Leaders in Finance, Nonprofits Explore the Future of Capitalism and Impact Investing’s Potential to Transform Communities Globally

March 2, 2020

The Aspen Institute and Prudential Financial co-host events in Washington, DC, demonstrating impact investing as a catalyst for change and commit to ongoing partnership; Prudential commemorates its $1 billion AUM impact investing milestone

Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute
Jon.Purves@aspeninstitute.org | 202-736-2111

Caitrin O’Sullivan
Director, Global Communications
Prudential Financial

Caitrin.OSullivan@prudential.com | 732-718-7867

Washington, DC, Mar 2, 2020 — More than 200 key investors, influencers, and innovators gathered in Washington, DC, on Thursday, February 27 to participate in a series of action-driven events focused on impact investing and the future of capitalism, anchored by a half-day summit. Toward a New Capitalism: Investing in Innovation, Impact & Inclusion, co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and Prudential Financial, kicked off with commitments from both organizations towards continuing to build a more inclusive economy. The day included roundtables, panels, and one-on-one interviews with leading global and local impact investing experts, with a keynote delivered by Robin Hood CEO Wes Moore and opening remarks by Dan Porterfield, Aspen Institute President and CEO, and Charles Lowrey, Chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, one of the first institutional investors to grow and manage a $1 billion AUM impact investing portfolio.

“Every day, more than 50 million Americans live in or near financial crisis,” said Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “The scope of this problem is obscured by economic headlines, where low unemployment and stock market highs sustain an aura of widespread prosperity. But economic progress is uneven and illusory. That’s why the Aspen Institute has decided to pull its resources, assets, programs, and networks together in pursuit of solutions to this growing international problem. As part of our first enterprise-wide effort – the Aspen Partnership for an Inclusive Economy, we are engaging some of the best minds to build bold proposals, incubate ideas and scale successful models that lead to greater financial security for everyone, at home and abroad.”

Porterfield added, “We also know that impact investing is a powerful vehicle to drive positive change; Prudential has a decades-long track record and has demonstrated what it takes to be an effective catalyst in capital markets. We are proud to grow our partnership to tackle the defining challenge of our time, financial vulnerability.”

During the summit, Prudential announced the achievement of its goal, established in 2014, to grow and manage a $1 billion AUM impact portfolio by 2020 that can both generate a strong financial return and create positive, measurable social impact. This significant milestone, which reflects Prudential’s longstanding commitment to putting financial security within reach of everyone, was celebrated at an evening reception at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.  

Prudential formalized its impact investing program in 1976 and has developed sector expertise in areas such as financial technology, affordable housing, sustainability, future of work and education. It has been a competitive differentiator for the firm: in addition to outsized positive societal impact, it has generated positive investment returns, yielded invaluable consumer insights and opened the doors to new revenue streams and market opportunities.

“At Prudential, we believe businesses like ours that are focused on the long-term have both a moral and a business imperative to engage on the most challenging issues of our time. Our commitment to this $1 billion impact portfolio is driven by our desire to use our position to drive positive change in the world and in doing so create value for our customers and shareholders” said Prudential Financial Chairman and CEO Charles Lowrey. “If you look at our investments in places like Newark, New Jersey, Prudential’s hometown; East Baltimore, Maryland; El Paso, Texas; and emerging markets around the world, you will see tangible evidence of our impact, directly and through attracting other investments.”

Programming at the summit featured industry leaders from financial institutions, nonprofit advocacy organizations, foundations, media, and academia. Conversations included assessments of how capitalism and the economic systems that underpin it can foster financial wellness and shared prosperity.  Attendees also discussed next generation finance and products and partnerships on the horizon, as well as the importance of local investments and collaboration with communities to drive equitable growth and development. The final panel of the day underscored the need to strategically center diversity at all levels in our financial sector and ensure opportunities for inclusive leadership. 

“For too long, the role of business and capital has been narrowly defined as simply about the purpose of producing profits, leaving the broader responsibility for the well-being of our communities to either government or to nonprofit organizations. Today, there are growing market forces that compel businesses to take on a broader set of interests to remain competitive,” said Jean Case, Chair of National Geographic and CEO of the Case Impact Network. “It was wonderful for the Aspen Institute and Prudential to bring together so many leaders committed to this movement and to see so many highlight smart strategies to assure that our free market system provides the potential of prosperity for more people in more places.”

In his keynote speech, Wes Moore, CEO, Robin Hood stated, “Two polar worlds are moving forward, and those two polar worlds are in conflict. Indicators like a growing GDP, a 3.6 percent unemployment rate, as well as a large and expansive bull market tell a story of financial health. Yet, the vast majority of Americans living in poverty are the working poor, who are working not just one, but in many cases, multiple jobs. This is not just unsustainable – it’s immoral,” said Moore. “There will not be one group or one person that will get us out of this, but we all have a collective responsibility; we must ensure that these conversations become action plans, and those action plans become movements.”

Moderators at the summit included journalists Kimberly Adams, Marketplace correspondent, and David Bank, CEO and editor of Impact Alpha.  Speakers included Marla Blow, Senior Vice President, North America, at the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth; Ellis Carr, President and CEO of Capital Impact Partners; Jean Case, Chairman of the National Geographic Society and CEO of the Case Foundation; Audrey Choi, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer of Morgan Stanley; Cathy Clark, Faculty Director at the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE); Stephen DeBerry, Founder and Managing Partner at Bronze Investments; Andrew Kassoy, Co-founder and CEO of B Lab; Jim Shelton, Chief Investment and Impact Officer at Blue Meridian; Debra Schwartz, Managing Director for Impact Investments; and Martin Whittaker, founding CEO of JUST Capital. The summit was closed by Ommeed Sathe, Vice President and Head of Impact & Responsible Investing, Prudential Financial, Inc.

This convening forms part of a bold commitment by the Aspen Institute and its partner networks, through the newly launched Aspen Partnership for an Inclusive Economy, to spark new thinking, action and collaboration among participants, leading to greater innovation and greater impact in the future. Building on the Summit’s momentum, the 2020 Aspen Ideas Festival, June 24–July 3, will unveil a New Capitalism thematic track that will assess the role and responsibilities of corporations both generate a financial return and also create positive, measurable social impact. APIE will continue to announce new efforts throughout 2020, including future convenings and leadership development initiatives. 

Editor’s Note: A video recording, along with the full agenda and speaker lineup for the Toward a New Capitalism summit, is available to view online here. Additional recorded content will become available in the coming weeks. Follow and join the conversation from the summit on twitter @aspeninstitute and @prudential with #NewCapitalism.

About the Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org

About Prudential Financial

Prudential Financial, Inc., a financial services leader, helps customers grow and protect their wealth through life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds and investment management. Founded on the belief that financial security should be within everyone’s reach, Prudential has been a pioneer in impact investing and is one of the first institutional investors to build a  $1 billion portfolio of investments that combines both social and financial return.

The Aspen Partnership for an Inclusive Economy (APIE) aims to build an economy that enables all people and communities around the world to thrive. Anchored by a $26 million investment from the Mastercard Impact Fund, APIE develops bold new proposals from experts across Institute programs and networks; mobilizes leaders across sectors to advance integrated strategies for inclusive growth; and convenes thought leaders and change makers to drive solutions and impact.


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