Cambridge Associates’ MRI initiative may be sign of growing trend

Financial advisers Cambridge Associates have launched a partnership with the F B Heron Foundation, the Anne E Casey Foundation and the Meyer Memorial Trust Foundation to develop a mission-related investing (MRI) research initiative. The areas under investigation will include socially responsible investments, negative screening, climate change strategies, clean tech and microfinance, said CEO Sandra Urie.
Cambridge intends to expand its knowledge of key players in the MRI space and build a manager database. The firm will produce annual performance reports for each type of MRI strategy, such as Sudan-free and clean tech. It will define best practice for institutions regarding the establishment and implementation of an MRI programme.
The launch of the project seems to reflect something of a change of mind at Cambridge Associates. In an article in the September 2006 edition of Alliance, Cambridge’s Kyle Johnson (who will be working on MRI) was quoted as saying: ‘We do not intend to proactively raise the issue [of MRI], other than to let clients know that we are here to help them in this area if they are interested.'[1]
Indeed, it may be a sign that the move towards MRI is gathering momentum among foundations. Luther Ragin of the Heron Foundation thinks so, believing that appetite among foundations and endowments for mission investing is ‘at an inflection point’. The quality of investment vehicles has improved and several consultants are increasing their coverage of MRI. ‘A number of major institutional players are really coming off the fence for the first time,’ he told delegates at a forum for responsible investing in New York recently.
Of the three foundations that are helping to finance Cambridge’s research, Meyer has $40 million in investments aligned to its mission (around 5 per cent of total assets) but wants to increase that. Heron has $85 million (26 per cent of assets) in mission investing, which it wants to increase to 50 per cent by the end of 2010, while the Casey Foundation set aside $100 million a few years ago for MRI, of which around $70 million (2 per cent of assets) has been deployed. The three are also promoting the ‘2 per cent for Mission Campaign’, encouraging foundations to invest 2 per cent of their assets in MRI.
1 Andrew Milner, ‘Foundation investment managers, it’s up to you’, Alliance, September 2006.
Source
Foundation and Endowment Money Management, 31 January 2008.
For more information
For more about the Cambridge research, contact Kevin Stephenson at kstephenson@cambridgeassociates.com
For more about the 2 per cent for Mission Campaign, contact Christa Velasquez at the Casey Foundation at cvelasquez@aecf.org

 


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