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Interview: Jory Cohen, Inspirit Foundation

Jory is the director of social finance and investment at the Inspirit Foundation. Before joining Inspirit, Jory was the Managing Director of Youth Social Innovation Capital Fund (YSI), an impact investing fund. Under Jory’s leadership, YSI made its first six investments and maintained a 100% repayment rate to investors.

He also co-founded an impact venture in East Africa based on the fair-market-value sales of honey. Most recently, Jory played an integral role in launching Inspirit’s 100% impact portfolio and continues to lead the rollout of that strategy while managing all aspects of the finance department.

Jory is often called upon to share his expertise within the sector and academic institutions. He’s also co-authoring an upcoming children’s book! Since graduating from the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University as the Valedictorian of his class, Jory quickly garnered a reputation as a next-generation leader in the impact investing field.

Name: Jory Cohen

Business: Inspirit Foundation Title: Director of Social Finance and Investment

Education: Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University

Age: 31

Location: Toronto

1. What inspired you to work in finance?

When I was in my first year of university, my mom gave me a book for my birthday. The book was Banker for the Poor by Muhammad Yunus, the founder of microfinance. That was my introduction to the concept of social finance and impact investing. From that point on, I knew I wanted my career to be dedicated to positive change through business.

2. What advice do you have for others who want to invest responsibly?

Do it! It’s possible to invest responsibly while creating higher probabilities of increased returns. Speak with a financial advisor who specializes in responsible investing. If you have self-directed investment accounts, you can check out my 100% impact portfolio blog about how my wife and I are transitioning our portfolio to one entirely composed of impact investments.

3. What is your perspective on investing in renewable energy projects?

Renewable energy projects can be an important part of any portfolio, especially a portfolio dedicated to impact. Renewable energy likely has a better financial outlook than traditional energy sources, so exposure to renewables will likely create an improved long-term risk-return profile for a portfolio.

4. What is your opinion on the value of ESG in companies that you invest in? How do sustainable values influence your decision to invest?

ESG plays an important role in understanding how companies operate. For example, does a company operate fairly? However, ESG rarely looks beyond how a company operates into what a company actually does. That’s an important distinction because some impact investors might not want to invest in a bunch of well-run fossil fuel companies, for example.

5. What was your first job and what did you take away from the experience? How did you discover your passion for working in the field?

After graduating from university, I went to East Africa to partner with a Tanzanian businessman to launch a social enterprise based on the fair-market-value sales of honey. The enterprise empowered women entrepreneurs with the opportunity to provide additional streams of income to their families and to contribute to individual savings accounts. While the success of the enterprise was mixed (mostly unsuccessful), I took away from that experience that I wanted to dedicate my career to positive change through market mechanisms, although in a more local context.

6. How do you build a portfolio that pays dividends? Does this strategy help with retirement planning?

Dividends are one factor in investment decision-making for me, under the context of the entire portfolio. Every investment I make plays a part in the wider portfolio. Some investments can be in high growth companies with limited dividends, while some might be in stable growth companies with stronger dividends.

7. What advice would you give to your younger self about finance?

Don’t be intimated by the finance sector. I think the sector uses confusing language to intentionally intimidate the wider public, but investing is rather straightforward (if you don’t use derivatives). At its core, you want to establish an asset mix that makes sense for you, and then find enough good companies to invest, such as RE Royalties, in order to be sufficiently diversified, all while limiting fees.

8. What is next? Where do you see your personal investing portfolio in 5 years?

My plan is to continue to work toward our 100% impact portfolio, while documenting each step along the way so others can follow the journey on my blog.

Connect with Jory Cohen, Inspirit Foundation

Twitter: @JoryCohen

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