Are You A Socially Conscious Investor?

In 2018, Bank OZK launched Sustainable World Investments, an investment offering committed to fostering a healthier, more socially-conscious planet.

In the conversation below, SVP Trust Investment Officer Michelle Garey illustrates what makes their strategy exciting for investors.

Interviewer: What is Sustainable World Investments?

Michelle Garey, Bank OZK SVP Trust Investment Officer: Investing with a commitment towards economic, social, and environmental well-being. Sustainable Investing is a discipline that considers ESG criteria, or environmental, social, and corporate governance criteria when selecting investments. Every company, every stock that is publicly traded, is scored this way. Several agencies track all this data.

I: So there’s serious research behind this. There are experts both within Bank OZK and outside of Bank OZK who investigate how sustainable different companies that one could invest in are, right?

MG: Exactly right. Several different data services rank all of the ESG criteria for every publicly traded company.

They track it, and that’s available to the public or through subscription. Investment managers who manage with a mandate to consider ESG criteria specifically invest in companies with higher ESG scores. These investment managers screen out all the possible companies they could invest in. We identify those with the highest ESG scores, then select better investments out of that smaller list.

I: So companies that don’t fit our standards are ruled out?

MG: Exactly. But this has changed in recent years. Because of data now readily available and tracked from several different sources, an investor can look at companies with positive scores. In the old days, the only thing we could do for investors was help them avoid the worst companies.

Now we find out about positive things companies do. Maybe they have a lot of women and minorities in their executive management team, or a history of positive labor relations or workforce safety. They can get a higher score and inclusion in the smaller subset of potential investment in this kind of strategy. It’s a way for investors to identify these companies and to allocate capital towards companies who are making positive change.

I: It sounds like companies are taking notice too.

MG: I think any corporation not considering how to raise their ESG score is missing the boat. Of course companies want to attract capital and help their stock price go up. One way you could do that is to be conscious about your ESG score!

I: You mentioned companies missing the boat. I think it’s safe to say that investors are missing the boat if they’re not taking advantage of this exciting moment too. The tides are turning.

MG: Absolutely. It’s as much about performance as conscientiousness. Folks who hear about this realize they can put their dollars to work to make the world a more positive place and still perform well—or better—than the broader market. It’s a no-brainer for investors.

To get started with Sustainable World Investing, contact Michelle Garey CFA, Bank OZK’s SVP Trust Investment Officer, by emailing [email protected].

Bank OZK Marketing Editor Greg Silber conducted this interview.