2,000-year-old investing strategy

2,000-year-old investing strategy

The Catholic Register
Updated  Monday, August 15, 2005
Ron Robins has an approach to the market that′s about 2,000 years old. “As you sow, so shall you reap,” opines the founder of Investing for the Soul, a Toronto-based company that tells people how to employ their religious values when they invest.

There′s more to it than quoting St. Paul′s admonitions to the Galatians. Ethical investing is hard work, Robins told The Catholic Register. It requires some clear thinking and serious research.

But it′s not impossible, and it doesn′t mean settling for lower returns, he said.

“People who are interested in religion and spiritual development should be at the forefront of socially responsible investing,” said Robins.

Most investors, 80 per cent according to some surveys, do want to know more about incorporating their values into their portfolios. But they are put off by the dominant investment culture. Only eight per cent of investment advisors bring up values issues with their clients, according to Robins.

Few investment professionals are comfortable talking about the ethical and the spiritual. They talk numbers, trends, the next big thing. While they typically advise investors to think long term, the daily business press, the stock tickers on the bottom of so many TV screens, the Internet chat rooms, headlines about quarterly results and anticipated quarterly results all conspire to drown out the long-term mantra.

Robins, who has practised transcendental meditation for 35 years, knows how to counter the buy-now-quick-profits mantra with one of his own.

In his seminars, Robins provides investors with simple tools for making a systematic inventory of their values. When they′re done, investors should have a neat, clear hierarchy of values they would like to see reflected in their investments.

Robins then shows people in his seminars how to translate that list of values into investment decisions. And if you′re true to the system you will probably make money, according to Robins. When investors lose money it′s usually because they are buying stocks based on the latest headlines and gut feelings, rather than research and reflection, he said.

“Most investors do not perform anywhere near the market averages,” he said. “They get caught up in the mass psychology.”

Values are not the mass psychology, and research often runs counter to the headlines.

The key is learning how to do the research. About half of the largest 500 companies now produce annual environmental or social reports. Robins coaches his students in how to read those reports, in addition to annual financial statements, company web sites, company reports by Bay Street analysts and other sources.

Robins admits that investors could learn to do this research on their own, but he believes it simply helps to have an experienced coach to help things along.

“I shortcut the process,” he said.

For Robins, who spent years as an analyst before he launched Investing for the Soul, encouraging investors to invest according to their values fits with his own values.

“I really want to see spiritual values reflected in society,” he said.

You can learn more about how Robins incorporates the spiritual in investing at his web site, Bullet8 http://www.investingforthesoul.com. His next three-hour seminar is at Toronto′s George Brown College, Sept. 29, 6:15 to 9:15 p.m. The seminar costs $91. Register by e-mailing Bullet8 cebusiness@gbrownc.on.ca

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