Invest in what you believe. That’s the impetus for a growing universe of investment products including managed accounts designed to help financial professionals offer their clients investment choices that align with their beliefs.
“There are a lot of different ways that you can build portfolios to align with people's values,” explained Jeff Branstad, CFA, Model Portfolio Manager. “You have funds that take environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) considerations into the investment process to varying degrees, you have a wide variety of faith-based products across multiple different faiths; you have carbon-free products. At Thrivent, we've chosen to partner with Christian asset management firms in order to build model portfolios that include a faith-based perspective.”
Total global assets in “sustainable” investments have moved up rapidly recently both through new inflows and market appreciation, from about $600 billion in 2018 to about $2.5 trillion in 2021, according to Morningstar.i To this point, U.S. investors make up only a small part of the pot, accounting for just 14% of the total, while European investors account for 82%.
“Sustainable” investing is an overarching term that generally refers to the selection of assets that seek to minimize natural, social, and economic resource depletion and negative impacts. The selection of assets can be done using various and sometimes overlapping techniques including ESG analysis, exclusionary or inclusionary screening, and impact investing, among others.
Although the sustainable investing concept has not yet reached broad familiarity among Americans – only about one-third of American adults are familiar with ESG criteria – among those who are, 77% say they take ESG ratings into account when making an investment decision, according to a recent Yahoo-Harris Poll survey.ii
If the trend toward sustainable investing in the U.S. continues to follow a trajectory similar to Europe’s, financial professionals in the U.S. may want to make plans to meet the challenge. Many have already started: Among all U.S. financial professionals, 79% consider ESG “extremely important” or “somewhat important,” according to the Morningstar report.
Drilling down to faith-based investors
While sustainable funds run the gamut of ethical interests and approaches, faith-based products may appeal to a more focused subset of investors. Thrivent Asset Management, LLC (“Thrivent”) manages three products within the Thrivent Faith-Based Portfolios: Moderately Aggressive, Moderate, and Moderately Conservative.
Thrivent Faith-Based Managed Portfolios are geared toward investors looking to participate in the equities markets while avoiding such areas as gambling, adult entertainment, abortion, and the manufacturing or distribution of alcohol and tobacco products.
Thrivent has a long history of managing model portfolios. Although Thrivent Faith-Based Managed Portfolios were launched in July 2020, Thrivent has been managing other model portfolios since 2007.iii
“The primary difference between these portfolios and the other portfolios we manage is the investable universe,” said Branstad. “The strategic and tactical asset allocations are generally the same across all of our portfolios. But in the case of Thrivent Faith-Based Managed Portfolios, we include Christian asset managers who approach investing with a faith-based perspective.” These underlying managers use exclusionary screening and sometimes ESG analysis in their investment approach.