Who dominates the impact investing space?

No one! Why?

That is a fact, although in a time of fake facts it doesn’t matter.

Why is there not a single bank, wealth manager, or major financial institution the leader in the “race for values investors”. We keep hearing how ESG and Impact is booming and trillions are pouring into the space. If that was true, then why is it that not a single bank is perceived as the leader, the champion, THE IMPACT BANK for UHNW(Ultra High Net Worth) or HNW (High Net Worth) Investors.

One only needs to engage with the Private Banks, Wealth Managers, or Mega Banks to understand the issue here. These institutions are spending nothing on ESG and Impact Investing capacity building. Spending is going to the following:

  • ICT
  • Cybersecurity
  • Compliance
  • Capital Buffers
  • Traditional marketing
  • Bonuses

With this lack of commitment financially, psychologically and emotionally, ESG and Impact are just new products to add to the list of offerings to clients. It is not an important strategy!

It seems that the financial institutions are schizophrenic. All of them don’t want to be seen as a Sustainable, Impact or Values Bank, because they are afraid that clients or staff might leave . However, they also don’t want to be seen as a Bank not embracing ESG, Impact and Values Investing. Make up your mind. You can’t be partially pregnant. To paraphrase Danny Ocean asking Linus Caldwell in Ocean’s 11. “Your either in our out.”

I have met with many Private Banks and Wealth Managers. Nearly all seem to be really out of touch with clients wishes, particularly nextgen clients. The lack of commitment to see the opportunity for clients and the bank is beyond belief. Most of the time it is lip service and most of the time the banks just want to learn some tricks to convince their clients that they understand enough. However, when we (TBLI Group) speak to clients, they are keen, looking and open to a Values Investing strategy. When we ask “do you want a financial return with a social and environmental added values”, they all say, “absolutely. Can you do that?” If you want to you can. No one ever said to me “No I want all my money to make life miserable for everyone and I am working at that 24 hours a day.”

I have heard for years that the problem is the client. They are not interested. I don’t believe that anymore. Sure there are some clients that don’t believe or are not convinced. That is an educational exercise. Do the work to convince. When TBLI started, nearly 25 years ago, educating asset owners and managers, there was no PRI, CDP, EVPA, AVPN, Eurosif. No infrastructure at all. However, TBLI was still able to make inroads, and help build that infrastructure, because we were committed.

Recently, I was at FT seminar on ESG and Japan. The entire day was taken up with complaints by asset managers complaining that ESG date is not good enough. Over and over and over. They kept repeating “ESG is not Good Enough”. I have heard this for 25 years. The moderator asked are there any questions from the audience. I raised my hand and said that “I have heard for 25 years this complaint that ESG Data is not good enough. Why don’t you ever say that the financial data is not good enough? We have gone through a financial meltdown, Maddoff, Worldcom, Parmelat, Enron, etc. The financial sector has lost trillions of dollars and there has never been a single company that went bankrupt on questionable esg data.” I was told that my comment was not a question and we moved on.

Perhaps no one will take a leadership role to own the Values Investing space. That’s fine, but the market or clients are there. Particularly when we dispel the myth that there are no deals. There is no shortage of deals. There is a lack of infrastructure to find illiquid opportunities, at scale. They exist but they are not to be found in traditional places. Different neighbourhood. Doesn’t mean they don’t exists.

TBLI has spent 25 years educating asset owners and managers about ESG and Impact Investing. Convincing has never been a challenge, particularly when you speak to wealth holders. Banks need to allocate the resources needed to dominate the space and grow the industry. They need to approach this as they would if it was an M&A. Until that time, the only big story will be the press releases coming out about how such and such a bank is committed to Values Investing .

To paraphrase Yoda “Do or do not, there is no try”.

A pig and a chicken were walking down the road. As they passed a church, they notice that a potluck charity breakfast was under way. Caught up in the spirit, the pig suggested to the chicken that they each make a contribution.

