Last Saturday, we debuted our fund’s mission to an audience at the Yale Impact Investing Conference. The launch team had debated every word over many multiple-hour sessions this past semester. We’re pleased to share it with you here:
The Meng Impact Investment Fund will educate the next generation of impact leaders through hands-on experience investing in the ventures that are critical for a more just and sustainable world.
Our mission is threefold: deliver competitive financial returns, achieve measurable positive impact, and create an enduring community of impact-oriented leaders.
Our launch day panel at the Yale Impact Investing conference last week came from the educate umbrella of our mission statement. In a new and growing field, how might we all hone the skills to be better impact leaders, whether we work in impact investing or not? What are those skills in the first place? And what unique role can a student-led fund play in creating meaningful impact?
We kicked off the session with a special address from Leon Meng ’97, who recently made the generous gift to SOM that catalyzed our fund launch.
Our panelists came from a wide range of investment positions and perspectives. Sheena Strawter-Anthony is Director of Impact Investing Strategy at the Casper Graustein Memorial Foundation. Margaret Berger Bradley (SOM ’93) is the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Ben Franklin Technology Partners. Vincent Caruso (SOM ’19) is an Associate at DBL Partners. And Elizabeth Banes (SOM ’23), who is a member of the Meng Fund launch team, will be joining the Yale Investment Office team upon graduation. We pulled three main threads from their discussion:
1) Real impact requires proximity to the communities your investment, or your work, will be impacting. There’s no place for ungrounded theories of change. “I want to go into the community and ask them, what is the problem, what solution do you think you need, how can we invest in you?” Strawter-Anthony said.
2) Early-career professionals can play a role in educating their teams and their managers about what impact could be. Our student generation sees impact investing as common sense. Berger-Bradley recommended a shift in vocabulary to help convey this to an older generation. Rather than calling it impact right off the bat, “You can ground the conversation in values, as a starting point,” she said.
3) In the near future, all investing will have a layer of impact. “Our thesis is the term impact investing won’t be necessary anymore - it will just be investing,” said Caruso, who was a member of the student team that initiated the Meng Fund in 2019.
In many ways, that’s the shift our team aims for. We don’t expect that every student participant will go to work for a fund that explicitly calls itself an impact investor – but we do hope for a world where every graduate of SOM is considering the impact of their business decisions on individuals, society, and the planet.
We hope this community that we’re building will be large, and inclusive. At scale next year, with complete deal teams focused on education, healthcare, financial inclusion, and climate, we envision around 50 students will be involved with the Meng Fund, dipping their toes into the world of impact investing.
“I’m excited to think ahead to a room that will be full of people within ten years who have been connected to this fund,” Banes said, looking out at the conference audience. “It’s the perfect vehicle for the school to effectuate its mission.”
We hope many of you will be part of building that community. Please sign up to stay in the loop on our new website, and tell a friend or colleague you think would be interested in learning more!