Your Life, Simplified

Let Your Conscience Be Your Investing Guide

February 9, 2021

Many individuals who invest would like to know how their dollar is being put to work while in the market. Is it supporting a company whose values align with their own? We turned a recent socially responsible investing webinar into our latest Your Life, Simplified podcast. Our host, George Fernandez along with the panel of Brad Rollins, vice president of investment operations, Ken Powell, senior equities portfolio manager and Andy Garrison, senior wealth advisor, discuss how you can align your values with your investing strategies, what opportunities are available and how you can take action.

George Fernandez:

Welcome to another episode of Your, Life Simplified. My name is George Fernandez, and I’ll be your host for this episode. Earlier this month, we conducted a webinar on the topic of socially conscious investing, and we thought we’d share it with you. So sit back and listen, and I’ll be back at the end. I really am looking forward to this discussion. This is a topic that I think that all of us are going to learn some things from that maybe we didn’t know before. During this conversation, my hope is that you’ll walk away with a few things that you can note, that you’ll know about aligning your values and investments together. And you’ll have some steps that you can take away with you from our call today. We have three guests with me today who can help me do that. I have Ken Powell, portfolio manager of equities. I have Brad Rollins, director of portfolio implementation, and Andy Garrison, senior wealth advisor. And the topic today is socially conscious investing. I appreciate you all being here today. This is really going to be a good discussion. And I know that each of you brings a different skillset as we come in and talk about this particular topic. But before we get into that, because I’m going to tap into the skillset for each of you, let’s maybe spend a couple of minutes you can share a little bit about who you are and what you do each day for the company and for your clients. So, Andy, why don’t we start with you?

Andy Garrison:

Absolutely. Thanks, George. This is a topic I’m passionate about. I know we all are here. It’s something that we are able to implement for clients at Mariner Wealth Advisors, but at the same time, it’s just really neat to see the evolution over time. And I’m able to work with clients day to day and help them implement both retirement plans and tax strategies. And of course, their investment strategies as well. And a big part that I focus on is the socially conscious space within that.

George:

That’s great. I appreciate that. Brad, how about you?

Brad Rollins:

I’m the director of portfolio implementation, which means I work a lot on how do we take all of these ideas that we’re coming up with across Mariner Wealth Advisors and figure out how to effectively and efficiently get them into portfolios to benefit clients. That means I spend some time managing model portfolios. I also oversee parts of our diligence effort and part of our education effort. And then also there are some quantitatively driven investment portfolios or equity portfolios that I also manage.

George:

Okay, great. And Ken?

Ken Powell:

I’m a senior portfolio manager on the equity side here at Mariner Wealth Advisors. I’ve been working with the socially responsible, environmental, social, governance type of investments for eight or nine years. As Andy said, we’re seeing an explosion in this area, and we’re finding that a lot of clients are really passionate about this type of investing.

George:

I think that’s why I’m glad to have you guys on the call today, because I think each of us have a passion about what we do, and we go about it from a different angle. It’s great to have all these perspectives. The way I look at what we’re going to talk about today is to break this down in bite-sized chunks to help us go through this discussion, because there’s a lot here that we could talk about. We could probably spend hours talking about this. We’ll spend 30 to 45 minutes or so, but we do want to break this down.

And so, what I had in mind is maybe look at, what is socially conscious investing? There are a lot of terms out there, a lot of acronyms, SCI, SRI, ESG, impact investing. And I think it’s important that we have some understanding of what those things are. I also want to dig just a little bit into what the history of it is too, because I know for the last eight or nine years, and I remember a time when we said, you never want to invest in those kinds of strategies, because you’ll never get a return on your dollar. And so, I want to talk a little bit about that and what’s happened over history, over time and where we are today and then look at how we actually personalize this and use this to personalize our investment strategy and take action.

We’ll also spend a little bit of time digging into, is it active versus passive? Is there an approach that we should use or consider? Is it one or the other or both? And then, as we walk out of this call today, we also want to be forward-thinking about where we are with this topic too. And that is, what are the things that impact this investing, but specifically this, the legislative side, as well as what we’re seeing in future trends, because I think there are some really neat things that we’re seeing in this particular area.

