Money Follows Mission: Executive Council Chooses a New Investment Advisor

Both the world and the Diocese of Indianapolis have changed significantly in the last seven years, and last summer, Executive Council decided to choose a new financial advisor who could help the diocese respond to those changes by aligning its investments with its mission.

Diocesan treasurer Laurel Cornell helped lead the search process, assisted by SpringReef, a New Jersey-based consulting firm.

“We couldn’t have done this work without them,” Cornell said. “They prepared a professional RFP [request for proposals] which spoke about our desires for ethical investing. This attracted firms with similar interests. They also searched for investment advisors with portfolios similar in size to ours. They introduced us to many firms we would not have been able to identify on our own. We ended up with several excellent candidates.”

The extensive search for a new investment advisor included “reading and analyzing complex technical data” and “listening to how firms presented themselves in response to our requests for information about what they, as firms, were doing to increase equity and diversity among their own employees,” Cornell said. At its December meeting, Executive Council approved the selection committee’s proposal to hire Marquette Associates, an employee-owned Chicago-based firm that provides independent advice to institutional investors and non-profit organizations.

The goal, said Cornell, is to update the diocese’s investment policy, for the first time since 2014, to incorporate principles that are variously referred to as ethical investing, socially responsible investing (SRI), environmental, social, and governance investing (ESG) and impact investing.

“This means thinking about our investments in a new way,” she said. “It’s not just a pot of money that has economic value, but no other meaning. It is a pot of money that we, as investors, can invest in such a way as to make the world a better place. It’s a challenge to learn how to think this way, but it is a challenge we must take up in order to be true to our mission.”

Rose Ann Grasty, a member of Executive Council from St. Timothy’s, Indianapolis, served on the selection committee. “It was impressive to see the way that Marquette responded to our mission and goals that were not related to the financial gains of our current funds,” she said. “We have seen the value of reviewing the connection between the direction of the diocese and our investment process.  They both must be reviewed and updated to be certain they are moving in the same direction.”

Now that Marquette is in place, the work of updating the investment policy to align with the diocese’s mission will begin in earnest. The finance committee expects to present a revised investment policy statement at the May Executive Council meeting.

“Money follows mission, and as the diocese’s values and mission has gotten clearer, interest in the ways our diocese’s investments also follow that mission has increased,” the Rev. Cara Spaccarelli of St. Christopher’s, Carmel, who served on the selection committee. “Marquette Associates impressed us with their interest in getting to know where we’ve been, in terms of investments, and where we want to go, even when we aren’t quite clear on the destination.  We anticipate that they will be helpful navigators in the years ahead.”

© 2021 Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis