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Investing in the Common Good; SerenityShares

 

August 3, 2017 (Investorideas.com Newswire) Investorideas.com, a global news source and investor resource covering actively traded sectors including cleantech and LOHAS issues an interview with Scott Sacknoff of SerenityShares.

Historically many investors simply deferred to their advisors to identify opportunities for their portfolio. Increasingly, however, investors have been looking beyond returns and want to invest in a manner more consistent with their values. They are seeking gains but in a way that benefits society and the planet. Enter SerenityShares. Their recently launched ETF literally has impact in its name and the catchy ticker of ICAN.

Interview:

Investorideas.com

Scott can you tell us about your latest venture?

Scott Sacknoff of SerenityShares

The SerenityShares Impact ETF was developed to meet the needs of individual and institutional investors that don't want to just invest but deploy their assets into areas that make a difference. The concept of impact investing begins with the solution; what are the key challenges affecting society and the planet and what companies offer products and services that can meet these challenges. To that end we identified 20 themes ranging from clean water, renewable energy, and environmental stewardship to elder care, local access to health services, and community building. Areas that most people would agree focus on the common good. By doing so we've crafted a diversified, dividend paying, easily tradable fund that by design excludes areas such as tobacco, weapons, and fossil fuel exploration.

Investorideas.com

And you've launched it as an ETF, an exchange traded fund?

Scott Sacknoff of SerenityShares

Yes. Our goal was to make impact investing in public equities accessible to everyone. Most impact products target private equity or bond/debt offerings. In fact, one industry group cites that just 6% of impact assets are invested in public stocks. If you are a high net worth individual or institutional investor, you likely have connections to private opportunities. But most investors don't. ETFs provide an easily accessible solution for people to invest in the public equities of firms whose products and services can make an impact.

Investorideas.com

I gather there are benefits for institutions, foundations, pension plans, and family offices as well?

Scott Sacknoff of SerenityShares

Absolutely. From the very beginning we designed the methodology and launched it as an ETF to solve some substantial issues institutions were having - namely something easily tradable, that was passive and transparent, so they know the holdings, and one which could potentially handle large inflows. As more organizations look to ensure that their investments meet goals beyond that of just performance, private deals are getting harder to identify.

Investorideas.com

What do you see as your greatest challenge?

Scott Sacknoff of SerenityShares

Increasing investor awareness and converting that to AUM (assets under management). As a small entrepreneurial player we are up against some of the largest financial asset managers in the world. We believe that we have designed a superior product that better meets the needs of investors. Still, distribution is a critical factor for all fund sponsors.

Investorideas.com

A lot of organizations focus on ESG--environmental, social, governance. For those not familiar with it, how does this fit into the socially responsible universe? How does your fund differ?

Scott Sacknoff of SerenityShares

There are a number of differing socially responsible methodologies. The two most basic are those that employ a negative screen to simply exclude areas of objection like tobacco or a positive screen, such as identifying holdings in a preferred area like solar power. As far as ESG, there are more than 100 different firms with different methodologies that pitch the strategy where every company is assigned a score depending on a list of proprietary factors. In comparison, impact focuses on solutions and a desired outcome to the challenges affecting us all. We chose this over an ESG methodology because ESG doesn't necessary target the solution. A strip mining or tobacco firm could receive a high score for donating to a local charity or having a diversified board of directors, yet most of us are hoping to exclude these areas from our portfolios.

Investorideas.com

Your philosophy sounds similar to the United Nations sustainable development goals.

SMS:  Correct. The UN SDGs were created as a means to characterize the flow of assets and activities from government, charitable organizations, and private investors by region and the global challenges they target. The goal is to get a better understanding of where resources were being allocated and in which parts of the world. Our philosophy and the 20 challenges we identified are aligned with the objectives of these SDGs.

Investorideas.com

A lot more attention is being focused on this area of late. How new is this?

Scott Sacknoff of SerenityShares

Socially responsible investing actually dates back to the original Earth Day in 1970 after which the first renewable energy funds were launched. However it is only recently that the trend has begun to take off and it is really the combination of several factors. The first is that research is showing that investors don't have to sacrifice returns in order to invest in a manner acceptable to their values. This has attracted a lot of institutional attention in Europe and increasingly in the US as activist investors and the institution's boards realize they shouldn't invest in areas detrimental to their business or the world. The second is the transfer of wealth to younger investors and women, and a growing belief among high net worth individuals hoping to make a difference by targeting their investments. Surveys indicate more than 70% of these three groups consider whether their investments will make a difference before deciding where to put their money.

Investorideas.com

How do you identify holdings?

Scott Sacknoff of SerenityShares

Our review begins with all 6500+ public companies listed in the United States on the NYSE and Nasdaq. We review all companies to identify which ones have products or services that meet the detailed definitions of our 20 challenges and which meet a variety of screens related to liquidity and size.

Investorideas.com

What are some of the companies that emerge?

Scott Sacknoff of SerenityShares

The methodology produces a portfolio of more than 100 companies including well-known firms such as Apple (AAPL)—access to information; Tesla (TSLA)—green tech; and CVS Health (CVS)—local access to healthcare, as well as lesser known ones like VCA (WOOF) which provides a range of animal health services.

Investorideas.com

That's pretty diversified. How do investors learn more about the fund and what you are doing?

Scott Sacknoff of SerenityShares

To start with they can go to the index provider's website www.impactindexsolutions.com or our fund website at www.serenityshares.com. The fund website has a copy of our prospectus and a list of the current holdings in the fund. Under the insights tab they can access a free white paper we prepared called, Impact Investing in Public Equities” which hopefully, in simple terms, explains our methodology and our process.

Investorideas.com

Lastly, on July 11th [2017] you had an opportunity that few of us get to do. What was it like to ring the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange?

Scott Sacknoff of SerenityShares

It was an amazing opportunity and not just for me personally. I take my hat off to the exchange for letting us shine the spotlight onto impact investing and make more people hopefully aware of this growing trend

The index website: http://www.impactindexsolutions.com

The fund website: http://www.serenityshares.com

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