While 2020 has been brutal, a recent online forum has defined the silver linings of the dark clouds looming over us.
When the dust has settled on the year that was 2020, we might be able to look back and see a thin sliver of positivity, if the findings of a recent online forum are anything to go by.
In a recently undertaken online forum, the various changes and impacts brought about by the multitude of worldwide factors impacting business were discussed by industry leaders, including impact investor Barry Palte, Managing director of DonorCentricity Mark Williams and Ann Devine, Chief Risk Officer of fintech Bright.
While all of them have a background in risk management in banking and finance, they acknowledged that the unique nature of events in 2020 has seen some real changes come to the fore.
For impact investor Barry Palte, his take on that specific part of the investment market is a personal one. “I spend a hundred per cent of my time focused on social impact investing and investing my own money, but also co-investing with partners around the world,” he said. “I focus that investment into areas which have got measurable social impacts and key areas, including healthcare, the circular economy, agritech and social impact housing. And I do that on a global basis.”
A question was asked of the panel, ‘What has changed in your industry from your perspective, through the strangeness of this year?”, and not surprisingly, there were some common experiences.
Barry Palte focussed on the role climate change is playing in shaping the future.
“My choice is to look at this as a huge opportunity. Bushfires followed by pandemics: this is getting people to stop and consider the world that we live in. The world we’d like to bequeath to our children and grandchildren. The old ways of doing things aren’t going to be, in my opinion, sustainable.
“The one thing we all agree on is that everyone across the globe is being impacted by the pandemic. The things that bind us are very clear, as humans on this planet that we live on. One of the things that I’ve said is we have a pandemic, we have a fatality rate that is very weak; sad, but it’s under 1% of people getting the virus are actually passing away.
“Imagine when we have climate change changing the planet and not being able to live on the planet, potentially having a 100% fatality rate. What is that going to mean for the world? We have social disorder happening all over the world. We have a lot of negativity around what is happening in the world at the moment, but it’s also shaking people up differently.
The one thing we all agree on is that everyone across the globe is being impacted by the pandemic. The things that bind us are very clear, as humans on this planet that we live on.
“I can tell you that from my perspective, and what I do: capital markets and investors around the world are actually stopping, taking very close and serious look at what they do, and trying to do it differently. Not all capital will do that, not all people, all organisations, but there will be pools of investment capital that just won’t care. That’s OK, I just don’t want anything to do with them. But then there’ll be a whole range, pools of capital made up of people who will actually want to make a difference, so that’s us coming together as a community, which is good,” he said.
Donorcentricity’s Mark Williams agreed with how people are reassessing their priorities.
“I see a move towards causes that make our world a safer place to live,” he said, “and I think that’s partly due to the crises that we’ve been facing around bushfires and COVID-19. Not to mention around the world in different weather patterns, so I see that happening a re-evaluation of what’s important to be involved and to support. I see the not-for-profit sector under incredible pressure particularly those profits fundraising model that was based on, for example, gaining the majority of their funding in from special events.
“They’ve obviously been severely impacted. There’s also been a drop-off in the relation to the level of giving and that’s being felt around the world and I see a polarisation going on with high net-worth individuals or ultra-high net worth individuals around the world effects getting richer during this period so a lot of not-for-profits now we’ll be focusing in on major donors and trusts and Foundations. That’s becoming more and more a focus and there also and this has been happening a while for a while. They’re also more aware of the importance of donor retention as opposed to acquisition.
“So those are the broad things that I’m seeing and I’m an optimist, but I think I think that after things settle down regardless of the concentration of wealth now that there will be more funding philosophically and through impact investing towards causes that make a real difference to making our world a safer place to live,” Mark said.
For Ann Devine, she also thinks that current global events are forcing people everywhere to have a broader look at the world.
“I think it’s prompting us as a world to look at ecological issues, we’re looking at injustice, secondly, we’re looking more closely at poverty. I think we’re looking for new ways to deal with those things. We are capable of change and that we have the power to change.
“I think we are really seeing the rise of the purpose-driven corporation or investment, so, I do think there’s a growing sense of that shared responsibility and that corporations are seeing that they are major contributors to the social fabric in the world and that they do have a responsibility.
“Consumers are driving that, we’re demanding more. It’s not just shareholders demanding more, not just financial performance, but the quality of services and the way that those things are created.
“The modern workplace has changed. There’s a lot of opportunities there. There’s a greater recognition that people want to bring their whole selves to work. There are a greater acknowledgement and recognition of the power of diversity… you’re seeing and you’re hearing different voices. And I think that’s very powerful.
“We’re seeing systems being put into place to better support people at the social impact frontline and social impact investors. When I started looking at this six or seven years ago, there wasn’t such great interest, but it’s growing.
“In my work with social enterprises, I see an amazing, place-based change where the focus is on the community coming together and designing their own solutions. And for me that another really powerful change that it needs to grow and grow,” she said.
You can see the full discussion here.