Traditionally, investment banking is seen as altruistic — but two UNC students hope to make an impact on that image with a new club.
Impact investing focuses on companies seeking a profit, as well as a social return. Junior Antonio Petrazzuolo, an economics and applied math major, came up with the idea to start the Impact Investing Club while interning for UBS Wealth Management, a Swiss banking company. He worked closely with a team geared toward socially- and environmentally-conscious companies and realized the need to raise awareness of impactful investing.
The club is a learning opportunity for its members about this branch of investing, Petrazzuolo said. Every member is given $100,000 of simulated money, and they are taught how to identify what companies are seeking a social return through comparative analysis.
“They’re able to invest in companies based off a certain criteria set,” Petrazzuolo said. “It basically shows them — within the industry — how companies perform among their competitors in terms of sustainability.”
As the club’s founder and president, Petrazzuolo oversees which simulated investments are both financially and socially sound. He said the club is more about exposure to the idea of impact investing than it is about teaching members the exact details of the practice.
Petrazzuolo launched the club in November of 2018, and since then, it has become a group of academically diverse students ranging from STEM majors to business school students. Petrazzuolo said the stereotype of “B-school snakes” does not apply to the club's goals since it promotes sustainability while still promoting business.
“These people — especially in the business school — they’re very open to this,” he said. “They think this is the future. It’s not just going to be a one-time thing; it’s going to be existing for a very long time.”
Economics major and junior Dean Nadler is a member of the club and also writes its bi-monthly newsletter. Nadler and Petrazzuolo met in an economics class they had together, and Nadler's role focuses on spreading awareness about impact investing.
Petrazzuolo said it's a prominent sector, with impact investment assets reaching $12 trillion in 2018.
"You would think that somebody would know about (impact investing), but really only two or three out of a 400-person class had any knowledge about it,” he said.
One of the club’s main goals is to make impact investing the model for all investments. For business school students especially, this is uncustomary because impact investing has only recently become prominent in the global market. However, Petrazzuolo’s hope is all investing will become more socially conscious.
“One thing Antonio always says is that he doesn't want the term to be ‘impact investing,’” Nadler said. “We want it to be eventually just ‘investing.’ That separate sector should be the sector.”
The club is overseen by Carol Hee, a clinical associate professor in the business school and the faculty co-chairperson of UNC’s Sustainability Advisory Committee. She believes the Impact Investing Club has tremendous ability to teach students the importance of using their investments to proactively address social issues.
While she agrees that impact investing is a trend, she said it is ever-growing and provides students with a way to “align their career interests with their values.”
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