowly by looking only at financial considerations. Whether driven by clients or internal decision-makers, firms are realizing that they aren’t fully achieving the purpose of capital1 if they fail to account for the social and environmental impact of their investment decisions.
It’s impossible to disaggregate financial considerations from environmental and social impact because they are two sides of the same coin. One doesn’t have to look any further than supply chains being disrupted by hurricanes or increasing
employee turnover caused by unsustainable workforce practices to realize that “off-balance-sheet risk” has a material impact on a company’s financial performance. Astute investors and their advisors are increasingly aware that impact and sustainable investing practices are central to the future of finance.
Q. What are some common mistakes that firms make when thinking about impact and sustainable investing?
With more than $12 trillion in the United States alone invested according to sustainable, responsible, and impact (SRI) strategies, there’s no denying the importance of these themes to asset managers and their clients. Unfortunately,
many firms mistakenly view this as a trend—or as a marketing opportunity that can be addressed by rolling out a few new products or by acquiring a team that focuses on SRI.
Simply put: Many firms are trying to buy a seat at the table rather than doing the hard work of building their own table—one that is authentic to their culture and the way they engage clients.
Rather than seeing it as a chance to reposition some of their offerings to capture additional assets, firms need to realize that investing with impact requires a fundamental rethinking of what it means to be a successful investor. This involves
exploring challenging questions about the nature and purpose of capital, as well as rethinking how you define return and how you approach conversations with clients about performance.
Another mistake firms make is thinking that sustainable and impact investing is the purview of just one department or a dedicated team within each department. Because these issues are fundamental to the future of finance, this framework
of thinking should be integrated across the firm. Other firms make the opposite mistake of thinking the company needs to have a monolithic, corporate-wide view of “what impact investing means to us.” Instead, firms should realize that
how these principles manifest themselves will vary by asset class and by client.
Q. Why were you excited about the opportunity to work with William Blair?
When William Blair told me about the journey it was on, it was clear the firm wasn’t looking simply to latch on to best practices that other firms in the industry had started to adopt. Instead, William Blair asked me to help the firm find its
own path. William Blair was willing to do the hard work to explore the nature of the value the firm brings to clients across all of its business lines. William Blair approached the process knowing there was no playbook for how to implement impact and
sustainable investing. Rather, the firm was committed to creating its own playbook in an authentic way. Furthermore, I believe that firms like William Blair—global, privately owned boutiques focusing on fundamental investment analysis and achieving each client’s definition of success over the long term—are uniquely positioned to implement sustainable and impact investing principles at scale, and to do so with integrity.
Much of sustainable and impact investing is, at its core, a form of solid, fundamental investment analysis. But rather than analyzing just the company’s financial performance, you’re opening the aperture and looking at a broader set of considerations to gain a more complete picture of the risks and opportunities facing the company. Sustainable and impact investors realize a company’s entire story can’t be told by just the numbers that appear on financial statements, and throughout its history William Blair has been dedicated to understanding these broader stories.
Read a Q&A from The Economist’s recent Investing for Impact event with Stephanie Braming, William Blair’s global head of investment management.
Learn more about William Blair’s best practices in philanthropy, employee engagement, governance, and the environment.
Read a Q&A with Jed Emerson, internationally recognized author and thought leader within the field of impact investing.
Read additional firmwide publications, including a deeper dive into William Blair’s philanthropy strategy.
About William Blair
William Blair is a premier global boutique with expertise in investment banking, investment management, and private wealth management. We provide advisory services, strategies, and solutions to meet our clients’ evolving needs. As an independent and employee-owned firm, together with our strategic partners, we operate in more than 20 offices worldwide.* For more information, please visit williamblair.com.
*Includes strategic partnerships with Allier Capital, BDA Partners, and Poalim Capital Markets.