For financial advisors with questions about integrating sustainable investing into their client conversations and portfolios, Paul Ellis Consulting in Beacon, N.Y., has answers.

Ellis, a certified financial planner and one-man shop, has focused on sustainable investing strategies for his own clients for the past decade. About three years ago, he started working with other advisors to help them integrate sustainable and responsible investment strategies into their practices.

One such advisor is Geri Pell of Pell Wealth Partners, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, with offices in Manhattan and Rye Brook, N.Y. Pell says she had been interested in using sustainable investments in her clients’ portfolios for a number of years, but didn’t pursue it vigorously because it was an area she wasn’t overly familiar with. “When I realized that it matched with my values and the values of my clients and that you didn’t need to lose a rate of return, I knew that I wanted to go deeper.”

What Ellis brought to Pell’s practice was his screening methods and research on different investment opportunities within socially responsible investments.
“Paul has very deep, close relationships with providers in the socially responsible investment area,” Pell says. “He spends a lot of time talking to the mutual fund companies, doing the research, the reading. I look at it as though Paul is a member of my team and this is his specialty.”

Ellis says he started his consulting business because he saw a disconnect between client interest in sustainable investing and advisor willingness––or lack thereof––to address the issue with clients.

“There are a number of studies in the industry that suggest that somewhere between 60% and 70% of investors are interested in finding out more about sustainable investing when asked, but only about 30% to 35% of advisors ever asked the question,” he says. “To me, there’s huge opportunity being missed there.

“One of the first hurdles I have to clear with advisors is to get them to just ask clients the question of whether they’re interested in finding out more about this,” Ellis continues.

Impact investing is an umbrella term that refers to environmental, social and governance investing (ESG), and sustainable investing and socially responsible investing (SRI), explains Pell. “You have an impact when you invest in socially responsible investing.”

Ellis says he’s not an SRI purist, and he believes it’s important to be practical when incorporating SRI into a portfolio. “When all is said and done, it’s still very much a one-on-one, very personal, very direct relationship with the client,” he says. “What I provide is the expertise in this particular area that advisors can bring to the table for their clients’ benefit.”
––Kathy Lynch