Gary R. Matthews
Needless to say, 2018 was a crazy year. The chaos in the country’s politics, fanned virtually every day by our Chaos-in-Chief, finally caught up to the stock markets in the last quarter. The markets narrowly avoided their first bear market since 2008-09 and have begun 2019 with the longest shutdown of the U.S. government in history. The shutdown is causing more economic damage every day and unless some sanity kicks in somewhere to restart government services, this alone could tip the country into recession, accompanied by that long-awaited, and anticipated, bear market.
I will have more to say about these things as the year progresses, but first I want to talk about some exciting new things that will enhance SRI Investing’s services in 2019.
SRI Investing (www.sriinvesting.com) is excited to be implementing some new technology upgrades in 2019. We’ll be offering the following in the coming months:
Online Client Portal
Navigating our financial lives seems more complicated every year. Multiple accounts at banks and financial institutions, employer retirement accounts, IRAs and other investments – each account requiring you to receive and attend to separate mailings, or to log in to different web sites, protecting your identity if you can, etc. The temptation can be to ignore everything.
Suppose you had one web site that gathered virtually all of your financial information into one secure, private place. Log on, and you see your bank accounts, your employer retirement plan accounts, your other investments, credit card and loan accounts, and your financial plan. In short, you see and are able to manage your overall financial status all from one fully secured online location.
SRI Investing’s client portal is coming shortly. As a starting point, clients logging on will see all of the accounts on which SRI Investing is advising them. At their complete discretion, clients can then link any or all of their other financial information to create their own personalized online financial hub.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the ongoing management of investment portfolios, for clients and for their professionals, has been the paperwork needed to open accounts and then to periodically accomplish certain tasks related to those accounts.
Relief is coming. As the year unfolds, SRI Investing will be providing more (and soon virtually all) of the required paperwork for client portfolios securely online - to be executed (signed, initialed, completed, etc.) digitally – without the need to print, scan, email, fax or mail.
Shareowner Advocacy – Your Stake
Clients of SRI Investing already know about shareowner advocacy. SRI is much more than simply not investing in companies the policies of which conflict with our values in one way or another. More profoundly, it is about investing in portfolios of companies and enterprises that together reflect our values more closely – i.e., investing in the right companies and then urging those companies to become even better corporate citizens. This is where shareowner advocacy becomes integral to SRI.
Until now, and for a variety of reasons, it hasn’t been easy for retail investors to participate directly in shareowner advocacy efforts. It takes focused, forward planning, discipline and specialized knowledge to initiate and sponsor shareowner resolutions that are voted on at the annual shareholder meetings of publicly-traded companies. SRI Investing takes part in these activities every year but facilitating client participation has been an ongoing challenge. Until now.
Very shortly, SRI Investing will introduce and invite clients to join a new, online platform to elevate their voices as shareowner advocates. Yourstake.org organizes shareowners around petitions. When clients choose to link their SRI investment accounts, they will be able to use their shares to make companies better by supporting Asks like this one, for Amazon to reduce its fossil fuel dependence: https://www.yourstake.org/amazoncom-inc-amazon-reduce-fossil-fuel-dependence.
Totally voluntary, at their discretion clients will be able to securely sync their managed SRI portfolio to Yourstake.org. The site will show them the Asks they can support based on what they own. They can also write their own Ask and mobilize shareowners to support the issues most important to them.
Yourstake.org was founded by former university students who filed a shareholder resolution asking Exxon to stop funding organizations that provide misleading public information downplaying the impact of climate change. The shareholder resolution process was intimidating, but they succeeded -- Exxon has stopped funding the organizations in question. Now, Yourstake.org has made that process easy so that SRI Investing clients will be able to use their investor voice to move make companies better.
In 2019, SRI Investing will be working hard to help clients manage their finances more intentionally, and to make the process more effective, efficient, easier and more enjoyable. We are committed to enabling people and mission-based organizations invest their assets in ways that benefit them financially and are also good for the world. This year might well be tumultuous. Stay tuned, stay involved, and stay invested, because our work as SRI investors is and will continue to be more important than ever.
SRI Investing LLC is a Registered Investment Advisor in New York and offers advisory services nationwide where otherwise registered or exempt. Mention of specific companies or securities is not a recommendation to invest. Consult your investment advisor for specific recommendations.