Inaugural Member Conference: overview and videos
We were delighted with the success of our two-day online Inaugural Member Conference on June 8 and 9. You can find out more about the event and catch up on video recordings below.
FaithInvest’s first ever Global Members’ Conference, entitled Pragmatic Faith-Consistent Investing: A working conference for faith-based asset owners took place in June 2021. This was the first time that members were able to come together to discuss the challenges and opportunities around aligning investments and values, and there was a real buzz and energy in the discussions.
Nearly 100 people joined our two-day event online and participants were spread across the globe – from the US, UK, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia (check out our brief conference-by-numbers video, right) – and we had excellent speakers from many fields.
We held a series of working group sessions which drew enthusiastic contributions from our members. And we showcased our new Member Portal and our Manager Database, aimed at sharing experience and expertise among members.
Below is a summary of the various sessions, with links to video recordings in case you'd like to watch them again.
A round up of the conference in numbers
Welcome from our Director of Membership Nana Francois
FaithInvest's Director of Membership, Nana Francois, welcomed participants to the conference and outlined what to expect from the two days.
'We exist to support faith-based asset owners to find and create time-, resource- and scale-efficient solutions; to help you mobilise capital; to help you invest in a faith-consistent way for the good of people and planet,' she said.
'Our approach to doing that is through one-on-one engagement with the team, through events and workshops, and particularly through working groups and the Member Portal, and we'll focus on both of these as we go further on through the day.'
Welcome from Nana Francois, Director of Membership
'Our aim is really to deliver relevant, actionable and pragmatic solutions'
– Nana Francois
Being stakeholders: wealth from faiths' perspectives
Introduction by FaithInvest CEO Martin Palmer
FaithInvest's CEO Martin Palmer examined the role that faiths can play in creating a values-driven future on a global scale. ‘We are the largest values-driven group that there is,’ explained Martin. ‘Most of the other sectors of the financial world are looking desperately for some kind of values to base themselves on. We, as faiths, have them.
‘What we’re looking for now is to help you by providing, through FaithInvest, a kind of professional association for religious fund managers… We’re taking seriously the fact that
the faiths could invest, almost single-handedly, in the kind of future the planet needs,’ he said.
'We’re taking seriously the fact that the faiths could invest, almost single-handedly, in the
kind of future the planet needs’
– Martin Palmer
A sustainable investment vision
Welcoming participants to the conference, David Zellner, Chair of FaithInvest’s trustees, touched on his own experience as Wespath's Chief Investment Officer, and outlined Wespath's sustainable investment vision which seeks to achieve a sustainable economy, which it defines as social cohesion, prosperity for all and environmental health. He also described Wespath's sustainable investment framework which has three pillars: Invest, Engage and Avoid.
'The United Methodist Church ... asks us to make a conscious effort to align our efforts with the values of the Church. And it's through evaluating and understanding the values of the United Methodist Church that we've developed what we call our sustainable investment vision.'
– David Zellner
Welcome from David Zellner, Chair of FaithInvest's Trustees
PANEL: Pursuing an investment programme aligned with one's faith beliefs – Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu perspectives
Gross national happiness
Ven. Amaro Bhikku spoke passionately about the use of ‘gross national happiness’ as a measure of a country’s success. He spoke about the Buddhist approach to resources and politics, and the downsides of short election cycles which can prevent those with the power to make changes from taking a longer view.
‘In terms of longer term thinking,’ he explained, ‘there’s an opportunity for a much, much longer view.’ He went on to talk about generational thinking and working towards long-term goals
– even if this means taking on some challenges in the short term.
‘Everything runs on trust,’ he said. ‘If people trust you, they know you’re true to your word and they’ll go to you – even if you aren’t the most attractive business proposition.’
That quality of integrity and, furthermore, how we apply a transparent and trustworthy approach to our investments, provides a clear standard about how we should manage our assets, he concluded.
‘Everything runs on trust – If people trust you, they know you’re true to your word.'
