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  • Writer's pictureImpact Investing Network

Interview: Jamie Wood reflects on her time with the IIN

Updated: 4 days ago

Seeing Jamie Wood wrap up her involvement within the IIN and move on with new endeavours is bittersweet. Until recently, Jamie was our Community Advisor - playing a fundamental role in the IIN's engagement with the broader community, organising events like the Housing Symposium, and assisting in outreach. Our kaupapa has grown as a result of her contribution to our team. Jamie plans to stay within the impact investing world. She will soon travel to start a Master of Global Affairs at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing after being awarded a top scholarship. 

Before she left, we sat down with her and asked her to reflect on her time with the IIN and her plans for the future. 

Our kōrero with Jamie

How did you discover the Impact Investing Network, and why were you attracted to work here? What was your day-to-day job like for IIN? 

Over the past few years, I have been working as an Investment Adviser. Several of our clients were interested in aligning their investment portfolio with their values and how their money could significantly impact outside of financial return. These conversations were always the most interesting ones, with some leading to epic community-focused projects and engagement with iwi, environmental consultants and impact-focused venture capital firms. But this was only a tiny part of my day-to-day. 

I was curious and hungry to learn more. Impact investing in New Zealand seemed relatively new, but a few organisations were driving education to grow the industry. That's when I came across the Impact Investing Network podcast, website and LinkedIn. 

In joining the team, I was looking forward to understanding where Aotearoa sits on the global stage regarding the adoption of impact investing, the potential of impact investing in Aotearoa, and meeting leaders in the industry. The role varied daily from writing educational blogs and sharing impact investing news to interviewing impact leaders, coordinating our annual symposium, and hosting our impact investment lunches. 

What did you learn about the Aotearoa impact investing ecosystem while working for IIN? 

I learnt how incredible the people in the industry are. I learnt that impact investment can play a part in growing the Māori economy. I realised that there is still a lot of misunderstanding about the impact of investment. Most importantly, I realised how much potential there is for impact investing in Aotearoa and how important it is to utilise that.

There is still a misconception that impact investing is the same as philanthropy. It's not.

There is also a belief that impact investing is incredibly risky. It can be, and some people choose to make high-risk investments with the potential for high returns. But like other types of investments, there's a scale — not all impact investments sit at the same place on the scale. What's important to remember about impact investment is that even if the financial return does not end up high, there's usually still some other return. For example, take a social housing investment — whether there's a financial return for investors there or not, there will be a larger supply of more affordable housing. That's a win in itself.

Because of these misconceptions, "impact investing" isn't mainstream. This means significant pools of money that could be used to impact New Zealand often just sit in the bank significantly. There's been some great press and articles discussing the potential to invest unclaimed funds in impact investments, increasing momentum to invest a larger portion of kiwisaver funds into private assets, and whether those in the governance of Trusts have a duty to invest funds for impact. I hope these discussions progress into further action.

To make this more concrete, below are some examples of impact investment in New Zealand. Unlocking and channelling more capital towards innovative thinking, technology, and collaboration between organisations and industries like the ones mentioned below means we can tackle more challenges in New Zealand, and that the solutions to those challenges are likely to be more sustainable with greater access to capital.

  • Soul Capital provided $1M loan finance to Money Sweetspot, who pull people out of high-cost debt spirals by offering lower interest debt consolidation loans, with incentives to complete financial education.

  • The Icehouse recently led ANDFOODS' $2.7M pre-seed round. ANDFOODS is a spinout company from Massey University, who provide nutritious dairy alternative ingredients with a lower carbon footprint than dairy. 

  • BayTrust, New Ground Capital, Brightlight, Tauranga City Council, Rotorua Trust, TECT and Trust Horizon worked together to set up the Bay of Plenty Housing Equity Fund. The fund's purpose is to focus on much-needed large scale affordable housing supply. 

  • Envirostrat has been working with several organisations and investors to restore ocean ecosystems. 

  • Novolabs, who were celebrated several times at the Hi-tech awards, has developed technology that has the potential to replace traditional wastewater treatment facilities and improve water quality while reducing emissions. Climate VC Fund led their investment round earlier this year.

I've spoken to many young people in particular who want to learn more about impact investing and how they can invest in more value-aligned investments. As investing in private assets is often only available to sophisticated investors, investing via Kiwisaver is a way to break down this barrier. In my eyes, it is the responsibility of these institutions to make impact investment and more value-aligned investments an option.

You have been awarded a prestigious Schwarzman Scholar fellowship to study a master's programme in global affairs at Schwarzman College in Beijing. Please tell the IIN community a bit more about this fellowship, what you plan to do, and how the IIN may have prepared you for this. 

The Schwarzman Scholars programme was created to facilitate a deeper understanding of China, and encourage deeper collaboration between future world leaders for a more peaceful and prosperous future. It was created by Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman and CEO of Blackstone Group, and is the first scholarship created to "respond to the geopolitical landscape of the 21st century." This idea, the Rhodes scholarship, inspired the program, and it was designed in collaboration with several of the world's top universities (Harvard, Oxford, Stanford and others). 

My cohort includes ~150 scholars from 43 countries who will all live and study together in Schwarzman College, within the Tsinghua University campus (China's top university - often challenged by Peking University).

The program includes lectures on leadership, global affairs, and China, Mandarin study, leadership training, a mentorship program, and internships and projects with local businesses and organisations — it'll be a packed year!

A "capstone project" (similar to a thesis) is also included in the programme, which I'd love to link to impact investment in some way. This is partly due to my work for the IIN deepening my curiosity in the sector. I've also reached out to impact investment leaders globally to understand the industry in other countries. I'm excited to continue doing this in China. 

What advice would you give younger professionals looking to enter the impact investing world? Why should impact investing and measurement be a career path young professionals should consider? 

It's a fascinating, essential space that's growing. More corporates are establishing foundations or corporate venture capital arms that focus on impact, iwi trusts and community trusts are looking at ways to incorporate impact investments into their portfolios, impact reports are becoming more commonplace, and start-up accelerators (more often than not) are focusing on climate, positive impact to innovation in communities and other social and environment challenges. 

It's essential to allow the encouragement of entering the industry to younger professionals. Anyone, at any stage of their career, could join the industry. 

There are many career paths linked to impact investment to explore — whether that's working for an organisation that is already focused on creating a positive environmental or social impact, one that wants to drive that change yourself, or starting your impact-focused initiative.

It's an excellent time to become an impact investment and measurement professional, especially in New Zealand, as it's a growing space and a supportive industry. Over the coming decades, we will also see a significant wealth transfer to a generation more focused on social and environmental issues. So, impact investment and impact measurement professionals will be more in demand. 

In terms of practical advice, there are a bunch of free educational resources and courses online; understand different parts of the ecosystem to understand what organisations and roles exist (or don't exist that you could establish), and meet others in the industry both in Aotearoa and overseas, and be vocal about your interests in impact investment — people are pleased to help. Still, they can't help if they don't know your interests.

Do you still plan to be involved in the Aotearoa impact investing ecosystem? If so, how? 

Yes. How? I don't know yet. 

I'm learning more about my family's whakapapa. 

I'm fascinated by the Chinese language, culture, and the country's potential to change the climate significantly. 

I'm interested in understanding the causes of inequitable access to capital. I'd like to know how impact funds and foundations choose their impact areas and how we can more effectively measure the types of investments that will have the most significant positive impact on people.

If I can tie all these into a role, that's my dream.


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