And so that’s where I want to dig in as we get started today. And so, I’m going to start with Brad because Brad, I got to tell you, I Googled socially conscious investing, which maybe a lot of people did on the call today. You’re probably thinking, okay, what is this all about? I can see the little description on the webinar, but what does it really mean? So, you probably went out there and Googled it. And the first thing I’m going to be met with is 4.7 million results. And I’m like, oh man, which one of these is the correct definition? Are they all correct? Or is it only looking at socially conscious investing and its only pieces of it? So, there’s a lot of results out there. So clearly there’s a lot of information, some good, some bad. What I’d really like to know is, what’s relevant for me to know today? And so, Brad, I want you to maybe declutter that for us a little bit, help us understand what these acronyms mean, SCI, SRI, ESG and so forth.

Brad:

 I don’t know that there are standard definitions, but we have our definitions and I think they’re pretty close to how more and people are talking about it, and it’s definitely how we’ll be talking about it today on the call. So that’s probably a good place to start and just level set on what we mean when we throw out acronyms, which our industry is unfortunately really bad at using a ton of acronyms. So first let’s start with SRI, which stands for socially responsible investing. To us, we think of that as more along the lines of maybe religious principles or screening and looking for specific things that people want to avoid. So, other examples might be tobacco or alcohol or guns or contraceptives or any number of issues that hit on some type of social hot button issue. And usually what those end up looking like is, a binary choice of, does this company participate in this activity or do they not? And so, then since it’s a binary thing what ends up happening a lot with SRI strategies is, we screen those out. If it’s an SRI strategy that is focused on guns simply, we don’t buy stocks that manufacturer or sell guns, and so socially based exclusionary. On the other end of the spectrum or the other acronym that gets thrown out, is ESG for environmental, social and governance. And a lot of times, instead of looking for a binary choice, it’s how is this company doing on environmental issues? Are there practices that are a part of their manufacturing or whatever it is that causes them to pollute more? Or do they have histories of controversies in an area of labor relations? And so, it’s not a binary thing. There’s a gradient of good performers and poor performers. And as such, you don’t have to screen out whole industries or companies that don’t do well, but there’s a lot more nuance that can be had in, how is this company in this area? How have they been historically, and what do we think there’ll be doing going forward in terms of their adherence to ESG issues within their companies? And so those are the two more granular terms. And then for us socially conscious investing or SCI, which it gets shortened to at times. It’s really the umbrella term that encompasses both SRI, that ends up being an exclusionary and ESG, which is more of a sliding scale more gray area there.

George:

Okay, that’s really great. I think that gives us a good foundation from where we can go from here and come back to you a little bit later, because I want to pick back on a few things you said there, specifically about the screening process and how do we take that personalization to the next level. Before we get there, let’s just do a quick history lesson. So, Ken, I’m going to let you be the historian here. Let’s talk about this and take just a slight step back from where we are in the definitions and go backward just a little bit and talk about the history of where things have been with SRI and then where we are today. Because as I said a little bit earlier, it wasn’t that long ago when I remember people saying, “I’m not going to go invest in that strategy because there was no return for me on that. And so maybe share a little bit on the history on that.”

Ken:

From what I gather, when I go back and look at this universe it, to me, looks like it started more with religious principles. And then I think as more modern times, we started moving away from where it wasn’t just looking at religious principles more, in the 60’s when you had entered the counterculture revolution where folks decided, I want to invest with companies that do right by the environment, more than align with what with what I feel. And then I think it really started heating up in toward the other end of exclusionary, where you had saw state and local governments. You saw institutions, foundations that didn’t want to invest in apartheid South Africa. In the news you actually saw where the state of California will no longer invest in XYZ company because they do business in South Africa. So, I think that’s kind of what moved it more into the media. And then I think it really began to heat up more with the generations that followed my generation where they were saying, especially Millennials, I really want to invest with companies that are good stewards within the community. And I think that’s what’s brought us around to where we are today, bringing it from religion over to, hey, how does this fit with me?

