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Making an impact

Monique Baer is a fourth-generation member of the Baer family. Although she has no formal ties with Bank Julius Baer, her lifelong commitment to philanthropy and impact investing as a result of her family wealth has given her a desire to inspire others to do more with their money. An engineer agronomist with a background in behavioural research, she has dedicated the past 15 years of her life to philanthropy, financial innovation, and impact investing. She sits on the board of a sustainable investment company and works on a number of different initiatives relating to sustainable investments both in Switzerland and abroad.

Monique Baer shares in this interview from the "Earth Matters" report why the financial industry must embrace the sustainable investing movement by helping investors to understand impact investment and get involved themselves.

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Please could you tell us why you became an impact investor?
From a young age, I was very interested in the world around me. This was coupled with the realisation that I was in a special position with which I was not at ease. It made my life rather complicated and as a child I dreamt of being like my friends; I hated to come from a different background. I didn’t feel different from my friends, but I struggled and made a big effort not to be seen as a spoiled girl from a wealthy family. My father understood my struggles – he taught me the importance of philanthropy and the responsibility that everybody in a fortunate position has towards society.

When I was young, I didn’t understand business, but I understood the importance of responsibility. For many years, responsibility was merely an inner need, a value in my personal life. But I still had to find a way to put my understanding of responsibility into action. It was only after my 50th birthday that I decided to go even deeper into the subject of philanthropy and then I took my first formal steps into impact investing. I chose this approach over philanthropy, as this helped me to keep the two things apart. I always seek to play a part in the organisations I am involved with, rather than just giving money. For me this is equally important in philanthropy as it is in impact investing.

For too long we have ignored the fragility of our environment, and it has become clear that humanity cannot survive unless we make significant changes.

Monique Baer

What can spur the impact investing movement to fulfil its potential?
I believe that the financial industry has the opportunity to be an innovation driver, but at the moment it is not living up to its full potential. I do see chances to embrace the energy of this movement. Many people have the intention to get involved, they want to create more impact with their wealth, but they don’t know how to go about it, they are seeking help and guidance to take their first steps. Just investing can be a difficult process, but impact investing – in order to do it properly – requires an even greater understanding. Whether you have large or small sums to invest shouldn’t matter, as it all has an impact, but there must be good guidance available for all levels of financial ability.

For people interested in this field, why is now the time to get involved, and how did you find your particular path?
For too long we have ignored the fragility of our environment, and it has become clear that humanity cannot survive unless we make significant changes. We all have a part to play, we all have a responsibility. For my part, improving the impact of all my activities is an ongoing process – from traditional asset allocation to impact investing and philanthropic ventures – but I cannot do this without the support of my team. When I started on this path I was like anyone trying something for the first time. I made mistakes, I had good ideas with great intentions, but I needed guidance so I began to build my team. My long-term advisor joined me first and is there to guide or counsel when necessary. As impact investing became a more important topic for me, the team grew to create a strategy specifically to ensure I focused my actions on creating the greatest impact. Without their invaluable support, I would possibly still be at the stage of just having good ideas and great intentions.

Where should people focus their attention regarding their investments?
People often do not realise the importance of investing in the right companies. Companies with good values make a difference. It matters how we solve the biggest problems of our society and it is crucial for our future that we are aware of our economic actions. There must be greater awareness of the impact that simple decisions can have, and people must be able to make educated decisions about where to focus their attention when investing or spending money.

I have decided to focus my investments on areas that support my values and beliefs. A democratic society needs equity of opportunities, therefore good health, quality education, and gender equality have priority for me. To have a healthy society we need healthy surroundings, so clean energy, climate transition, and ocean rehabilitation are important to me as well. Finally, social and technical innovation are key. It is important to focus on making improvements and reducing harm, but that isn’t always so easy; it requires us to leave our comfort zone and to start thinking and acting differently.

To explore the full interview, please download the “Earth Matters” report below.

Download our Earth Matters Report

We are at a critical juncture when it comes to investing in Planet Earth. This special report looks at addressing the overuse of natural resources, one of the key focuses of Julius Baer’s impact investing approach, and shares the experiences, knowledge, and expertise of industry leaders. 

To download the Earth Matters Special Report, please enter your e-mail address below and you will receive a download link via e-mail.

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