Why I Invest in Sinners by Tim Macready


Tim Macready has been a frequent contributor to this website, and he was also one of the presenters at our recent event for Faith Driven Investors. Below is a transcript of his presentation about his failure to find the pure faith-driven portfolio and what it looks like to invest in sinners.

by Tim Macready

What a blessing to be in this room. A room of Christ-followers who share a common faith in God as sovereign over everything, including the investment markets in which many of us work day by day. But more than that, we share a common goal that the name of Jesus be glorified in that marketplace; that as stewards we be found faithful with what God has entrusted to us.

Henry and Luke have asked me to share a little of my journey in Faith Driven Investing. As many of you know, I lead the investment team for an Australian pension fund – a Christian fund that stewards over $1bn on behalf of 27,000 Australians who have chosen to have their pension managed in accordance with their Christian values. In 2005, the Board decided that it was all-in on faith-driven investment; on aligning values with portfolio. And they – perhaps foolishly – hired me to help make that happen.

I wanted to create the pure faith-driven portfolio. The portfolio that would truly reflect God’s desires – would remove all evil companies and instead invest in shining examples of redemption. I imagined myself as the arbiter of good and evil; the one who would decide what was good and what was evil.

I have utterly failed. I feel further from that goal than when I first started. Because I now recognize that goal not only as futile but as completely arrogant. Just as I am powerless to mould my own heart into sinless perfection, I am unable to create an investment portfolio that perfectly reflects God’s heart. I am a sinner, investing the money of sinners in companies that are managed by sinners and through markets that are run by sinners.

But in the process of accepting that I am not God, judging between good and evil, I have realized that there is deep satisfaction to be found in being obedient to the call to pursue the glory of God in every aspect of the way that we design and implement our investment portfolio, to be redemptive.

What is needed is not a set of Christian investment rules, but a movement of stewards with a deep desire to invest in ways that glorify God – whether with thousands or billions, in listed or unlisted markets, in every geography and every point on the capital structure. Stewards who accept that something about how we invest will be different because we are looking after the master’s money.

And so, at its heart, faith-driven investing must be about asking the question; What does it look like to invest in ways glorify God? To be redemptive investors?

In beginning to answer that, I want to share what faith-driven investing looks like for us. As we have wrestled with what it looks like to invest in ways that glorify God in our context, we have adopted eight principles and four practices. I offer them to you – not to be prescriptive, but to show what, for us (a diversified pension portfolio) being faithful looks like.

Eight principles:

1.    We start with a Christian worldview, letting scriptural wisdom influence the way we invest.

2.    We understand that our assets are entrusted to us, and we have a responsibility to be God’s steward.

3.    We recognize the deep value of creation as reflecting the beauty of God.

4.    We acknowledge that we have a duty of care to prevent harm.

5.    The purpose of investment is to promote human flourishing

6.    We show Christian distinctiveness

7.    We reject corruption and any unjust accumulation of wealth

8.    We pursue excellence as investors

And four practices:

Negative Screening. Some companies have a track record of so utterly and comprehensively damaging and destroying of human flourishing that we find it difficult, in good conscience, to invest in them. It is difficult to see God’s plan for human flourishing and dignity being fulfilled by companies that consistently and systematically work against it.

Positive Screening. Some companies do a better job of stewarding their resources than others – by valuing employees, customers and other stakeholders; by being efficient in their use of natural resources.

Active Ownership. We exercise our rights as owners of companies, and where we can we speak to company management to communicate our ideas about how they can operate responsibly.

Impact Investing. We actively invest in ways that cause social, environmental and spiritual flourishing – in financial inclusion, social enterprise, faith-led business, housing solutions that offer dignity, and more.

I’m not saying that faith-driven investing means doing all of those things. It may mean doing one of them, or even something completely different.

But being redemptive always means doing things differently. Jesus’ followers always look different to the world. And so if faith-driven investing means anything, it means being able to genuinely tell the story of how the way we invest is different because we love Jesus. It means our faith is inside the room – not outside the door or back home waiting for Sunday, but in the room as we ask how we can bring glory to our creator and our savior through the assets that we have been given to steward.

Our journey of faith-driven investing has been hard. We’ve had to wrestle – really wrestle with a lot of fundamental questions; to ask where are our blind spots, where we can be different and where we want to be different but can’t – yet.  And yet, I can honestly look back and see just how much progress we’ve made – how far we’ve walked. How as the Lord has led us over each hill and we have seen the unclimbable mountain ahead of us, yet we have looked back and seen how far He has carried us.

Whether you’ve been applying your faith in your portfolio for years, or you’re making your first tentative steps, this is not a journey to be taken alone. It will require us to work together as we wrestle with deep questions. Questions like:

Are we willing to accept the lordship of Christ over the investment portfolios we steward?

Are we willing to put aside our differences – theological, ideological and practical – so that we can spur one another on towards faithfulness?

Are we willing to accept that there will be perhaps as many expressions of faith-driven investors as there are faith-driven investors? But that each expression must genuinely answer what it looks like to be faithful in that investor’s context?

Are we willing to invest in one another? To support each other on this journey of what it looks like for each steward to understand how to be redemptive in the way they invest?

What does it look like for each of us – in our role as stewards – to discern how to be redemptive in our portfolio?

I suspect that your presence here means that the answer to those questions is yes. I know mine is. I find so much joy in walking this challenging path with each of you. And I think we’re only just beginning to see what Faith-Driven Investing can be.

Just over ten years ago, the impact investing movement as it is known today was born in, of all places, Las Vegas. Its influence grows year by year as more and more capital is deployed. Its heroes become more prominent with each passing year.

My hope and prayer is that we will look back in five or even ten years’ time and see this moment – this day – as the day that faith-driven investing as a movement took a pivotal step, catalyzing a movement of glory to Christ and deep influence and blessing to the world. And a movement where we are not the heroes, because we already know the one true hero of Nazareth; of Calvary.

Our movement must be good not just for us and the tribe we represent, but for everybody. What we need is the ability to be Salt and Light into an investment community – into a world – consumed by greed and covered in darkness.

We are not the managers of society – nor would we be if we thought we were. We don’t have to save democracy and the free world; we don’t even have to save ourselves… Should we be ineffective, our cause it not lost; should our efforts bear fruit, this will not be their justification. Our living in the present reality of the kingdom and the triumphant coming of the kingdom are not connected like the links in a causal chain, but like promise and fulfilment, as the artesian well to the distant mountain lake. We serve not in order that the kingdom might come, but because it is coming; the certainty of victory is the beginning not the end of our course. - John Howard Yoder.