George:

Those are really great examples. Another example I can throw in there too, is this last year, COVID has really elevated a lot of these kinds of conversations, and I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a lot of Gen Z individuals. They’re calling them Zoomers. We get confused sometimes with the depth of what the title is, so to speak, but it’s essentially folks who are under 26 years old and much like Millennials, they are putting their pocketbooks where their values are. That’s a really important piece when I’ve talked to folks within that generation who are just now getting started on the investing side. They’re very specific about what they want to invest in, and we’ve got to be able to do that. So, Andy, maybe we talk a little bit about that on the personalization side, because it’s one thing to know this history, it’s one thing to know these definitions, but it’s another thing to know, can we actually implement the way in which we think we can and our clients need to be implementing, if that makes sense?

Andy:

Yes, I think it does. Everything starts from the past, right? And so, as we’ve seen this evolution, a lot of it’s just been driven by demand. And you said it really well, George, as we’ve gone through, we started to focus a little bit more on how we live and the things we value and where we spend our money, what types of companies we spend our money with. And then the next logical question is just, why not do that with our investments too? And so, as we’ve gotten to that point, we’ve seen a lot of demands saying, hey, I know there’s all these different ways to go about this out there, but here are my values, here are the themes I believe in. I care about the environment, or I care about future generations. I’ve talked to a lot of folks who are in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond who are focused on making sure that things are set up well for next generations too. We’re seeing that across the board, and we’re hearing from a lot of folks who want to know, how do I make this work for me? And so, as we go into this next stage of the evolution of this whole socially responsible space or investing with your values space, I think it’s really coming down to how do we align our own values with our specific investments? And I know Brad was working on some stuff, here in a second, on the actual implementation of the personalization. But from my point of view working with people day in and day out is, if you go back 10, 15 years, all of our financial plans are really driven by what’s a good investment out there? Where should we put our money? How should we invest? And then over the last several years, it’s become much more about, well, what are your goals? And how do we make sure your finances are aligned to drive those goals forward? This is just the next evolution of that. We say, not only how do we use your finances and drive your goals forward, but how do we match those to your values so you feel really good about it and you stay really confident in the ups and downs that we face as time goes on as well?

George:

I really liked what you said there. You’ve described it to me in the past that linking our wealth to our values is a simple. I guess simply the next evolution is linking it to our goals. I always look at wealth management as the convergence, or sometimes I’ll even use the term collision, of the importance of money in our life on one hand, and on the other hand, the things that are most important in our life. The reason I use the term collision is because sometimes it takes a collision to actually identify whether or not you’re investing in the way in which you believe. And that’s really what we’re talking about here is that it is now possible to look at what your values are that you’re trying to pass on to your children and the next generation and actually invest according to your values, not just to reach our goals, as you just mentioned. And I think that’s a really great point. What you already pointed out, which was Brad is working on solutions and tools to actually implement this. So, Brad, do you want to talk a little bit about that? And then if you could talk a little bit more specifically about some of the screenings that you do and some of the things that maybe we’re doing say we weren’t able to do a few years ago.

Brad:

Yes. This is just all a result of technology. It’s changing every industry and ours is not immune to that. What we’re doing now is we’re spending a lot of time figuring out how can we in a broad, mass way, customize portfolios to actually meet clients’ values. I think that’s been one of the impediments to really doing ESG well, in a sense historically, because everybody’s values are slightly different. We do run ESG strategies that have track records in there. We follow a mandate. But the problem is, is that’s not some people’s definition of what they consider ESG or SRI or that’s not the value that is important to them. And in that case, it’s just not really a fit. And so, to be able to leverage technology, to have the client articulate to us what type of exposure do we need in a portfolio, and that’s probably in conjunction with Andy, of a wealth advisor, to say the niching in your portfolio that we need to fulfill is large cap, or it’s a combination of large cap, mid cap. But then to hear from the client in terms of, what are your values, what don’t you want in your portfolio? What characteristics do you want us to emphasize in your portfolio? And to the extent that they can articulate that there’s a good chance we can build a portfolio out of that that, that will match those goals now and going forward. And so, some of the examples of those can be as basic as I just want higher quality ESG companies. There are ratings agencies and scoring services out there, and we can just say, we just want the best of those. So not necessarily screening out anything, just good companies. But we could also then drill down and exclude sectors, such as energy or more granular approaches industry groups, such as maybe just EMP companies within the energy sector. And then maybe even down to specific companies, or we can do screens and set up portfolios based on business involvement or revenue derived from something. Examples there could be as diverse as from controversial lending practices to fossil fuel involvement to civilian firearms, and the list goes on and on and on. Once we set up this menu of the areas in the market, we think you need exposure to from a financial planning perspective and from an investment management perspective, and then marry that with this list of opportunities to customize to the client fit. I think it can be really powerful.