“Great Idea!” the chicken cried. “Let’s offer them ham and eggs!”

“Not so fast.” said the pig. “For you, that’s just a contribution, but for me, it’s a total commitment.”

TBLI ASIA & Whacko People

Last week we held our first TBLI CONFERENCE ASIA  in Singapore. I had a fantastic experience, as did those who attended. Many came up to me who had attended TBLI in the past or who had never attended and were very impressed with the event and the quality of the people they met.

I particularly remember one person, who was invited by his friend to attend. This gentleman was very engaging with everyone he met and had worked in the real estate and hotel business for quite a while. We sat together over lunch and he leaned over to his friend, who had invited him and said “This has been great. Finally, you introduce me to intelligent, professional, authentic people. No whackos.”

I guess that is the best testimonial you can get.


Dear Robert,

..I’m delighted with the quality of both the content and the audience for the first TBLI/Insead event in Asia….I found that I and most of my fellow participants both learned a lot and made valuable new connections.  Thanks very much for your and your team’s efforts to make the event a success and I look forward to working with you in the future.

Ian Potter
Distinguished Fellow 

Hi Robert / Stephanie / Tiffany

It was great to meet you all and your team. I am impressed by TBLI value based culture and dedication to your mission.

Will be a pleasure and privilege to support you all in any way.

Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors and look forward to be in touch.

Safe travels. Best Regards

Lalit Matai
Operating Partner
Tau Investment Management

It was excellent! I did now know what to expect. I am sure it will be much bigger next time, but will regret it. We became almost like a “family”, so easy to reach out and talk with delegates. Got many hints and contacts. The presentations and the moderators where high class to the seminaries I went to. I also liked very much Robert’s introductory speech. Thank You.Anonymous

Upcoming Events:

We are particularly excited about the upcoming TBLI CONFERENCES. I want to particularly thank the sponsors that have committed to supporting us this year. If you want to be added to this list, contact me.

City of Buenos Aires
Copenhagen Business School
BNY Mellon
Triodos Investment Management
ASN Bank
AXA Investment Managers
Asia Capital Enterprises
Vietnam Holding
City Development
Wildlife Works
Aqal Capital
TBLI CONFERENCE LATIN AMERICA May 28-29, 2015 Invitation only (no costs). Hosted by City of Buenos Aires.
TBLI CONFERENCE EUROPE November 19-20, 2015

Earth Day, Drones and Arthur Rubinstein

I was in Monterey to give a talk on Commercialising ESG and Impact Investing at the Monterey Institute, last week. I really enjoyed being in Monterey and meeting the audience of students and professors, who were all looking to align their personal values with their career. Thank you Yuwei, Erina, and Sarah for the invitation and hospitality.


Next week TBLI ASIA will be held in Singapore, on April 29-30. Come join us. Our keynote speakers Arvind Narula and Ibrahim AlHusseini will inspire you with their vision and amazing projects. Meet many of the thought leaders in ESG and Impact Investing and learn why is there so much interest.

I would be grateful if you would register and/or forward this link or one pager to your network for those who would like to join us. TBLI CONFERENCE ASIA 2015, 29 & 30 April 2015, Singapore

“TBLI is a battery charger event. It’s an event that makes you realize how outdated your thinking has become. It is a crash course, a mini green investing MBA. It’s an energizing place – it’s got a critical role in diffusing the best practice”
Leo Johnson (PWC Partner and BBC Presenter Presenter of the BBC World News programmes “Down to Business” and “One Square Mile”.)

TBLI:Where Investors Meet and Deals Get Done.

Earth Day

My brother, Arthur Rubinstein, had his birthday on Earth Day. Happy Birthday. When we grew up on Brooklyn there was no Earth Day, just Arthur’s special day.  Now we can celebrate both. Hope you enjoyed yourself in a low carbon manner.

Climate Change

Saw a great scalable solution in sequestering carbon through massive tree planing. Bio Engineering wants to plant 1 billion trees a year through the use of drones.