MONTPELIER — In response to growth in its business, Greenvest, a Vermont-based investment firm, has opened an office in central Vermont.
The company is a full-service investment management firm that specializing in socially responsible investing and has offices in Wells and Montpelier; Whatley and Arlington, Massachusetts; and Petaluma, California.
“One of the largest reasons we selected Montpelier for our second Vermont office was that many of our clients were already in the area,” said Craig Walker, manager of the Montpelier office.
“For years we have been based in Wells, but due to our consistent growth felt it was time to also offer a northern office to the many people in this region who are serious about making sure their investments align with their values. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be here and have already had a very positive response,” Walker said.
This year Greenvest investments will exceed $100 million.
“We are definitely riding the wave,” said company founder Todd Walker, Craig’s father. SRI and green investments have grown substantially since Greenvest was founded, not just at his company but also nationwide.
Craig Walker joined the wave this year when he opened the Montpelier office in July. According to Craig, Greenvest provides socially responsible investment management for all types of investment accounts including individual, retirement, inheritance, trusts and employee retirement plans.
“More and more, people want their investments to reflect their values. It doesn’t make sense to choose organic food, recycle, or limit your use of fossil fuels, for example, only to invest your money with companies that pursue the exact opposite,” Todd Walker said.
Todd Walker founded the firm in 2016 after a 30-year career in Boston as a financial writer for the investment, insurance and banking industries and 15 years as the manager of the Vermont office of Progressive Asset Management, at the time the nation’s leading values-based investment firm. His green roots go way back to his high school days in 1970 when he helped organize the first Earth Day celebration at Belmont Hill School in Belmont, Massachusetts.
Todd Walker bought his Wells home in 1998 as a second home, fell in love with the state, and then moved here full-time two years later with his wife Cathy and two sons, Craig and Keith.
Craig Walker graduated from Burr and Burton High School in Manchester, and went to Castleton University for a degree in history. He was a part-time substitute at South-Burlington High School in the Social Studies Department from early 2016 to mid 2017 before joining his father’s company.
Socially responsible investing, according to Craig Walker, means building customer portfolios around the clients’ social goals as well as their financial goals.
“We are already fiduciaries which means we must do what is in a clients best interest for their given financial situation. Social responsible investing, to us, just takes that a step further into our clients passions about various social issues,” Craig Walker said. “To make that more concrete, we are personally avid environmentalists, as are most of our clients, so the baseline and one of the biggest reasons people seek us out, is generally a minimum of a completely fossil fuel free portfolio. This sounds simple enough to do, but is actually rather rare even inside of the SRI industry.”
According to Craig Walker, to make sure Greenvest investments are in fact green, the company subscribes to a wide variety of data sources, including Sustainalytics, a company that rates the sustainability of companies based on their environmental, social and corporate governance performance.
“Even with all these good tools it is a continuous job and requires a lot of time and research, but is a very rewarding process.” Craig Walker said.
“The corporate world and Wall Street have gotten hip to the ‘green revolution’ and there are a large number of green-washing operations out there (companies that say they are green or socially responsible when they are not) including at other investment firms,” he said.
One knock against SRS investing is it underperforms compared to traditional investments.
“There has been a long and pernicious myth of underperformance, largely spread by those who aren’t in the industry and would like to see it fail frankly. In the very beginning the argument had some merit, but as things got off the ground and standards became more established it just no longer holds any water. In fact a number of top-performing mutual funds are and have been SRI funds,” Craig Walker said.
“We at Greenvest can and do build portfolios with similar risk profiles and similar performance to more traditional portfolios and benchmarks, and in many cases exceed them. In fact when we sit down to review performance with a client, that is what we compare ourselves to. We aim for performance in line with their allocation net of our fee each year, and while past performance is no indicator of future returns, we’ve been quite adept at meeting and exceeding our aims in this regard for quite some time,” Craig Walker said.
Greenvest is a member of several organizations that share its goals including Green America, UN Global Compact, VT Business for Social Responsibilities, The Global Goals and Northeast Farming Association of Vermont and is a participant in the State’s VT Green Business Program.
“All our clients share a common set of values around how to treat the planet and each other, and we are experts in reflecting those values in their investments,” Craig Walker said.