Robert Loest applies his daily values to his socially responsible investment fund's portfolio.
Mutual-fund managers can find themselves under a lot of performance pressure. But it doesn't seem to affect Robert Loest, manager of the Integrity Growth & Income Fund.
"I don't worry about returns," Dr. Loest says in a phone interview. "I simply live my life the way I live my life, and the returns are up to the gods."
That may be "an enormously freeing concept" for Loest, but it's a statement that might send potential investors poring through his executive bio to evaluate this "life" of his.
Put simply, Loest's values inform his investment decisions, and he has no reason to try to separate the two. Integrity Growth & Income makes its money without investing in tobacco, alcohol, or gambling.
"If you don't smoke, I don't think you ought to buy a tobacco stock just because you think you can make some money," he says. "We try to run the fund using the same set of values people use raising their kids."
People have an innate desire to feel good about what they do, Loest says, and he recognizes a general desire for "a fund that doesn't require investors to make moral compromises in order to make money."
But making exactly that kind of fund available doesn't strike Loest as particularly noble. "I don't see myself achieving anything. It's the way I live."
Loest, a former naval officer with a PhD in biology, came into managing money after a period as a blacksmith, where he "sort of checked out of society for a while." What's not in a bio is his day-to-day life, the details of which illustrate his social values. He lives in downtown Knoxville, Tenn., a dense urban area that allows him to get almost everywhere he needs to go by bike. He eats pesticide-free, locally grown foods, and, as a believer in animal rights, is a longtime vegetarian.
Integrity Growth & Income works directly with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to analyze companies in terms of animal-rights issues and with other groups regarding other social issues.