George:

You said several things there that made me think of something. I can’t help but think that the most important piece of this is having really good open communication with your advisor. Andy, if you were my advisor, it’d be like having a really good open communication with you and sharing what’s important to me on topics like this because as Brad just said, there are a number of ways in which we can measure. We can screen, so forth and so on, but it only can come from the point from what we know about you. So, if you’re taking notes today, I hope you write this down. And that is, next time I talk to my financial advisor, I need to share some of these things that are most important to me, my values, because if they’re that important to you, you need to be having a conversation about whether or not your investment strategy conflicts with that. And if it does, how do you mitigate that? I think if you write that down that way, when you talk to your financial advisor, you can have that open dialogue. Andy, I’m sure that’s a conversation that you have on a regular basis with your clients as we were just talking a little bit ago.

Andy:

Yes, I think it definitely is, George. I mean, it’s like we said, it’s the next evolution. A lot of the things we’re talking about are simply the way for us to bridge the gap from folks coming to us and saying, “Hey, I don’t really know what this is or what it’s called, but I don’t want to invest in that.” Or, “I really would like to invest in that theme.” It might be most important to them. Now we’ve got the tools, where before it was somewhat of a manual process, and that was all right, but now with these tools, we’re able to go even more granular and really dive in. In a lot of the research that Ken, I know you’re doing on a regular basis, every day continues to expand. It’s starting to get really really interesting as far as how we can actually build these portfolios and have the information and the knowledge on these companies to, not only do it well, but do it very, very specifically and correctly as well too.

George:

I have one of my little bullet points that I wanted to talk about is, future trends and trends in technology. I’m really tempted to maybe start talking right now. I was going to talk about toward the end about future trends. So maybe we’ll come back to that because I want to bring up something else that can create confusion when you’re investing just in general. It applies to SRI, SCI or ESG, and that is, active versus passive. I don’t know who wants to jump in on this question, but is it active? Is it passive versus both? It looks like you raised your hand.

Ken:

The correct answer is it’s a combination of both, but I have a huge bias in that I’m an active manager. I can tell you what I found for clients who are looking to invest in this space is first off, most of them don’t want to give up performance. They want that piece to perform like a large cap core will perform. So, when we’re building these portfolios, we actually look at the company first, the fundamentals of that company, is this a solid company? Is it growing earnings, is it doing the way we pick stocks for an average portfolio that is not a SCI? What’s nice about the environment we’re in now is that, and we’ll talk about this later in future trends, is that companies recognize that they need to be on the right side of this ESG, SRI. And so, they are doing more and more. Why clients want active is they want to see what is in their portfolio. And I think not only because they might see something that conflicts with, as Andy said, that conflicts with their values that they can say, “Hey, I don’t want to own that,” but I think more than that sometimes it’s, “Hey, we own XYZ company. I’m going to give my business to XYZ company because I view them as a good social steward.” So again, I think it probably is a combination. I’ll let Brad or Andy argue the passive side. While I argue the active side. It would be my main point on the accuracy.

George:

I definitely understand. Andy, thoughts?

Andy:

I was just going to say, on that front, it’s been a really interesting trend in the sense that if you look at the traditional style of active management, and it’s something where maybe you’re investing in a bunch of mutual funds, where you’ve turned it over to a bunch outside managers and are trying to put all the pieces together, that can be a little more challenging. And I think a lot of times that’s what has led people to more of the passive space. But if you’re able to look at some individual companies, and skip the mutual fund route, a lot of times you can blend that really well, and some form of active management, which doesn’t mean active trading, right? It just means you’re actively on top of things, you’re actively managing it, really bodes well to this because that’s how you make sure these companies are living up to the standard, right? That’s how you make sure they’re turning in the right direction, not only financially, but also with their values and how those values matched with the folks that we work with as well.

Brad:

That’s what I was going to say. Your last point there, Andy, maybe just a level set and just a bit, when we talk about active management, what we’re trying to say is, we will have managers such as Ken Powell who are experts in that area of the market and spend all day every day researching stocks and through their superior knowledge of those companies, he will try and pick the ones that are more likely to outperform the market than not. And so, through that intimate knowledge, you also go beyond just making a decision on, is this going to outperform, or being able to pick up on trends on this company may not be ESG in most people’s mind today, but we think it’s trending in that direction because of all the things that they’re doing where you don’t get that in a passive more or more mechanistic way of screening out companies. You get that through an expert that knows the companies. So, there’s definitely something to be said for that.

Ken:

We do that. We incorporate within our approach; we look at what is the trend in history of that company and put a lot of weight into that. So that’s a great point.

Brad:

We want to buy companies if there’s a value that’s important to you. It’s probably more important what is the company doing now and what are they going to be doing in the future rather than what’s their historical track record in doing or not doing the thing that you care about. So, I think the flip side on the passive side, which a lot of the portfolios that I manage in the more quantitative way we talked about earlier border on passive. I think what sets that apart or what makes it worth considering, just throughout this conversation, is that since we’re doing things quantitatively, that’s what gives us the ability to at scale, give everybody the portfolio that fits their values where we can have a team. They can manage one strategy or three strategies or five strategies that are our best ideas and have the best chance of outperforming the market in the values that they’ve set forth in the mandate. So that strategy where we can flip that in the passive space and say, okay, for Mr. and Mrs. Smith, their values are ABC and D; let’s build a portfolio specifically for them. And then with the help of technology, we can do that many times over and give more customization, but the trade-off is that there is the effort to outperform an index or beat the market. That’s what we give up in exchange for that level of customization. We’re going to give you exposure to large-cap growth or small-cap value in line with those values, but not perform that.

George:

And I appreciate that last point, and this goes back to something we were talking a little bit earlier about, Andy, you were sharing the importance knowing your client, of course, and I talked about what’s important about money? What role does it play in your life? And what’s most important to you? And the key is, what does your performance need to be to reach your goals? It may or may not need to be the market return. It needs to be the return you need. And so, when you compare, sometimes you’re going to be looking at this and think, well, I’m not getting what the market got. Well, that’s true, but that’s not really what you need for your particular goal. And so, you want to look at this from what is your goal that you’re trying to achieve and get to, and then how do I get to that goal and focus on that. And so that allows you to do things you just described, Brad, which is the focus on those things are most important, build a portfolio that’s designed for you because that’s what’s important to you.

Brian Leitner:

Thanks again for downloading this episode of Your Life, Simplified, which is produced by Mariner Wealth Advisors. At Mariner Wealth Advisors, we’re here to serve as your advocate. We help people chart a course to reach their personal and financial goals so that they can have greater peace of mind that may lead to a more fulfilling life. We do this by always putting our clients first, because as fiduciaries, we’re required to provide guidance that’s in the best interest of clients, not in the best interest of a company or shareholders or anyone else. As you listen to this podcast and have questions about your own financial situation or would simply like a second opinion, or even you have an idea for a future podcast, please go ahead and email us at podcast@marinerwealthadvisors.com. If you found the information on this podcast valuable, please and share it with a friend or family member who you think might benefit from this information. And please don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast so you don’t miss an episode. Thanks for listening. And now back to the episode.

George:

We had a question that came in. As passive investor, is there a good way to evaluate a mutual fund or an ETF against SCI or ESG criteria? We have tools, but I’m not sure that necessarily those tools are available to the general public as easily. I don’t know.

Ken:

There are a handful of like social indexes, the KLD social, was it social 400, Andy, do know the exact? There are some but again, I think, then I would go back to what you were saying, George, about maybe you need to measure your performance versus what your needs are.

Brad:

I’d say that reporting along those, especially on the funds that purport to be ESG or SRI funds a lot of efforts being put into reporting now in any of the big ETF the needs that have them probably have a ton of information on their websites about exactly what the process is for inclusion and exclusion. That’s another good thing about passive. They say, here are the rules, this is what we’re going to do and then they get to do it. But just to look at any mutual fund through any ESG, SRI lens, I’m not aware of any resources out there that look at those.

George:

And to your point, the prospectus is going to have the detail of the rules as it relates to that particular fund. This is a really great question, and that is do the current trends associated with ESG or SRI suggests that at some point, this investment methodology will be the accepted norm for how we invest versus an anomaly that it’s been in the past? I have my own opinion. I’ll let you guys share your opinion in a minute, but my own opinion on this is that I do believe that this is becoming an accepted norm more so than in the past. And I think especially in the last two years, I’ve seen an elevation and an expectation. I don’t know if you all saw this, but one of our regulators (FINRA is one of the regulators in the broker- dealer industry) actually just passed some rules as it relates to the composition of boards for them to meet their specific guidelines. When you start seeing things like that, when the regulators start getting involved, which will take us to our next conversation, which is legislative impacts, is when you start seeing that, then it moves beyond an anomaly from my perspective. What do you guys think?

Ken:

I agree, you’re not only seeing it on the regulatory side, we’re seeing it in the market ranking group. Sustainalytics was recently purchased by Morningstar, and Morningstar realizing that this is a trend that looks like it will continue. The Bloomberg database that most investment professionals use, now, they have committed a lot of resources for analyzing companies with the different factors for ESG. So, you’re seeing a lot of these firms get into measuring this. It appears like it’s going to continue and not only measurement companies, but also the companies themselves are pouring more resources into it. My personal opinion would be, I think within the next 10 years, we’ll see whether we call it this, but ESG departments within companies, so Microsoft will have a director of ESG and will have employees reporting to that person where that is their sole responsibility is to make sure the company is adhering to these principles.

George:

I would agree with you, Ken, and again, we’re seeing that trend already, and I think it’s going to stop being a trend and it’s going to become the norm on that sticking with you for a second. One of the most important things that we do as helping our clients and being advocates for our clients is being able to help with blind spots, of course, and understanding what’s around the corner that they can’t see. Watching what’s happening, we look at legislative impacts, we’ll look at other future impacts. What are you seeing that, that you’re paying attention really close attention to now, as it relates to this particular legislation on it probably a little bit there, but maybe you could expand on this a little bit on that and Brad I’ll come to you on the Department of Labor stance on 401(k)s in a minute?

Ken:

I think we are seeing it for investment managers, investment management firms. I think you’re going to see a set of principles or guidelines because you have a lot of firms saying, “Oh yeah, we’re ESG or SRI now.” And there are no true guidelines as to what makes that investment firm a truly ESG or SRI. I think we’ll see more standardized guidelines for this type of investing for folks in my field. I think we’ll also start seeing more private investment opportunities, not just public companies, but I think hedge funds are realizing that this looks sustainable. I think that we’ll see that we will add on to ESG and SRI. We’ve got a different regime in the White House now, so I think you’re going to start seeing, in the marketplace, more mandates on alternative energy, power plants, they’ll have to have X amount of energy that’s produced from alternative sources and electric vehicle mandates. You’re especially seeing it in Europe, by this date, we’ll have to have this percentage of vehicles will have to be electric vehicles. That’s going to make these niche companies more mainstream and larger companies that are producing this type of products and services.

George:

Yeah, no, it’s all a great point. The important thing to take away there that I hear is that we’re keeping an eye on this because we need to know what’s happening going forward so we can make adjustments and changes along the way. I think that’s really important, but you also said something else there, which is private companies, which means whether it’s private equity, private placement opportunities, investment opportunities that typically can only be obtained through working with a financial advisor, are going to be things that you’re going to start seeing more of in this area as well. I’m already starting to see it, especially in on the opportunity zones. Some ESG component to it in some cases as well. Brad, on the Department of Labor, there’s been a little bit of, I’m going to call it noise on that. I don’t recall where that all landed. Do you have any feedback on that?

Brad:

I think it mostly ended up being poised. There were probably some headlines that you may have read. If reading about ESG investing earlier this fall, talking about the Department of Labor for ending ESG funds in retirement plans. A little bit of background, the Department of Labor is the regulator for 401(k)s and all ERISA plans such as 401(k)s and other retirement plans. And they had put out a preliminary rule that could be read as trying to push 401(k) plans to exclude ESG investments. So, what ended up happening after all is said and done is the Department of Labor’s final rules said that the investments that are chosen for 401(k) plans have to be judged on the merits of things that are going to lead to performance or risk. So, no issues that aren’t related to risk or performance in one way or the other, which really for us, I talked to my counterpart that leads the research for our 401(k) business, and her response was, that’s how we’ve always looked at them. I think there is this misconception, and maybe it goes back to, George, what you said at the beginning, which is early in your career, you would say, “Look, we don’t want to do ESG investing. You’re not going to get a return here.” And I think that mentality led people to think that, “Oh my gosh, the Department of Labor is going to end ESG funds,” but really the industry here has improved a lot, and there’s a lot of funds that could already be seen as equal to other funds that aren’t ESG related. And so, when our retirement plan group looks through funds and does research on funds and monitors them for, are they appropriate to be included in a plan? They were judged by exactly the same standard the whole way through. So it ended up being a non-issue for us, and then as bills do, they got watered down.

George:

I thought that was a lot of noise on that, but, I appreciate the background on that as to what was going on. So, Andy, broadly speaking, how do you stay in front of trends or anything in particular that you do?

Andy:

I think just what Ken and Brad said is telling. You think of trends, and we try to think as logically as we can, a lot of times right here at Mariner Wealth Advisors, and I’m sure a lot of folks do. And what we’ve seen is looking ahead, right? We’re always looking for the next Apple, or something like that from the financial standpoint. And we’re finding is there’s actually a lot of value when you’re looking at companies when you’re looking at other things and other investments from the standpoint of these social screens. Just to think of it logically for a second, if a company treats its people really well, it’s going to score high in the social space. If it treats people really well, they tend to be more productive. There’s study after study that shows that. If companies do a little bit better at treating the environment well, they have less fines. That helps. We can all think back 10 years or so now to BP and that example. I think what you’re seeing is, as we start thinking about not just the trends of the socially responsible space, but also of how does that apply to screening and finding really good investments? What I believe is that we’re really starting to see these criteria and use them almost is risk management views. In the sense of looking at companies, just because everything goes through financial screen first doesn’t mean you can’t add financial value by also scoring high in these other areas, whatever that scoring system may be. I think that’s one of the biggest trends that we’re seeing and one we’re trying to stay in front of.

George:

That’s, that’s a really great point and very interesting point that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a traditional social governance type company per se. But what I think, like what you said, if they’re treating their people right, most likely the outcome is going to be positive because it all flows. If you’ve got a company who’s got a history of not treating their employees in a good way, then that impacts the client experience, the customer experience, which impacts the bottom line, which impacts the investors’ ability too. I think that shareholders are going to be holding companies accountable for that as well. So, it’s a really great point. So just to wrap things up on a final note on future trends. We were talking a little bit earlier about technology and trends and customization. One of the things when it comes to technology is, that technology is allowing us to see things in ways that we weren’t able to see 10 years ago. Whether it’s screenings or whether it’s the social governance that you were just talking about, Andy. The technology is allowing us to see that. Over the course of the last couple of years, I have been introduced to new technologies on a fairly regular basis. And I have seen new technology that is there to what I call “hyper-personalize” your experience as an investor. And some of the things that I’m seeing are artificial intelligence, machine learning, that will not only take into consideration your values, but it also takes into consideration where the rubber hits the road. So, if, for example, you take your spending patterns and you apply that to your investing patterns. There’s technology that we’ll look at both of those and say, this is how your dollar is working. With your spending patterns, you might want to consider this, as far as your investment patterns. So, the point you guys raised earlier where your dollars are going, you may want to consider investing in companies that support the dollars you spend or where you’re not going, as another example. I see you’re spending money here, which might be contradiction to what your values are. So therefore, we make some adjustments. Those are the kinds of trends that I’m seeing in technology as well. So, I just want to, I guess, thank you guys for being on the call today. This has really been a good discussion. I really do appreciate it.

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