The Unfulfilled Investor
By Ron Robins
The investor has many reasons for being unfulfilled. Among
them are two years of down stock markets in Canada, and three years in
the U.S. In addition, there was the disconcerting behaviour of analysts
such as Henry Blodget of Merrill Lynch, and the discouraging activities
of executives at Enron, WorldCom, and other companies. Given this environment,
how can the unfulfilled investor be helped?
One way of helping the unfulfilled investor is for investment
advisors and professionals to consider the relevance of their clients'
spiritual and religious values to their portfolios. An important investor
survey points in this direction.
In 2001, the Mennonite Mutual Aid (MMA) and MMA Praxis Mutual
Funds in the U.S. completed the most comprehensive study ever on investors
applying spiritual, religious and ethical values to their investments.
They found that:
- 79 per cent of all investors described themselves as spiritual or
- Over 60 per cent of those describing themselves as religious say
that they try, or would like to try, to incorporate their faith values
into decisions about money
The MMA Praxis survey results are not a surprise considering the public's
overall desire for spiritual and religious development. A Gallup Poll
reported in January 2003 that 'most Americans yearn for spiritual growth.
A large majority (69 per cent) of respondents said they completely or
to a considerable extent feel the need to experience spiritual growth
in their daily lives. Closely paralleling this is the finding that 68
per cent of respondents said they are 'spiritually committed'."
Similarly, in Canada, a Pollara Poll in 2000 found that religion was
important to more than 75 per cent of Canadians. Interestingly, three
times as many respondents said religion and spirituality was growing in
importance in their lives (24 per cent) compared to those who said it
was of decreasing importance in their lives (8 per cent).
So perhaps it is possible that many unfulfilled investors could gain
some additional satisfaction from their portfolios by making investments
that are more in harmony with their spiritual or religious values. One
group of SRI funds whose investment screens not only accommodate those
of the ethical investor, but may also match the particular values of most
religious or spiritual investors, is Meritas Mutual Funds.
Meritas, which began selling funds in April, 2001, is a joint venture
of the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union (Ontario) Limited, the Mennonite
Foundation of Canada and MMA (a sponsor of the above MMA Praxis survey).
Their slogan is indicative of their faith background: 'Helping people
join beliefs with deeds using the tools of socially responsible investing.'
Gary Hawton, chief executive officer of Meritas, says that early in their
formation it was clear that the founders wanted to "tighten-up some
of the screens and to add some additional screens that weren't currently
available in the Canadian market. These include screens related to the
alcohol, gambling and pornographic industries." Obviously, such screens
are often important to the religious or spiritual investor.
These screens are appealing to many unfulfilled investors (spiritual
or not), as the sales growth of Meritas funds demonstrates. For the year
ended February 28, 2003, Meritas Funds were 53rd in net assets of all
mutual funds, but 22nd in net sales for the previous year. Total assets
are now $34 million.
Even in these difficult times, investment advisors that understand the
needs of the spiritual or religious investor may be able to provide some
additional fulfillment to the unfulfilled investor.
Ron Robins, MBA, has a background in
private securities sales, securities analysis, and in spiritual
development. He is writing a book, Investing for the Soul -- Investing for Superior
Profits AND Spiritual Fulfillment, in response to investors asking
him about how to incorporate their spiritual and religious values in investing