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Protecting Our World: Bringing the Battle To The Boardroom

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My uncle served on the front lines of Germany in World War II. And, like most heroes of his generation, he didn't talk much about it. But as the years passed, I was lucky enough to hear a few first hand experiences of that time in history. Usually over early morning scrambled eggs when he and my father would visit.

One of those stories was about a fellow serviceman who became a lifelong friend. This man had been a POW. Then escaped. Forced to hide in a cave for nearly two years, he survived only through the bravery and kindness of a German family who risked their own wellbeing to sneak him food.

Hearing this story taught me that the battles of justice and equality are not always fought on the front lines. And sometimes you find allies where you least expect them.

In today's fight for justice and equality, which seems to have just ramped up to a new level, I have found an ally in one of the most unexpected places of all. On Wall Street.

Here, among the wolves we hear so much about, is a pack of lionesses. Strong, fierce, forward thinking women who are doing their part to protect the pride known as humanity.

They are The Lily Group at Morgan Stanley: An all-female team of financial advisors who collectively embody the mind of a financial wizard and the heart of an activist.

These ladies are everything you would expect from strong, sharp, socially minded female leaders. They nurture talent. They embrace clients as their own. And they know how to roll up their sleeves and go into ball buster mode when it comes to driving success. They help create financial wealth for their clients. They just strive to do so in a way that improves the planet and life for those of us who walk upon it.

As a team that includes a mother-daughter duo, the women of The Lily Group understand the value of family. There is real humanity within their walls. Holidays are sacred. Children are welcome in the office. In fact, open a drawer and you just might find some crayons to keep kids occupied while parents meet with their advisors.

Tapping into the fierce female tendency to care for our own, The Lily Group aims to manage money in ways that protect our resources, our minorities and our civil rights through purpose-driven impact investing.

Impact investing, an investment approach that aims to generate market-rate returns while demonstrating positive environmental and social impact, has become quite popular in recent years. But The Lily Group did not jump on the impact investment bandwagon. They navigated its covered wagon.

True pioneers in the movement to invest according to your values and convictions, they have blazed a trail that clearly shows making money is not always driven by greed. Sometimes it is driven by awareness, responsibility, advocacy, ethics, environmentalism, and humanity.

These women have been working to prove that making money and making a difference are not mutually exclusive since the days of the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

At that time, The Lily Group took a stance by consciously divesting from South African gold funds when major players were determined to invest in gold. And although divestment was just one weapon in the battle against Apartheid, it was an effective one that played its role in bringing such injustice to an end.

From the beginning of the gay rights movement, The Lily Group has leveraged their clients' voices as shareholders to help push the recognition of domestic partnerships. Ask them and they will tell you that June 26, 2013, the day the Supreme Court recognized the legitimacy of same-sex marriage on a federal scale, is one of their proudest.

The list goes on. In the last year alone, they have worked with their clients through socially responsible investing to support measurable minimum wage reforms, create corporate commitment to sustainable sourcing of natural resources and renewable energy, help end slave labor and improve working conditions in the supply chain, reduce the gender wage gap and increase workplace and boardroom diversity.

Given the power and influence business is going to have moving forward in the new political landscape, taking up the battle for justice, conservation and equality in the boardrooms will be essential. Beyond financially supporting social responsibility, your impact investment dollars can help shape social and environmental initiatives and corporate behavior through proxy voting and drafting shareholder initiatives.

Your money has power. Even if you don't have a lot of it. The Lily Group requires no minimum investment. And beyond that, as of 2014, there are over 925 distinct funds that adhere to strong positive Environmental, Social and Governance criteria with asset minimums starting under three hundred dollars.

But don't consider impact investing just because it is good for the world. Do it because it is good for you personally as well. According to the world economic forum, impact investing has grown from 12 million to over 400 billion in the last decade. A meteoric rise in behavior like this in the financial world happens for only one reason: Because it makes money. Impact investing is a smart and savvy way to create financial security.

Companies that are considered leaders in socially responsible policies are leading the pack in stock performance by an average of 25% over the long term. And other studies show socially responsible investing has outperformed the S&P 500 for decades.

Individually, we can make a difference. As groups, our power grows. Take for example the millennial generation. This particular group is about to receive one of the largest transfers of wealth in modern history. A projected $30 trillion in financial and non-financial assets will pass down from Baby Boomers to their heirs in North America alone. This kind of money, when invested with the help of professionals focused on positive impact and deserving of our trust, has the potential to put Wall Street in a position to help defend those of us living on Main Street.

Like I said, we can often find allies where we least expect them.

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