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What’s Fueling Family Offices’ Interest in Impact Investing

On Our Radar: Deals we are paying attention to, for their impact on industry.


Impact investing isn’t on the radar of some family offices yet, but it seems it may be soon as a new generation of investors take over.


“We have a pretty common generational divide,” Elizabeth Browne, vice president and head of business development of Chicago-based DNS Capital, said at the Association for Corporate Growth’s Intergrowth conference in Florida today in response to a question by Karma Network.


DNS is one of several hundred family offices in the country. These private wealth management advisory firms are growing in number and influence, even competing with private equity firms as capital becomes more widely available and investors compete for businesses with promising returns.


Browne explained that Michael A. Pucker and Gigi Pritzker founded DNS four years ago primarily to benefit their three adult daughters, known collectively at the office as “G2.”


“G2 is millennial. They’re very focused on having social impact be at the heart of how they see the world in very positive ways, and the prior generation is much more accustomed to the traditional investing 1.0 model,” Browne said. Indeed, an estimated 77% of affluent millennials have made an impact investment, according to a 2018 Fidelity Charitable study.


As DNS discusses the possibility of having an explicit impact investing mandate in the future, Browne’s team office has been getting up to speed on the area to prepare for what may be an increased focus for the firm in the future.


Vaibhav Saraiya, a co-panelist and principal at Solamere Capital, a multi-family office founded in partnership with Mitt Romney, said that environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) investing isn’t a particular focus for his firm, but families are hesitant to back anything that could be seen as “anti-ESG.”


“Reputational concerns I think for family offices are really top of mind because it is so tightly associated with the founder or family associated with the business,” he said.


The panel, which also included Rick Blank, managing director of Stephens Capital Partners, focused on other ways that family offices differ from private equity firms as well.


The speakers agreed that family-owned business in particular prefer investments from family offices because of their longer-term focus and interest in preserving existing management. They emphasized that each family office is unique, with Browne noting how the culture of DNS has really shaped its investment partnerships.


“Our intangible is really culture. It is so immediately discernible,” she said.


Ambreen Ali is a freelance writer and editor based in the New York City area who specializes in business and technology. She has 15 years of reporting experience, including covering Capitol Hill and reporting from South Asia.

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