New investment group emphasizes education

A new club believes that investing can be freed from its greedy image. The Social Investment Team of undergraduates aims to educate its members in the practice of social investing, not only focusing on profit, but also on the consequences of investments.

Unlike other organizations, which use group money to generate profits and create social changes, this group has no collective money to invest, and thus will emphasize self-education about the market.

The team plans to maintain a blog about social investing, and weekly meetings will feature presentations by group members and guest speakers, said David Kastelman ’13, the group’s president and founder.

Additionally, every Monday night, the club will screen the Berkeley Microfinance Simulcast, a live webcast of a microfinance class taught by University of California Berkeley Professor Sean Foote.

The focus on education is what drew in team member Samuel Hamer ’13 said.

“I wanted to get up to speed on innovations in the world of social investing,” added Hamer, who has invested through several microloan organizations on his own.

The Social Investment Team is distinct from other finance groups on campus because it does not plan to engage in pooled asset investing, Kastleman said.

Another finance group, the Elmseed Enterprise Fund, provides small loans and consulting services to local New Haven entrepreneurs who lack access to the resources necessary to start a business.

After Elmseed recipients repay an initial loan of $2,000, Elmseed offers them the chance to apply for a second, $4,500 loan, according to the group’s website.

Mattie Wheeler ’13, a member of Elmseed’s public relations team, said that Elmseed places more emphasis than the Social Investment Team on “consulting with small businesses in the area, as well as on the practical application of microfinance in our community.”

The Dwight Hall Socially Responsible Investment Fund (SRI), too, invests money with social change in mind. The students responsible for the Fund manage $50,000 of Dwight Hall’s endowment and invest it with positive social change in mind.

Kastelman said that he feels that making large investments is not necessary to become familiar with social investing. In fact, he believes that investments like those made by Elmseed and the Socially Responsible Investment Fund may actually be counterproductive to understanding social investing.

“[Dwight Hall’s Socially Responsible Investment Fund] is limited in what it can teach the students involved,” Kastelman said. “Because they’re managing a fund, they can’t experiment much with new investments from year to year. Plus, they all need to agree on what to invest in, so there’s not much room for creativity or independence.”

Kastelman added that his group encourages members to gain hands-on experience by investing their own money. However, these investments will be small – only $25 or $50 at a time.

“We’re college students, with college budgets,” Kastelman said.

He added that members will be encourage to use websites like Kiva, which provides microfinance loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries.

“No matter what profession Yale students go into, we will all have the opportunity and responsibility to invest,” Kastelman said.

The first Microfinance Simulcast will be Monday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m.

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