Luke Wilcox, Founder at Ethos
, a FinTech platform for financial advisors, investors and institutions to align money with causes they care about, including racial justice, climate change, LGBTQ equality, and more. He started this journey while trying to identify investments whose causes aligned with his own and it has grown rapidly since then. Luke holds an MBA from the University of Minnesota as well as an MA degree from the University of Boston. He is a staunch advocate for human rights and has been a board member of the Iraqi and American Reconciliation project.
People are realizing the importance of considering a variety of ESG criteria including social justice and health issues. And they understand that it is good for their business in the long run.
MEDIA 7: You have led tech-start-ups, social impact organizations and strategic engagements for fortune 500 companies. How has all this experience helped you play your current role as a founder at Ethos?
LUKE WILCOX: The corporate strategy work is helpful in thinking about how the ESG market is rapidly evolving, and thinking about where we can provide the most benefit. Having a background in tech helps with the coding and development work. Having a background in data and working with large data sets makes it easier to organize and use big data to solve problems. ESG data is a lot of disparate data and is hard to use for investors, so we are bringing it together and making it useful whether you are a retail investor, financial advisor or asset manager. Working in social impact was helpful in thinking about how to measure impact on a community or the environment in tangible ways.
M7: What differentiates Ethos from its competitors when it comes to ESG data?
LW: 1.) Transparency - underlying metrics and sources are provided to our customers. You can drill down as far as you would like to go.
2.) Personalization - our platform is customized based on the end-user. Whatever causes the user cares about allows us to weigh or tailor all the underlying data, analytics, reporting, portfolio modelling and investment information to those causes.
3.) Agility - we add metrics and causes and reporting analysis based on customer requests (e.g., new metrics on fish and ocean biodiversity using data such as plastic pollution and carbon emissions).
4.) Credibility - we use third-party independent data and NGO data that we believe can be more reliable than company or industry-sourced information. This also helps us mitigate some of the problems with greenwashing.
All sizes of institutions and FinTech are thinking more about bringing ESG into their business model.
M7: In the era of pandemic and climate change, do you think it is about time we moved towards building a more regenerative economy?
LW: Yes - it is well past time. People are realizing the urgency of switching our economy away from fossil fuels and single-use plastics, among other issues. It is becoming clearer and tangible in things like climate-related disasters, wildfires, hurricanes. It feels like there is growing momentum to make that shift.
M7: You have recently partnered with Germany’s PHINEO, tell us about some of the developments that all of you at Ethos are excited about.
LW: Working with Phineo, we are doing reporting and portfolio analysis for wealth management clients in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. They are a great consulting organization focused on impact analysis for philanthropy and investing. With growing interest in impact and ESG throughout the world, we are excited to partner with a European firm as we continue to grow.
M7: What are your predictions on how sustainable investments and Impact Investments can bring a robust change in FinTech in upcoming years?
LW: There is an increasing number of FinTech companies focused on sustainability and impact. We see larger organizations interested in ESG and moving to incorporate impact considerations into their client work, such as their wealth management business. All sizes of institutions and FinTech are thinking more about bringing ESG into their business model.
Go for it - do not worry so much about succeeding or not succeeding. It is great to fail a few times. It is not the end of the world.
M7: In the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, do you think investors will increasingly consider ESG to drive their business growth?
LW: Yes - COVID-19 and other social movements over the last couple of years have exposed long-standing social issues such as racial justice.In public health, for example, COVID-19 has exposed the unequal access to medical care. We see an increasing awareness and momentum to incorporate ESG and impact considerations into business models across industries, not just FinTech. People are realizing the importance of considering a variety of ESG criteria including social justice and health issues. And they understand that it is good for their business in the long run.
M7: What do you think is the biggest ESG investing challenge for asset managers?
LW: The lack of credible, transparent data in your decision making as an asset manager. There is no standard as to what is the correct way to assess an investment from an ESG performance perspective. There is no standard for what is the right set of data. There are emerging standards and expectations but, in many cases, it is still up to individual asset managers.
M7: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?
LW: Go for it - do not worry so much about succeeding or not succeeding. It is great to fail a few times. It is not the end of the world. I previously did a semi-failed start-up and it was a great learning experience. Don’t be afraid to jump in and pursue it, whatever it is.