In the Works - The Inner Life of Money

Lisette Schuitemaker is an author on personal and spiritual development. She previously served as Chair of the Board of Social Venture Network Europe, the Findhorn Foundation and the Center for Human Emergence NL. A friend of Pymwymic since its inception, she invests in impact through several funds, as well as directly in social enterprises that centre systems-change and education.

Marilou van Golstein Brouwers is an impact investment pioneer, with over 30 years  experience in developing global impact investment funds. Marilou was Chair of the Management Board of Triodos Investment Management, and member of the Board of Directors of the GIIN (Global Impact Investing Network) until 2019. An important partner to Pymwymic for many years, she recently set up her own advisory company which she runs next to her continuing non-executive work.  

In this introductory interview, Lisette and Marilou speak about impact investing and the project they have embarked on together: a book titled ‘The Inner Life of Money’. The idea for the book comes from one of Pym’s co-founders, the late Margaret McGovern, who sought to understand what keeps people from putting their money behind their ideals. As part of their research to answer this question, Marilou and Lisette have compiled an in-depth survey, gathering information from people of all ages, worldwide.

To contribute to The Inner Life of Money Survey, please click below! The survey is open until March 1.

What makes someone an impact investor? 

Marilou: There is a difference between being an impact investor and impact investing. At the GIIN, this was actually a much debated topic! To me, being an impact investor is a commitment. I don’t think you can call yourself an impact investor if impact investing is only a small part of your portfolio, whilst the majority of your investments generates negative impact. 

Lisette: I agree, but also impact investing is part of a bigger conversation on money. How do our ideals, and our desire to contribute, shape our financial decisions? To me, being an impact investor is about making a conscious choice towards putting your energy towards something you stand for. What this practically looks like in an investment portfolio is diverse and personal, and can take many forms in everyday life. 

There is a huge growth in purpose driven companies in recent years. Do you believe this focus will cancel out the need for impact investing, as a separate form of investing? 

Marilou: Of course, it would be ideal for all business and investing to generate positive impact and I think this acceleration is definitely in motion! The younger generation is pushing for impact and the banks are responding. I am also seeing institutional investors, like pension funds, who are still very dominated by financial returns, making changes from within, through their younger employees. I personally think the growing gap between the real economy and the stock market, means we are headed towards a huge shift, one that will make us consider what we truly  value. 

Lisette: I remember, many years ago, when I first heard a conventional bank talk about sustainability, I didn’t believe them. That is different today. The impact conversation is no longer niche, nor are those who advocate for a holistic perspective seen as naive. A friend of mine recently said: “change comes slowly and suddenly” and this is exactly how I feel about this shift towards finance for purpose – it is going too slow, but one day it will suddenly be the norm.

What big transformations in thinking can you attribute to your generation? 

Marilou: I grew up in the 60s, and did my first protest at 15 years old. We sought freedom and wanted to change the established order! So I think a ‘liberating energy' was brought to the money conversation by that generation. 

Lisette: My parents were of the post-war generation. They sought to rebuild society and saw business as a way to alleviate poverty. I am a typical baby boomer so yes there was/is definitely still a belief in the power of business amongst my generation. At the same time, after the 60’s, some of us also began to thoroughly question traditional business models and conventional economic thinking. I think my generation prompted the first big conversations on systemic change on a global scale. 

What are your thoughts on impact investing versus paying more taxes?

Lisette: I consider it an honour and a duty to pay taxes, but would love to see a change in what we tax. A great friend of mine and thought-leader in this field, Eckart Wintzen introduced the concept of Ex’tax - taxing the use of natural resources whilst lowering the tax burden on labour. It is a truly inventive way of using taxes to protect the earth and inspire the people on it. Tax for impact! 

Marilou: We need taxes, for the common good and for redistributing resources. But ultimately with taxes, you cannot steer or give direction as an individual. I believe specific change is best accomplished through individual investments, for it is a more pioneering force. But I agree with Lisette, there are so many reform opportunities in taxing itself. I love the idea of basic income, for example.

Money is a complicated topic for many, so much so that we often steer away from it. Your book wants to do the opposite. How do you most notice the (cultural) lack of transparency around money? 

Marilou: There is a lot of fear around transparency. In my many years working in impact I have come to understand how unaware this makes us about the way money moves through us. We hide from others and from ourselves. Many worry that their friendships will change, their security will be at risk or that they might not be able to handle the responsibility of it. So we don’t ask the important questions, such as; what is actually financed with the money in our savings account, or is my bank investing congruent with my values? Even in our survey, we notice this: people have some trepidation filling it in. Perhaps they are somewhat ’scared’ of what they will find, once they allow themselves to look? In this world, being out in the open about what you have and what you are doing with it, requires courage.

To gather data for the book, you created a survey. What have been the most interesting take-aways so far?

Lisette: I think, quite surprisingly, it has activated people’s thinking about money in ways we didn’t expect. Rather than a survey, it is perceived as an invitation to consider one’s relationship with money. We are still in it of course, but so far, we have noticed that more women than men have come forward. We think this may have to do with the inspiring Women’s Wealth Matters sessions facilitated for Pym by Corinne Heijn. These have nurtured a safe space for many women to ‘come out’ with their money story, and engage with initiatives like ours. 

Do you two have similar ideas on money?

Lisette: We are in the process of finding out. When Margaret’s husband, Frank van Beuningen, asked us to do this project, we didn’t know each other very well actually. Luckily, conducting the first round of 30 interviews on zoom together, helped greatly in changing that! In more general terms, my wake-up call to impact investing came later than Marilou’s and I come to this book as an inheritor whereas Marilou is an expert pioneer in the field. I believe our different perspectives will enrich the book, as much as they have our conversations. 

Marilou: We share ideals and a similar outlook on life but we have different (professional) backgrounds, which I agree, just adds to the conversation. It makes it even more exciting to delve deeper into what has shaped our individual way of thinking about money, how we have chosen to apply our worldview and how we see the emergent future. I can’t wait to see how it will all unfold itself in the book! 

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