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Financial Inclusion

Jackie VanderBrug: We are not going to solve the world’s problems with only half the population

Jackie VanderBrug

October 22 2016

“This is about hard data. We know that gender inclusion drives better financial results. It’s not pink; it’s not about excluding men.”

How much has investing changed with the introduction of environmental, social and governance factors? “It’s changed dramatically:”, says Jackie VanderBrug, Managing Director at Bank of America’s U.S. Trust, who leads their Impact Investing platform and who defines and executes investment strategies across all asset classes. With a diverse background in technology, non-profits and finance, she shares “how banking and investors are critical to sustainability”.

Patsy Doerr for Thomson Reuters Sustainability: Let me ask you this, a slightly different angle, but the link between women in leadership, investing, and sustainability – all these topics coming together – what’s your view on how they integrate?

Jackie VanderBrug: There is something that goes back to many people –

…whether it’s Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, saying, “We’re not gonna solve the world’s problems with only half the population.”

So, fundamentally, we know that we need everyone at the table to address the challenges that sustainability has. There are two other factors, though, that I think it’s important for people to understand.

The first is that women are disproportionately affected by the challenges of sustainability because they’re poor, because they’re more dependent on natural resources globally, because they may have less mobility.

And so you need those that are affected to be part of the solution. And the other is that women are disproportionately more likely to say, “I want to use my investments to make a difference.”

PD: As you said, no longer a soft issue … and I think, as we start to see assets under management moving towards millennials and women … all of a sudden, you’ve got this huge asset pool to tap into – people care about this stuff.

JVB: Women are 50% more likely than their male counterparts to say that this is important to them in terms of how they invest.

PD: I know you are really involved in gender equity and gender investments and thinking about women in leadership; how did you get into that area?

JVB: I was working with a team to start an investment fund that was focused in this space, of how do we get additional capital to for-profit social entrepreneurs. At the same time, I was working with philanthropists who were in women’s foundations around the world. And I found that these two groups were working on the same goals. We were trying to address education, poverty, the healthcare gap – one with philanthropic dollars and one with investment dollars.

What was fascinating was, I found myself in the philanthropic room being the woman who was always asking, “Could we look at investments?” And in the investment room, I was asking, “Could we think about a gender lens? How do we drive forward gender equality?” – which is what I had learned from the philanthropists. And so, being that woman –

…taking what I’d learned from those who had deeply integrated gender into their philanthropy and saying, “We need to drive this into our investment decisions. It will make us smarter investors.”

PD: I’m curious – how have you seen that conversation evolve over the past few years?

JVB: So when we started this, if you said, invest with the gender lens, people immediately said, “micro-finance.” And, oftentimes, they thought you were talking about something that was soft and pink and small, right? And so now what we have is not soft.

This is about hard data. We know that gender inclusion drives better financial results. It’s not pink; it’s not about excluding men.

And it’s definitely not small – we see firms like CalSTRS getting involved – so that conversation has shifted dramatically.

Read the full interview with Jackie VanderBrug here.

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