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Bank of America and the Total Impact Portfolio Challenge: A Conversation with Devin Taylor

SOCAP Global April 30, 2020

The Total Impact Portfolio Challenge (TIPC), hosted by Wharton Social Impact Initiative and SOCAP Global, is an annual competition to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and experience to design impact investment portfolios. The students who participate in the Total Impact Portfolio Challenge will become the next generation of impact driven financial services professionals, asset managers, and financial advisors. For the third year in a row, Bank of America has provided wealth management associates to serve as coaches and to provide skills-based volunteer guidance to the student teams. Devin Taylor, Vice President on the Sustainable & Impact Investment Strategy Team within Bank of America’s Chief Investment Office, has served as a Portfolio Challenge coach and is helping to coordinate efforts with the wealth management associates and teams.

SOCAP Global: How does Bank of America’s support of the Total Impact Portfolio Challenge serve your organizational mission and vision for the future?

Devin Taylor: Bank of America’s involvement in the Total Impact Portfolio Challenge, providing coaches for each of the business school teams participating, is an extension of the Bank’s commitment to sustainability as a strategic lens for responsible growth for our company. This strategy includes our sustainable finance work, our environmental business initiative, as well as how our employees engage with clients and our communities. Within the wealth management business, our sustainable and impact investing platform enables individual and institutional clients to ask themselves, what would they like the power to do? Organizationally, we see a future of capitalism that involves a range of stakeholders that work together to power business and communities. This year’s Total Impact Portfolio Challenge was based upon aligning a hypothetical college endowment’s investments with its return requirements and impact goals of addressing climate risk and income inequality.

SOCAP Global: You’ve personally served as a coach to Portfolio Challenge teams, can you give examples of the kinds of support the advisors offer to the students?

Devin Taylor: In 2019, I served as a coach for an NYU team in the inaugural Total Impact Portfolio Challenge. Last year the investment prompt included a hypothetical family office client so we first gave the team feedback and ideas around the drafting of an investment policy statement, then we helped the team think through an asset allocation plan, portfolio proposal and importantly a plan for how to incorporate the family’s mission around sustainability and impact into both the portfolio and the performance monitoring plan.

SOCAP Global: What are some of the greatest benefits you’ve seen the students take away from the challenge?

Devin Taylor: Unlike other impact investing competitions that may focus on social ventures or business plans themselves, this challenge provides students with a case study and tangible experience that may be utilized in a future professional role as a financial planner, wealth advisor, or portfolio manager within the asset management industry.

SOCAP Global: From your own experience, and what you’ve heard from others, what do the associates gain from the experience of mentoring the Portfolio Challenge student teams?

Devin Taylor: A fantastic outcome of our associates participating in the Total Impact Portfolio Challenge has been an element of reverse mentoring from students who have resourcefully put together portfolio proposals and plans for impact reporting that in many instances reflect new thinking and creative ideas for the wealth management industry. Some associates, understandably skeptical in the past about responsible investing strategies that heavily relied on negative screening, have come away from these engagements with an increased appreciation for the breadth and availability of investment approaches across asset classes with a sustainable lens.

SOCAP Global: What is one piece of advice that you would share with an up and coming financial advisor about sustainable investing?

Devin Taylor: Financial advisors should spend time with their clients to truly understand what it is that interests their clients about sustainability, whether it be a particular environmental or social issue or cause, or purely a belief that integrating environmental, social and governance data into an investment approach may lead to lower risk over time, in order to select investments that align to that particular clients preferences and long term goals.

SOCAP Global: What sort of benefit do you think a competition like this one brings to the impact investing field?

Devin Taylor: This competition demonstrates that current MBAs and the next generation of business leaders absolutely believe sustainability themes will shape our future corporate world.  We believe it may also bring more diverse and independent thinkers into the world of wealth management. These professionals are eager for careers where they can shape capitalism for the benefit of a broad group of stakeholders including customers, employees, communities and the world.

SOCAP Global: What do you hope will grow out of Total Impact’s Portfolio Challenge?

Devin Taylor: I hope this challenge serves as a foundation for professional development for students and field development for coaches who may together move sustainable investing forward. I especially think the ideas students are developing around the impact reporting element of their projects is a fertile ground for the industry to take notice since there currently is not a regulatory requirement or a single standard to monitor and compare portfolios.

On May 3rd from 2-4pm EST, the four finalist teams will present their portfolios and investment rationale virtually to an expert panel of judges. Watch the Total Impact Portfolio Challenge finals to see how some of the top graduate students in the country would use the power of capital markets to deliver both financial and social returns. Register for free here

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