BERKELEY – Managing a socially responsible investment fund is one of the new learning experiences the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business is offering its graduate students for the first time this fall.
The new Haas Socially Responsible Investment (HSRI) Fund came about thanks to a $250,000 gift from Haas School alumnus Charlie Michaels and his wife, Doris. Charlie Michaels earned his undergraduate business degree at the Haas School in 1978 and now serves as the president of Sierra Global Management, an investment management firm in New York City.
The fund will be managed by UC Berkeley MBA and Master’s in Financial Engineering (MFE) students with the advice of an investment advisory committee and a Haas School faculty advisory committee. Its investment philosophy will be to achieve a balance between financial and social or environmental performance.
Students will start investing when the fund reaches $500,000, a goal that Haas’s Kellie McElhaney expects to reach within a few months. The center’s ultimate goal is to raise the fund to $1 million.
“To our knowledge this is the first socially responsible investment fund at a leading U.S. business school,” said McElhaney, adjunct professor and executive director of the Haas School’s Center for Responsible Business. “We expect this experience to train students for careers in socially responsible investing, but we also hope that our students will take their new-found skills to traditional Wall Street firms and raise awareness about social responsibility issues from inside the companies.”
The idea for the HSRI Fund was developed by McElhaney and Charlie and Doris Michaels at the Social Performance Metrics Conference, an event on metrics for corporate social responsibility that was held at Haas School in April 2005 with the participation of the London School of Business and Boston University.
“Doris and I are most gratified to seed the HSRI Fund, as it gives students a chance to apply their understanding of corporate social responsibility to real investment decisions,” Charlie Michaels said. “The fund, and hence Haas, will also capitalize on the attractive returns coming from investments in companies that are socially responsible and have strong financial characteristics.”
“We are tremendously grateful to Charlie and Doris for giving our school this opportunity to do something innovative that adds to our students’ experience with investing for both social and financial value,” said Haas School Dean Tom Campbell.
To gain some theoretical footing in this kind of investing, students managing the fund will be required to enroll in a new elective on socially responsible investing techniques, being offered by the Haas School for the first time this fall.
The HSRI Fund exposes UC Berkeley MBA and MFE students with a keen interest in corporate social responsibility or finance to the investing world’s complexities, challenges, and rewards – both financial and social.
A group of students will be chosen by a special committee to make investment decisions for the HSRI Fund’s portfolio, taking on fund manager and portfolio analyst roles. The students will determine detailed socially responsible investment criteria, with a focus on companies using sustainability principles as a core part of their business strategies, practices and investments.
The Center for Responsible Business will send out an annual call for applications for the HSRI positions to all UC Berkeley MBA and MFE students. The number of students who participate is expected to increase from five to 10 as the fund grows.
In addition to the learning opportunities this fund provides, the center expects that the investment data to be gathered by the fund will help advance the methodology and the understanding of how well socially responsible investment funds can perform.