Ellevest, the female-focused investment platform headed by Sallie Krawcheck, has launched an impact investment fund that will court high-net-worth women in entertainment and other sectors who want to tailor their stock portfolios to favor companies with good track records on a range of social concerns.
Krawcheck, who was one of the highest-ranking women on Wall Street earlier this decade, said the idea to launch a customizable impact investment platform came after listening to the concerns of women, particularly those in the entertainment industry. She found a strong interest in a service that allows each user to select companies for their portfolios based on their interests, values, backgrounds and philanthropic endeavors. The Ellevest Intentional Impact Portfolios platform bows today.
“As we engaged with women, particularly women on the West Coast in entertainment, they told us they are tired of doing business with companies that haven’t supported them,” Krawcheck told Variety. “They’re tired of investing in companies that don’t have practices that support women.”
Krawcheck, who previously served as CEO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Smith Barney and chief financial officer of banking giant Citigroup, said cutting-edge financial technology tools and the heightened awareness of socially conscious investors make it possible to offer clients choices on such a granular level. Ellevest researchers are also crunching the numbers and researching firms to determine whether they earn significant revenue from firearms sales, for one, or whether they have sustainable business practices or a history of bad labor relations.
Krawcheck calls the initiative the “second-generation of impact investment,” or those funds designed for investors who want their dollars to be deployed in ways that have a benefit to society in addition to delivering financial returns.
“If you say ‘I’m interested in LGBT causes,’ we can provide (investment) overlay for you in that area,” Krawcheck said. “It’s the power of technology that has raised our sophistication level and allowed us to really X-ray a portfolio.”
Krawcheck launched Ellevest on Nov. 7, 2016 — the day before she expected that the nation would celebrate the milestone of electing its first female president. That didn’t happen, but Ellevest turned out to be well-suited for the #MeToo moment when many women have been motivated to take charge of their lives in new and different ways.
Ellevest is a digital investment platform that is available to women of all income strata. The company’s level of direct financial assistance to clients varies depending on the amount invested, but at its core the service aims to make it easier for women with limited means to gain access to investment tools and advice.
“Money represents power,” Krawcheck said. “Ellevest started as a discussion about how much we as women have been losing out because we don’t invest as much of our existing money as men.”
Based in New York’s Flatiron district, Ellevest has grown to about 90 employees. To date, it has about $400 million in assets under management. Among the company’s original financial backers are former DreamWorks Animation chair Mellody Hobson, philanthropist Melinda Gates and tennis star Venus Williams.
“From the types of things that we invest in to the clients we work with — every step of the way we’re getting more money into the hands of women,” Krawcheck said. “I don’t know of a better way to improve the economy or improve society.”