Firing line  

My journey from SJP to ESG-focused advice firm

“I slipped into the insurance side. It became apparent that the lifestyle associated with the more client-facing side of the business was more attractive.”

Giving back to the community

Mr MacDonald’s proudest moment of his career is the volunteering work he did at St James’s Place Charitable Foundation. 

“It is a phenomenal culture of money-raising for good causes and a lot of the community there commits time to fund-raising.

“The small contribution I made there was my chance to give money back to the community.”

One of these contributions, he says, was undertaking a three-day bike ride from London to Paris. The ride entailed each volunteer raising £700 through donations for the St. James’s Place foundation.

In terms of practicalities for his new business, Mr MacDonald says that along with hiring advisers and expanding the team he wants to see that they have some alignment to his values. 

He adds: “It has taken a long time for my personal values to emerge and I am delighted to be able to align my new business activity to things which resonate with my core values.”

Mr MacDonald says that while advisers consider ESG a crucial area while serving clients, many still do not understand the concepts mainly due to inertia. 

If they do want to change tack it can then be difficult to convince some clients, as people tend to be scared of change, he says. 

“It might be difficult to have a conversation with clients [and tell them], ‘We have changed our investment philosophy.’

 “There is probably some scope for educating financial advisers on it,” he says. 

There are several stocks that Mr MacDonald says align with his values – Tesla and Beyond Meat being two examples. Mr MacDonald says the upward trajectory in Tesla’s stock price, which has risen about 85 per cent in the last month and hit a high of $887.06 (£676.37), is evidence that most developed countries are trying to go green and increasingly produce electric cars. 

“We have seen a commitment from Microsoft to go carbon neutral and negative, and we have seen Sainsbury’s commit to go carbon neutral at a more ambitious date than probably it would have [committed to otherwise],” he says.

“Funds we favour would be invested in these type of stocks,” he says. 

These types of funds are becoming more and more popular among clients he says, and advisers will have to deal with it.

Mr MacDonald says: “As consumers become most aware of the impact their money can have, clients will have more conversations with advisers.

“It can really deepen a client-adviser relationship to talk about these things if it resonates with [an individual’s] core values.”