– Ven. Amaro Bhikku
Ven. Amaro Bhikku, Abbot at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery
Nana Francois, Director of Membership, FaithInvest
Martin Palmer, FaithInvest Founding President and Interim CEO
Hayu Prabowo, Chairman of Environment and Natural Resources at Ulema Council of Indonesia
Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director at Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies
Panel discussion: Pursuing an investment programme aligned with faith beliefs
Traditional structures in Islamic finance
Hayu Prabowo gave us an introduction to transactional structures in Islamic finance. He spoke about purchasing and selling assets using a deferred payment basis, known as a murabaha contract.
He talked us through investor-entrepreneur relationships, known as musharaja and mudaraba contracts, and he spoke about financing of services or work, such buying a house – a similar arrangement to hire-purchase financing.
Finding a balance in investment and finance
Shaunaka Rishi Das began his presentation with a famous quote from Gandhi, which sums up the approach to Hindu finance: ‘There is enough on the planet for every person’s need, but not enough for one person’s greed.’
Shaunaka explained: ‘There’s nothing wrong with money, and there’s nothing wrong with making money, It’s just how you do it and what you do with the proceeds. We have to become the kind of person who’s not full of greed, it’s not just take take-take.’
The idea of balance – based on two key Hindu principles of doing no harm and on service to the world around us – will release us from poverty, Shaunka concluded. Understanding that the root cause of anger, lust for wealth and power, and unless we start to deal with those, we’ll not have much of an effect.
'There’s nothing wrong with money, and there’s nothing wrong with making money, It’s just how you do it and what you do with the proceeds.'
The Faith Plans Programme
Lorna Gold, FaithInvest’s Director of Movement Building, presented the Faith Plans for People and Planet Programme which supports hundreds of faith groups around the world to create their own long-term Faith Plans to use their investments, assets and influence to drive practical action on climate change, the environment and sustainable development.
The Programme is ‘really about harnessing the role of faiths as major stakeholders in the future', explained Lorna. ‘We want to mobilise faith communities as the largest global sector of civil society, working across the faith communities, environmental partners and investment partners.
The Faith Plans website went live in July 2021 - take a look and join the movement.
Lorna Gold explains how the Faith Plans programme mobilises faiths to use their assets, investments and influence for people and planet
Working group sessions
Participants then split into three Working Groups – Director of Membership Nana Francois introduced the three Working Groups sessions: each would look at where FaithInvest members are now and where they want to be.
These sessions were not recorded because we wanted people to feel able to speak freely.
Afterwards the leaders of each session reported back to the entire conference with an overview of the discussion and three key learnings as well as next steps.
Time, resource & scale-efficient solutions for investors
Nana Francois said key questions focused on:
how we can find new solutions for investment
how we can take advantage of technology to free up resources, and
the ways in which we communicate faith and investment needs.
The working group identified a number of next steps, including an appetite for the design of an opportunities database for asset managers. The database would be ‘from the faiths, for the faiths’, said Nana, and would go some way towards doing the legwork of finding relevant, value-driven opportunities.
3.35 minute video
5.04 minute video
Faith-consistent investing – converting religous plans into actual portfolios
Mathew Jensen's first piece of feedback was that the session had been too short and the group certainly needed more time to dig into the subject in depth. The burning issues identified included a common theme of communication: with the leadership of faith organisations, with the faithful, with investment partners, and in general. Key actions from the group included a need to create tools to help faiths get started, and practical support on the ways in which asset managers can quickly and accurately identify suitable partners.
Launching a commingled fund for a faith-based audience
Director of Strategy and Investment Research Mike Even said although this was a smaller session than Mathew’s, there were a number of important actions to take forward. The group discussed the development of specific investment criteria, and how to make sure these are embedded in commingled funds. As a key action, they identified a need to involve other FaithInvest members more, to let them know how the project is progressing and how this might affect other working groups.
2.49 minute video
What were our challenges, where are we going next – and what are the key lessons we've learned so far?
Time, Resource and scale efficient solutions for investors
Led by Nana Francois and Susan Makos, FaithInvest Board Member
Faith-consistent Investing – Converting various religious plans into actual portfolios
Led by FaithInvest's lead on Member Engagement, Mathew Jensen, and Director of Movement Building, Lorna Gold
Launching a commingled fund for a faith-based audience
Led by Michael Even, FaithInvest's Director of Strategy and Investment Research, and Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies