On the 17th and 18th of July 2021, we organised our very first Orientation Program where we welcomed 21 talented and passionate individuals into the Next Gen ESG Investing Program. Over the course of two weekend afternoons, our students got together for the first time to gain a deeper understanding into ESG investing and debate its key issues.
About the Program
The Next Gen ESG Investing Program was started to address the dearth of education in the realm of sustainable investing. Though investors worldwide are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of incorporating ESG metrics into their investment framework, little efforts have been made to effectively leverage existing resources and educate the next-generation on the topic in a systematic manner, especially via practitioner-based learning. Hence, by educating and allowing students to manage real funds to bring about real impact, this two-year program aims to identify, empower, and inspire the next generation of sustainable investors. Teams of 5 students each will be given $10,000 per team to make investments in a maximum of 6 long positions while incorporating ESG analysis, valuation and portfolio construction. Annual returns will be used to support ESG related projects or be reinvested into the portfolio.
Day 1 Activities
Split into four teams, our students first got to know each other a bit better through a quick round of icebreakers, where our members were tasked to introduce themselves and come up with a newspaper or magazine headline about themselves in 10 years' time. In their teams of five, members shared about their goals and ambitions: from promoting financial literacy, to starting the largest ESG fund in Asia and empowering groups like children from low-income families and women, we were thoroughly impressed by the deep sense of purpose and passion these intelligent, young people showed.
Subsequently, members and guests were introduced to the Program by Tiffany Liu, co-founder and CEO of Gen Z Group. Following the two-day Orientation, students will attend the Invest Your Life Bootcamp along with Generation Z Investment Club, throughout August, where students will learn more about the basics of investing. Afterwards from September to October, students will enrol into the ESG Investing Academy and learn from practitioners what ESG investing is all about. In November, the Endowment Fund will be officially launched, lasting till the end of the Program in July 2023. During this period, we hope that after undergoing our preparation, students will be able to attain the CFA Certificate in ESG Investing during the two years.
We then had the honour of Mr Desmond Tan, Minister of State for the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment provide the Opening Remarks. He highlighted the impact of climate change and outlined the Singapore Green Plan 2030 vision for the nation’s sustainable development. Mr Tan also urged individuals to take action now, and for businesses to leverage green growth opportunities, as well as consider Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) objectives in their practices. He also called upon youths to make meaningful contribution to Singapore's sustainable future.
Next, we invited Mr Richard McGillivray from the CFA Institute to share more about the organisation, its goals and purpose, its members and societies, as well as its own ESG investing curriculum. He also conducted the first round of the Sustainable Investing Gameshow, developed by the CFA Institute in collaboration with BNP Paribas. Our knowledgeable and enthusiastic host put our students to the test, revealing interesting bits of trivia (did you know that the oldest instance of sustainable investing through funds dates back to 1748 when the Quakers banned any trade or profiting from slavery or guns?), as well as questions on introductory knowledge of sustainable investing and material ESG indicators.
After the Gameshow, Mr. Gordon Yeo and Mr. Vatsal Mody from Arisaig Partners gave us an overview of Arisaig Partners, a long-only boutique investment manager established in 1996, based in Singapore and focused on emerging markets. Having incorporated ESG into their investments back in the 2000s, ESG issues as risk factors were always significant to deciding whether companies were able to achieve purposeful growth. This emphasis on ESG investing was institutionalised in 2010 and has since played a key role in Arisaig's investment strategies.
As the closing segment of Day 1, our students got to take part in a networking session with industry professionals to discuss further about ESG in the world of finance and investing, as well as delve deeper into each professional's respective areas of expertise.
Day 2 Activities
Day 2's first activity began with a lesson taught by Gordon titled "Introduction to ESG". Through fun, interactive and lively discussion, students expressed their understanding of what ESG investing was, its necessity, opportunities and challenges, how it differed from traditional investing, and the social and political intricacies of the ESG investing decision-making processes.
Next up was the second half of the Sustainable Investing Gameshow, hosted again by Mr. Richard McGillivray. Questions revolved around understanding the main sustainable investment approaches. Students then embarked on a case study which helped them examine more closely the relationship between ESG investing and Value investing, framing the discussion in a realistic case and urging students to actively consider practical solutions to reconcile the business dilemma outlined. Through lively discussions, students raised many valiant points and asked lots of interesting questions that aided their learning.
After the Gameshow, Gordon brought our students into the second instalment of his lessons, this time on the ESG market. Students discussed the history of the ESG market, its stakeholders, relationships between stakeholders, and the drivers of ESG investing as well as going deeper into the challenges to ESG adoption.
Subsequently, Mr. Shinya Deguchi, co-founder of Gen Z Group and founder of Star Magnolia Capital, shared with our students about the multi-family office Star Magnolia Capital, going into detail about its long-term, people-oriented investing philosophy as well as his own personal goal of imparting long term investing wisdom on the next generation, especially how the ESG program will go hand-in-hand with the long-term investing philosophy he strongly believes in. He also encouraged students to view investing as a passion rather than just a job.
Finally, we had the great pleasure of inviting Dr Goh Yew Lin, previous Director of Temasek Holdings and Managing Director of GK Goh Holdings Limited, to deliver the closing remarks. In his speech, Dr Goh passionately imparted his wisdom and experience regarding investing in general as well as the importance of considering the big picture and unintended consequences when doing ESG investing.
Dr Goh's remarks brought us to the end of the two-day orientation. We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to our sponsors: Star Magnolia Capital, Arisaig Partners, Archipelago Capital Partners, and Vertex Ventures for making this event and program possible, as well as the CFA Institute for authorising the reference of their ESG curriculum and the use of the fun-filled Sustainable Investing Gameshow.
And to our newly-minted students, we sincerely hope that you have thoroughly enjoyed the two-day orientation, gotten to know your instructors and classmates better, and gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for ESG investing. We can't wait to see you embark on your sustainable investing journey with us!