Feb 18 2022

Pam Sits Down With ESG Investing Expert Todd Wilson, an Advisor Based in the San Francisco Bay Area

Continuing with our Advisors in the Spotlight series, here is my conversation with one of our top ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) & SRI (Socially Responsible Impact) investing experts. For those not familiar with ESG investing, it’s a style of investing where you invest in companies that prioritize their social and environmental footprint. More and more of our clients are looking for advisors who have this background and skill set.


Many advisors on the Wealthramp network have a life-long career as a financial advisor. Were you a financial advisor for your entire career? 


Not for my entire career. Prior to 1998, I worked in restaurants, everything from bus boy, waiter, bartender, cook, wine buyer, bar manager, restaurant manager, and eventually serving as General Manager at a couple of well-known San Francisco restaurants. What I learned from that experience was how to treat “clients”, understanding that their satisfaction is paramount. I learned how to listen, how to treat people, and to always strive for an outcome that exceeds the client’s expectations. That had a tremendous impact on my life, my career as a financial advisor, and my passion to do my best to help my clients grow their wealth.


One of your specialties is an increasingly hot topic–ESG. One question I get a lot from people is, are there any formal certifications for this speciality?


There are some ESG and sustainability programs out there but really no formally recognized certification in this area. With that said, my firm signed the PRI (Principles for Responsible Investing) pledge, which demonstrates that all company decisions made in the SRI area adhere to the highest standard. We also have a B-Corp (Beneficial Corporation) certification, which is only obtained by companies that are committed to using their business as a force for good. It is the stamp of approval from the B Corp Lab for meeting the highest standard for socially responsible businesses.


You’re one of the ESG experts in the Wealthramp network. How did you decide to specialize in that area?


I specialize in ESG because I personally care a lot about environmental, social, and governance issues. Environmentally, I am saddened by the rate of decline in our snowpack, coral reefs, and air quality, and want to contribute to change. Socially, I am interested in finding solutions to inequality, race, gender, and education issues.

Finally, I recognize that a company’s Governance score is highly correlated to the success, and stock price, of a company. That makes sense, right? Good management will outperform bad management. Many younger generation investors share my passion for these ESG issues, perhaps more so than the S&P 500’s performance. They want their portfolio to be aligned with their personal values, and that’s where it gets exciting for me as an advisor. Interestingly, my last two clients found me because they were specifically looking for a B Corp financial advisor. 


Other than ESG, which is an important focus area for many people, what advice and planning do you offer to your clients?


Of course, ESG planning cannot be conducted in isolation without looking at the client’s needs and situation and creating a holistic financial plan. I consider ESG measures to be simply an additional filter on top of the more traditional technical and fundamental analysis. I provide a broad range of financial planning services, including portfolio management, tax planning, wealth transfer, small business advisory, and stock options planning, to name a few. 


Of all your clients who are ESG-focused, any clients who stand out as most memorable to you? Can you share that client’s story with us? 


One of my clients, a college drop-out, is a founder of a successful tech company that ended up going public. Early on, I helped him with tax strategies around his stock options (ISOs), and he earned a lot of tax savings from that. He became very busy preparing  his company for the IPO, and didn’t end up hiring me, or any other financial advisor for that matter, at the time. After his company went public, he decided to take a break and go scuba diving around the world. He was surprised to find fewer and fewer dive spots that excited him. Many beautiful reefs have been bleached out from warmer waters and are dying because of climate change. It was at that point that he decided he wanted his money to be put to good use, leaving not only a fortune but a healthier planet to his kids and grandkids. 

He called me to discuss how to take a socially responsible and environmentally-friendly approach to his investments. We conducted a detailed ESG analysis of his current portfolio to look at carbon, water, plastic, and other factors. He’s been a great client of my firm since then. 


Wow! It all starts with a personal story. Todd, I know you have two beautiful children. Do you talk to them about ESG too? 


Yes, actually. I do talk to my children about the importance of contributing to social good and what we can all do to try and slow climate change, especially whenever we travel. Interestingly, the other day, my daughter said to me about a new retail brand she discovered, “Dad, they are a B Corp so I feel good when I buy stuff from them!” I’m happy to seemingly have this positive influence on my children. At any rate, at least they are listening! 🙂

Finding the right financial advisor can be challenging. Let Wealthramp help you find the right advisor who will help you with your personal financial needs and situation.

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