Sustainable investing, or investing strategies focused on making a positive impact on society while earning a profit, is a newer area of finance that boasts stunning growth.
Citing the need to train finance professionals in this area, a top sustainable investing educational organization known as the SIILK (Sustainable Impact Investing Learning and Knowledge) Network recently hand-picked Bryant University alongside Yale University, UC-Berkeley, and Arizona State University – all leaders in sustainable investing education – to pilot and participate in a new academic challenge called The Student Corporate Engagement Competition.
“We were able to come up with an excellent shareholder resolution – a solution I’m not sure other schools (or perhaps investment firms) are acknowledging."
“We are very proud of Bryant students joining this prestigious group,” says the Bryant team’s faculty adviser, Asli Ascioglu, Ph.D., Department Chair and Professor of Finance, who has been associated with the SIILK Network since its inception. “There’s never been a competition with this kind of ESG analysis.”
What is ESG investing?
Environmental, Social, and Governance investing – or ESG – is a type of sustainable investing that entails researching and factoring in environmental, social, and governance issues, along with traditional financials, when evaluating stocks for a portfolio or financial risks.
Ascioglu said Bryant was one of the early adopters of ESG investing into a student-managed fund. Her active involvement with Intentional Endowments Network (IEN), which coordinates the SIILK Network, also led to the invitation, she says.
Ascioglu led the integration of ESG into Bryant's student-managed Archway Investment Fund (AIF), a hands-on course of study in investing that she co-teaches with Kevin Maloney, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer of Finance and Executive in Residence.
“I’m certain that this experience will benefit me as I will encounter similarly complex problems in the future, especially since it was all done in a team atmosphere.”
For this semester's competition, students will write and present an investment recommendation for a publicly-traded company listed on any major exchange, and include in the investment recommendation a proposed shareholder engagement strategy that aims to improve company financial and sustainability performance.
The Bryant team, which includes six Archway Investment Fund students, plans to analyze ESG risks for healthcare company UnitedHealth – their chosen company – and present a shareholder resolution designed to address those risks to the company's financial health.
Bryant team member Peter Vise ’20, a Finance and Applied Analytics major, appreciates the value of the experience, both academically and in terms of his future plans. “This has been a complex, interdisciplinary project. It covered finance, healthcare, and ESG, and being able to combine these three aspects for a cohesive argument was a good experience. I’m certain that this experience will benefit me as I will encounter similarly complex problems in the future, especially since it was all done in a team atmosphere.” He also noted the opportunity to network with other students interested in finance and sustainability.
“Working with the team and Professor Ascioglu, we were able to come up with an excellent shareholder resolution – a solution I’m not sure other schools (or perhaps investment firms) are acknowledging,” says Vise. “I’m honored to able to compete in such an event.”