Sometime early this year, I finally became a member of Oscar Isaac’s fandom. His standout performance in A Most Violent Year was something to behold. Abel Morales, his character in the movie, resists undue pressure to play-dirty in the oil business. Throughout, he takes the moral high ground and fights with a good conscience.
In my mind at least, the movie excellently depicted the never-ending morality wars inside real market places. For example, while ethical funds have steadily gained prominence, vice funds (funds investing in tobacco, gambling and alcohol industries), on the other hand, have also begun gaining momentum. Though corporate governance principles are well understood, corporate vices (read slush money, sub-standard goods, hoarding, hush money et cetera) are still very much the norm.
That said, ethical investing (and its many variations including Islamic investing), though far from being standard, must continue the good fight. And today, I am glad to talk about the newest variation on the block; biblically responsible investing (BRI).
What’s BRI? This is an investment decision making process that applies Christian values to issues facing shareholders and stakeholders regarding moral and social principles. Though still a tiny portion of the total assets invested, funds using BRI practises are growing exponentially.
Earlier this year, Ambassador Advisors, a Sh52 billion advisory firm serving the Christian investor market, made headlines by converting all of their assets under management to align with biblically responsible investing best practices.
Similarly, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has invested over 60 percent of its Sh41 billion fund in companies not involved in abortion, pornography, homosexuality or other activities the church considers a violation of biblical standards. The largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, also screens the approximately Sh1.1 trillion in its investment portfolio using BRI principles.
The call to invest using BRI is simple. When you buy a stock in a company, you’re more than just a shareholder, you’re an owner. That brings with a higher responsibility. Guiding questions such as “What would Jesus do?” “Is this right and just?” “Would God be pleased?” become central. Whether steering a personal portfolio or an institutional one, these questions govern the investment process.
To demonstrate success in this Philip Caret, a pioneer mutual fund manager, serves as a good example. By screening investments on ethical grounds, he guided the fidelity fund surviving not only the 1929 stock market crash and the great depression but went to become one of the largest mutual funds. Wondering how to start this journey?
First re-acquaint yourself with what Christian values are all about. Then be authentic; practice what you believe in. Though you’ll find the investable market becoming a lot smaller, you’re rewarded by a much fuller experience.
Is BRI the new cornerstone for capitalism? Well, time will tell. But judging by its rapid growth means Christians can no longer be ignored and deserve to be taken seriously. To Christians, consider the words of Morpheus to Neo (Matrix): “Sooner or later you’re going to realise, just as I did, that there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”