Not only investors, but financial advisors as well, admit they need to know more about socially responsible investing options, according to a survey by TIAA released Monday.

Thirty-six percent of advisors concede they do not know how to adequately evaluate performance of socially responsible investments (SRI). In addition, 40 percent of affluent investors say they do not know if they have SRI in their portfolios.

This occurs at the same time that 77 percent of affluent investors say they want their assets to have a positive impact on society.

The TIAA Global Asset Management survey included 275 advisors and 1,103 investors with at least $100,000 in investable assets, excluding retirement accounts, who are working with an advisor.

“While interest in responsible investing continues to grow, a significant portion of individual investors and their advisors are still unsure about what it means to implement these strategies in today’s investment portfolio,” says Amy O’Brien, managing director and head of TIAA Global Asset Management’s Responsible Investment team. “Too many investors still question how to define responsible investing and whether they can produce competitive returns.”

Jill Popovich, managing director, Individual Advisory Services, at TIAA, adds, “We find that talking to clients about their personal values as well as their financial goals helps build deeper and lasting relationships. Often clients are pleased to learn that they can have a well-diversified portfolio with responsible investments.”

Seventy-four percent of investors say they would be more likely to work with an advisor who could give them competitive investment returns from investments that also made a positive impact on society and 65 percent of investors would be more likely to stay with an advisor who could discuss responsible investing with them, the survey says.

Meanwhile, 61 percent of investors say their advisor has not brought up the topic of responsible investing in the past twelve months.

“This disconnect suggests that too many advisors forgo a chance to develop stronger relationships with their clients as a result of not communicating about these strategies,” says TIAA, an investment, retirement and financial services organization formerly known as TIAA-Cref.

Seventy-four percent of advisors say they are interested in learning more about responsible investing options. At the same time, investors and advisors are doubtful of the availability of best-in-class products. About 51 percent of advisors say responsible investing does not provide the same rate of return as other investment strategies, and 57 percent of investors agree.

“Indexes that follow SRI guidelines delivered long-term performance returns comparable to the broad-market benchmarks,” says O’Brien. “Incorporating environmental, social and governance criteria in individual security selection can in fact deliver market competitive returns.”


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