What Should I Ask My Portfolio Manager about Values-aligned Investing?

If you’re looking to add values-aligned investments to your portfolio this year, here’s how to broach the conversation


It’s 2022. Do you know how your investments align with your values? 

No? Then it’s definitely time to have a chat with your portfolio manager. 

According to Genus Portfolio Manager/Partner Sue Talbot, questions and conversations about values-based investing are still relatively new in wealth management circles. “Values-aligned investing is a concept that has come up in the last five to six years,” she says. “But it’s on everyone’s radar now.”

A few years ago, Talbot says, ESG investing was all about the E (for Environment). But the past couple of years have seen equal focus placed on the S and G (for Social and Governance). 

“I think this has a lot to do with the pandemic,” she says. “It’s a perfect storm that has highlighted racial injustices, social injustices and has pushed the focus onto social and governance issues.” 

“The pandemic has led the conversation to ‘how can I contribute in some positive way to solve some of these problems?’ Looking at their investments is a good opportunity for people to reassess and ask ‘what can I be doing differently’?” 

– Sue Talbot, Portfolio Manager/Partner, Genus

As investors consider how to make an impact with their investments, numerous options have arisen ranging from fossil-free portfolios, which screen out negative-impact companies, to impact investments, which align with the UN’s sustainable development goals. 

So which is right for you?

The Sustainable Investing Spectrum

Genus Sustainable Investing Spectrum

Investors who are interested in exploring their ESG investment options typically come to us with questions like these:

“I care about _______ (climate change / renewable energy / sustainable cities / empowering women / clean drinking water, etc.) How can I reflect that in my investment portfolio?”

Or conversely:

“I don’t want to support companies that are _______ (polluting / supporting fossil fuel industries / contributing to poor health / ignoring diversity, equity and inclusion, etc.) How can I ensure they’re not represented in my investment portfolio?”

We work with clients to discover where along the sustainable investing spectrum they feel most comfortable. We look at ESG investing as a journey that starts with awareness and divestment, and progresses to impact investing. Any investor can start anywhere along the spectrum, as long as it aligns with their goals, priorities and values. 

We consider these three points on the spectrum as our guide to aligning investments with personal values: 

  • Emerging Net Impact: These funds invest in all industries but companies included are either already low carbon, or transitioning to low carbon. A good option for those who are interested in transition rather than divestment.


  • Applying Net Impact: Focused on cutting out negative impact, these funds remove all companies extracting, processing or transporting fossil fuels, along with other controversial industries. A good place for investors who know exactly what they don’t want to invest in. 


  • Extending Net Impact: High impact investment options, striving to make a significant positive impact. Net impact scores of these investments are higher than 50% on average. A good place for investors who want to use their investments to power positive change. 

When Talbot meets with her clients, for example, she asks a series of questions to help determine where along the spectrum they sit. 

Before your meeting with your wealth manager, consider these questions as a guide to better aligning your investments with your values:

  1. Do you want your investments to be consistent with your values? 
  2. Are there any industries you don’t want to be invested in?
  3. Are there any specific companies you don’t want in your portfolio?
  4. What type of positive impact do you want to have through your investments? For example, do you want to include companies that provide solutions to challenges such as climate action, renewable energy, gender equality, good health and well-being? 

The Role of Risk in Sustainable Investing

Once your values are defined, we need to ensure they align with your financial goals, such as risk tolerance and expected rate of return. And sometimes they simply don’t align.

Balancing your values alignment with your financial goals is extremely important. And once our clients are aware that their portfolio is being managed based on their values, they become better informed investors – more interested in their holdings and with a deeper understanding of their investment strategy.

Whatever your specific sustainability and impact interests, there are many ways you can positively affect change with your investments. The first step is having a conversation with your portfolio manager to figure out the right fit for you.


Interested in exploring how sustainable investing can work for you? Talk to a Genus Advisor today. 


Client impact

“Graduating from a big bank to Genus was one of the best financial steps we've ever taken. Genus has delivered reliable asset growth despite our moderate risk tolerance. As our financial security has grown, we've also been the beneficiaries of a great client experience. The company's communications have been consistently transparent and informative, including educational webinars and a well-designed web portal where we can track investments daily. Most importantly to us, our portfolio manager has always responded swiftly and thoroughly to our questions and requests. ”
Martin T.
"Having relatively diverse financial goals and needs, along with a slight reticence regarding the stock market, Genus skillfully addressed all of our concerns, and put together a truly exceptional plan: Fossil free funds and a diversified investment portfolio, check; An effective Impact investment portfolio that coincides with our hopes and dreams for a better world, check; Professional advice and assistance to create a donor advised charitable fund with immediate charitable receipts for tax purposes, check. Returns? Way beyond our expectations! We even had some fun along the way and certainly enjoyed an incredible two-year start to what will be a satisfying long-term relationship with Genus."
Marc B.
“I love the service I get at Genus.”
Chris H.
“Leslie and I were fellow board members when we met twenty years ago. For the last ten she has been thoughtful in the construction of an investment strategy for my family and is executing the strategy as planned. The team at Genus has met my expectations and are a pleasure to deal with.”
Bob Q.
“For over 15 years, I have provided selection and performance evaluation of multiple investment managers for a significant family office. Leslie and Genus have been foundational for me in my role. I have always found Leslie and her colleagues to be insightful and proactive, and found the performance of their portion of the portfolio to be well above benchmarks. And they have been a great pleasure to work with.”
Douglas H.
“Genus is a very innovative firm. I am pleased to invest in their Fossil Free and Impact strategies that help me invest in line with my values.”
Marnie C.
“Great team of professionals. Excellent website and reporting. Responds to inquiries promptly. Very pleased with the process of changing from another company to Genus as well. Kudos.”
David L.
“Genus consistently provides a good, clearly explained, comprehensive picture of the general economic and financial situation, along with an excellent account of the investment decisions made in relation to this. Genus’ equally strong concern with clients’ questions and requests for further information is also a very important part of the service it provides.”
Allan S.
“Back in 1992 when I found myself at fifty with a substantial amount of money to invest, I knew just one thing — that I didn’t want to contribute to tobacco companies, arms manufacturers, or oil. But over the ensuing years the options for socially responsible investing have become far more sophisticated and I’m very happy that this is a big part of the Genus approach. I also very much appreciate the long-term relationship with my portfolio manager, Mary Lou.”
Ann P.

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