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Equipping a generation for careers that merge money and meaning

Students in Rotman’s ‘Investing for Impact’ course, taught by Narinder Dhami & Leeat Weinstock, sound off on the importance of impact investing education in Canada

As millennials are expected to inherit a projected USD$41 trillion from the baby boomer generation over the next 40 years, our attitudes towards societal issues and money (and how these two connect) will become increasingly more important. The millennial generation realizes that the practices that we have had for the last century or so have not been sustainable – they have been bad for the environment as global warming shows us, and there are still far too many people that do not have access to food, shelter, healthcare and education.

Through courses on impact investing and social finance, our generation of future business leaders is handed some of the tools to help solve these problems and to act responsibly. This does not mean that financial returns need to be compromised, but rather that social impact considerations need to be factored in. 

Attracting a varied audience
Our classmates were drawn to the course for a variety of reasons. I have been involved in the social innovation and entrepreneurship space in Toronto, with my ultimate career goal to work as an impact investors or social entrepreneur, so the subject matter was a natural next step for me. The majority of our class however is entering careers in corporate finance and the capital markets, looking to learn how they can adopt these concepts and ideas to more traditional work environments and roles.

Key lessons
When you think of social impact, charity and do-gooders come to mind; rare is the person who thinks of businesses and investors as making a difference to better our society.  But these two entities can be best placed and suited to tackling the very problems that plague our societies.  Before I took ‘Investing for Impact’ at Rotman, I was one of those people – social issues and business were two very separate things. Never did I use the same lens to look at them – and that is one of the biggest take-aways from the course.

Leveraging traditional finance knowledge
My main expectation for taking a course on impact investing was that it would deepen my knowledge of the social sector. However, the course quickly exceeded my every expectation as I was challenged to not only to understand the social sector, but to leverage all of my traditional finance knowledge and apply it to societal challenges. ‘Investing for Impact’ has easily been one of the most relevant and important courses I have had the chance to take towards my undergraduate degree. It has solidified my desire to become an impact investor.

It’s a finance course
‘Investing for Impact’ is undeniably a capstone finance course, building upon traditional finance topics (i.e. capital markets, corporate finance, private equity, venture capital) while weaving social goals into every analysis. It challenges us as students to use all of our previous finance knowledge and apply social innovation topics to discussions regarding asset classes, debt and equity financing decisions, private loans, due diligence, exit opportunities, the derivation of interest rates, ratio analyses, metrics, and innovative financial products (e.g. Social Impact Bonds). It is through these discussions that we realize more and more how social impact and financial returns are possible together, learning to ask “what social impact do our dollars have?”, and that is incredible.


Editor’s Note: Interested in learning more about post-secondary education in impact investing and social finance? Our very own Ryan Steinbach has written extensively and very informatively on this subject. Check him out!

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