Friday, January 14, 2022

Recommended Reading: Wespath CEO's introductory blog

As of January 1st, Wespath, the retirement investments and benefits agency of The United Methodist Church, has a new General Secretary and CEO, Andy Hendren. Hendren replaces Barbara Boigegrain, who retired after 27 years as General Secretary. While Wespath often receives less attention than other boards and agencies, the amount of resources it holds makes it a significant means for United Methodists to carry out connectional ministry, and the transition from Boigegrain to Hendren is a major transition for this important institution. Therefore, Hendren's introductory blog post as CEO is well worth reading.

Hendren's blog post contains two piece of particular interest. First, he explains his philosophy of investing:

"I think of our sustainable investments approach as a 'yes and.' We focus always on our core fiduciary obligation to our participants and investors to maximize returns—seeking alpha, or excess returns compared to our performance benchmarks, wherever we can. And we seek to 'raise the beta'—a strategy to reduce the systemic risks of financial markets and improve market-wide returns—in hopes of lifting all boats in a way that reaps the additional returns needed to care for those we serve."

Within the investment-speak of "alpha" and "beta" in these sentences, Hendren indicates that he sees good investment returns for investors and a positive impact on the broader society not as competing goals but as compatible goals. Given that the relationship between these two goals has periodically been a debate within the UMC, this is a significant statement.

Second, Hendren connects that belief in the compatibility between what's right for investors and what's right for the broader society with John Wesley's teachings. He writes, "To me, our commitment to sustainable investment embodies John Wesley’s general rules: first to 'do no harm' and second to 'do good of every sort, and, as far as possible to all.' In this sense, I think of sustainable investing as our brand of stewardship evangelism."

While it's not necessary for the CEO of Wespath to be a theologian, it is a very positive sign to see the CEO being able to speak the language of the church and to make connections between the church's theological articulation of values and Wespath's investment philosophy.

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