Investing in the “impact economy”

Pre-business student Lauren Vandertoolen attended the recent lecture by guest speaker Curt Bassett, an investment advisor brought to the David Eccles School of Business by the U’s Ethics Club. Bassett has more than 25 years of experience in investment consulting, wealth management and impact investing, and is the founder of Impact Investment Leaders, and previously worked for Merrill Lynch as the company’s National Director of Foundations and Strategic Philanthropy. 

Bassett’s lecture was called “Impact Investing: The New Investing of the Impact Economy.” This is Lauren’s report from the event: 

As business students, we are constantly dealing with different scenarios involving “big numbers.” We learn where money comes from, the expenses it covers, how to create more of it, but we don’t pay much attention to what CEOs or other benefactors do with their personal revenue. In his recent lecture at the David Eccles School of Business, Curt Bassett educated students on impact investing. Bassett explained the background, importance, and effect impact investing has on students, families, communities and the world.

After being denied acceptance to the University of Utah law school, Bassett found himself studying law in Houston, Texas, and eventually ended up in New York City. While working at Merrill Lynch on Wall Street, Bassett managed the family office department. He found that what many financially well-off families were most concerned with was how their kids would handle their great inheritances. This inspired Bassett to to find a way for these children to do something useful with their fortunes.

Rather than money becoming these kids’ primary identities and giving them an arrogant attitude, Bassett decided to make philanthropy the center of these families. He encouraged wealthy families and their kids to really make a difference with their money, while also being held accountable–meaning their money would be treated more like an investment than a simple donation.

Bassett’s idea helped lead to what is now called impact investing. Impact investing is a venture philanthropy, treating grants like investments. It is program-related, allowing investing in a for-profit company to be treated as a grant. Investors gain both financial and social return on their investments, which also creates sustainability and independence.

What really hit home to audience members were the statistics given about how impact investing thrives in the state of Utah. Utah is the No. 1 state for charitable giving and the third-best state for business, and greatly benefits from, and contributes to, impact investment.

Any student or affiliate wishing to get involved or learn more about impact investing is encouraged to attend a roundtable hosted by Bassett’s firm, Impact Investments Leaders, based jointly in New York City and Park City. These events are open to the public–click here to find out more about Impact Investment Leaders and roundtables.


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