Investing in the Community

The Question from Socially Responsible Financial Advisor, Ben Bingham:

Where should you focus investments in each sector of the economy? First, look at the priority in the Financial sector.

At 3Sisters we have chosen to prioritize community building in this sector.  A consequence of this is that we choose to invest in banks that are primarily focused on local needs so that local money stays local. Unfortunately it has been a hard time for such banks and many are being swallowed up by franchise banks greedy to scale. On the other hand the focus on community building also allows us to look at financial institutions that are beneficial in other parts of the world for investors who want to think globally and act locally in remote geographies. Microvest’s Short Duration Fund is a great example of this because they provide capital to financial institutions that they have vetted for financial stability and reliability, but more importantly for their deep knowledge and trust of local entrepreneurs who borrow small amounts of money from them to establish or improve their businesses. It is time to be creative in developing other such platforms to increase the circulation of money for the common good both locally and globally.

Big box retail, “too big to fail” banks are useful in many ways, I’m sure. Unfortunately they have become the biggest leaches of local capital next to gas stations, taking money that could benefit the local economy out of circulation to fatten the wallets of corporate managers somewhere else.  The “move your money” movement inspired by Occupy Wall Street awakened consciousness to this fact, leading billions back to local community banks and credit unions.  Meanwhile local currencies have been sprouting up in many municipalities to encourage money to stay local as well. Switzerland has used a local currency for business to business exchanges for almost a century, stabilizing that country in times when great turmoil surrounded them in Europe.  Another break-away movement in this space is “Slow Money” which is developing ways to finance local food systems beyond the one-farm-at-a-time CSA model. My wife, Jenny and I, were on the first steering committee of the pioneering CSA in Temple-Wilton mentioned in this history.

Altogether the focus in the financial space is to maximize capital resources for a better world:  Investing and gifting support for creative innovation, lending for infrastructure and capacity building for the common good, and cash money systems that facilitate access to capital for all. This is what inspires each of our equity, debt, and cash funds in the Scarab family of funds. These are the keys for a healthy global community and for healthy local communities globally.

Ben Bingham is the Founder & CEO of 3Sisters Sustainable Management, LLC. Mr. Bingham assisted in the formation and founding of the company after several years managing investments for wealth advisors. Starting in 2000, he developed a unique portfolio management strategy for socially conscious investors at Legg Mason and Citigroup/Smith Barney

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