Tell us about your journey to impact investing.
Business has an ability to provide people with certain prerequisites to a thriving life – good pay, a good education, and opportunities to chart a meaningful path for their own life and that of their loved ones. I believe in using this power of business for good. And I attribute part of this conviction to my upbringing. I was raised as a pastor’s son, so I’ve always had an orientation towards contributing. Over time, I discovered that a career in finance and law provides avenues for me to do so in ways that align with my professional background and interests.
Early in my legal career, I was fortunate to work with attorneys who were leaders in their respective fields advising a number of private equity clients as well as large companies involved in M&A, antitrust, and government investigations. I found myself most drawn to the private equity clients because I observed that the financing they deployed was often a significant determinant of the well-being of the communities in which they invested. I began to see opportunities to direct capital to certain communities, market segments and regions that have been overlooked by traditional capital markets and thereby to drive economic growth and to create positive change for entrepreneurs, employees and their families and neighbors. So began my impact investing journey.
At this time in 2008, I began seeking out other like-minded people. Initially, I joined an economist in co-leading an impact measurement and consulting firm that serves the non-profit and philanthropic community. I then joined the team that founded RENEW, an impact investment firm focused on small and medium enterprises in East Africa which has adopted a gender lens investment strategy with an international network of angel investors. As general counsel and a partner with RENEW, I witnessed the tremendous development and investment potential of investing in enterprises that are locally run and operated, often in partnership with others in the space. This collaborative approach is one of the great premises and promises of impact investing – working alongside other organizations that are solving different parts of the risk equation and market gaps and that are aligned in purpose.
My work with RENEW also taught me the importance of offering what’s really needed and desired by communities rather than creating impact that is driven by investors.
What are your areas of expertise?
The intersection of finance and law, particularly where they target positive social improvements for the communities in which capital is being invested. As an attorney, I specialize in fund formation, corporate transactions, general counsel work and regulatory compliance to support clients that are multiple bottom-line oriented. These are clients who want their mission reflected in their legal documents. For them, impact outcomes and risks are as critical as the financial ones and are not just an afterthought.
RPCK has established itself as the go-to legal firm for funds, investors, entrepreneurs and social enterprises around the world who are bringing about meaningful social change. Of relevance to my work, RPCK has been at the center of some of the most significant investment transactions in Africa and blended finance in the past year, and I look forward to bringing to bear my own investment experience in these and other focus areas working with institutional and individual investors, development organizations and others to build on this momentum.
RPCK also provided an opportunity for me to be engaged simultaneously in what is happening globally in the impact investing community and locally in Colorado where I am based. As I was considering joining RPCK, I saw opportunities to apply the thinking and blended finance approach I had applied at RENEW to other impact strategies and regions with attorneys who are leaders in their respective fields. The firm is a great fit due to their global footprint, established presence and perspective.
Why Denver? What are some of the exciting things happening in Denver when it comes to impact investing?
First, Denver is emerging as a major hub for sophisticated impact investing funds, wealth management firms, and mission aligned family offices and foundations. There is no impact strategy that I’ve encountered that is not represented somehow and somewhere in the Denver community. There is good representation of the various types of financing and players across the impact spectrum, including funds, start-ups, family offices, foundations, CSR departments, convening groups and others.
Colorado is an incredibly beautiful place, which promotes an ethos and urgency that we need to take care of our planet because we want to preserve this place. The region is grappling with a number of challenging social and environmental issues – affordable housing and water scarcity being just two examples. A number of entrepreneurs based here are innovating creative solutions to address these issues. Many companies based here have components of sustainability already baked into their operations. That’s unique and special.
RPCK has deep client relationships in the Denver area, which was a significant draw for me. I see the Mountain West region as a major growth region for the firm and for impact investing and am thrilled to be joining the firm at this exciting time.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not saving the world?
I tend to think of myself more as the type who comes alongside the heroes, rather than leading the change directly. The rest of the time, my faith and family are my passions, followed by being in the great outdoors, whether it’s skiing, fly fishing or trail running – and Colorado has plenty to enjoy.