The funds management and finance industry has the greedy reputation of focusing only on profit and bonuses. A fund manager breaking this mould – who is making money to give to those in need − is ethical funds manager UCA Funds Management. Through its 32 years in the industry, the company has not lost sight of its Christian roots.

Beginning in 1985 as a social enterprise for the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania, the company now manages funds for thousands of ethically minded personal investors, churches and charities. Each year, it gives its entire available operating surplus to the work of the Uniting Church – supporting much needed community services, advocacy and mission-based activities.

UCA Funds Management’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Walsh says the heart of the Uniting Church is with people − helping those that need it most and being a light in the community. When UCA Funds Management began, the Uniting Church built this outward focus into the enterprise.

“We are governed by an integrated ethical investment policy that is based on Christian values and the Uniting Church ethos. It focuses on love and enhancing life,” said Mr Walsh.

“For example, the policy references loving the natural environment which, in turn, shows love and support for our neighbours’ life and for the next generation. It speaks to supporting that which enhances life by seeking to invest in companies that are doing good – such as those in health care, recycling, education, sustainable agriculture or medical research.”

Since 1995, UCA Funds Management has given more than $54 million to support Uniting Church community services, advocacy programs and mission-based initiatives. These include:
·       prison chaplaincy
·       disability inclusion programs
·       community outreach services by local congregations
·       reconciliation and covenanting programs with Indigenous people
·       advocacy programs to improve social justice through corporate behaviour and public policy

The ethical fund manager is also involved in industry-based advocacy groups focused on speaking out against practices which harm society and the environment.

Over the past 12 months, UCA Funds Management has been an active voice in the community about the negative social impacts of credit cards used for online gambling. The company has been working with a group of institutional investors and community organisations to have the practice banned, and has been engaging with the four major banks on the issue. UCA Funds Management is encouraging the banks to restrict customers’ abilities to use their credit cards for online gambling.

“…We are encouraging the banks to ban credit cards for gambling purposes.” – UCA Funds Management CEO Michael Walsh

“Online gambling is becoming a major social issue. When it’s operated on credit, it can create a debt cycle that many cannot get out of, with gamblers essentially borrowing money from the banks to place a bet. Sadly, large gambling debts impact families. It has been linked to family violence and, in some cases, people feel so trapped they commit suicide,” said Mr Walsh.

“We believe providing a person with credit to gamble does not fit within a responsible lending ethos. The banks, which essentially control the payments system, have a social responsibility to not facilitate, extenuate and profit from the financial hardship of problem gamblers. As such, we are encouraging the banks to ban credit cards for gambling purposes.”

As well as being involved in advocacy to foster ethical business conduct, the company continually reviews its portfolios to ensure investments align with its Ethical Investment Policy. UCA Funds Management excludes companies with practices, services or products that cause harm to society or the environment. This exclusion means UCA Funds Management removes a company from all portfolios and places it on an excluded stocks list. This ensures portfolios will not invest in those companies on ethical grounds.

“We – and our investors – are a part of something bigger…” – UCA Funds Management CEO Michael Walsh

Last year, UCA Funds Management excluded Nine Entertainment Company, which owns the Nine television network, from investment due to the amount of revenue received from gambling advertising. Upon exclusion, UCA Funds Management wrote to the company advising of the action, the reason why, as well as concerns regarding the predominance of gambling and alcohol advertising aired in G-rated and prime-time sporting time slots.

“Knowing that we are growing the business to give back and be an active voice in the community on social issues is what makes me feel most proud of being a part of UCA Funds Management. We – and our investors – are a part of something bigger and we aim to be an example in the industry,” said Mr Walsh.

Visit UCA Funds Management to find out how you can make a difference through ethical investing or contact them on 1800 996 888.

Stephanie Duthie

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