I had it all: a healthy salary with healthy bonuses; job security in the “private client” division of one of the largest and most prestigious banks in the nation; a fancy office in a community dripping with wealth (with a view of the Pacific Ocean out the second floor window); an easy commute down beautiful Highway 1 on the coast of California…life was good.
And then I stumbled upon the concept of biblically responsible investing (BRI), and it ruined my life for the better.
I wasn’t looking for information on biblically responsible investing, just searching for a Bible study to teach at my church on the subject of finances. But there I was, sitting at my desk, reading an article that Google decided to put on my screen about paying attention to not just the financial aspect of an investment portfolio, but the moral aspect of an investment portfolio – with biblical morals as the compass.
I had heard of socially responsible investing (SRI), which I associated with a rather narrow view of issues managed from a progressive liberal viewpoint. Being a Bible-believing Christian, such an approach did not resonate with my values and I never gave it much attention.
But, it had never crossed my mind to consider the moral implications of investment decisions from a biblical perspective, and my curiosity was piqued.
Curious as I was, I began looking into my portfolio and the portfolios of my clients, and immediately the Holy Spirit gripped my heart and I was stunned with a conviction I was not expecting to find.
Here I was, the president of our local pro-life pregnancy center, while at the same time owning three stocks of companies that were manufacturing abortion drugs. It struck me that every time a young lady walked into the Planned Parenthood across the street and had an abortion, I was making money on that transaction.
With God’s money, no less.
Quickly the Spirit reminded me that I was going to stand before my Lord Jesus one day and give an account for every word, thought, deed – and yes, every investment – in my life, and I could not imagine the conversation going very well when it came to my portfolio.
Me: “Look at all the money I made for you by investing in abortion, Jesus! Aren’t you proud?”
Jesus: “No, not really.”
And not just abortion, but pornography, human trafficking, LGBT activism, and all manner of unholiness festered in my investment lineup like some “Hottest Stock Picks” newsletter from hell.
Within days I was dead in the water at my dream job, completely unable to function with a clean conscience. And I had no idea what to do about it.
I went home and told my wife what I had found, “Hunny, I think the Lord is calling us somewhere else.”
Her response: “Okay…you know we have two babies and a mortgage, so what’s the plan?”
Me: “I have no idea. I think we should pray.”
I really didn’t think I could stay in the investment business. I had never met or heard of anyone investing according to biblical values, and I wasn’t sure it was even possible to do. I was very close to just throwing in the towel on investment advice, going to seminary and being a pastor.
The only other option I could think of was leaving the bank, starting an independent practice that only provided biblically responsible investing services and seeing what happened. But that was nuts, because I didn’t have any experience, network, clients, money, or any of the other requirements that everyone knows you need to do something like that.
Of course, God has His own way of doing things and much to my amazement as my wife and I prayed, He made it abundantly clear that was the direction He was calling me to go.
I was terrified.
A couple months of fear and trembling later, I made the decision and stepped out of the bank, out of the proverbial boat, and into an adventure of faith like none I have ever been on before or since.
In April, 2011, I opened the doors to my biblically responsible investing practice with just me and a laptop, no idea what I was doing, less than two months of savings in the bank and fully prepared never to pay my mortgage ever again in my life. I knew that God had called me to this, but I had no idea if it was going to be financially successful or not.
I was keenly aware that the Bible is full of examples of obedient disciples who were rewarded with such earthly experiences like being beheaded, and I had come to the point where I was ready to follow my Lord no matter what the consequence. Preferably not beheading, but that was up to God!
Having no idea what else to do, I simply started out educating people about what I had found and what I was doing with biblically responsible investing.
And you know what? Immediately people had the same reaction I did when I first heard about BRI and began asking me questions.
“Wow, I never thought about that before. How do I find out what is in my portfolio?”
“Is it possible to invest any other way?”
“What does a biblically responsible portfolio look like?”
And my little one-man business started growing. Booming, in fact, to the point that I needed to find another advisor to bring into the practice to help with the load of investors God was sending my direction, which was never part of my plan.
My “grand vision” when I started out was, if I was really successful, then I would have an assistant one day. God had other, bigger, plans.
The next thing I know, I am getting phone calls from people all over the country.
One advisor turned into two, which turned into four, which turned into twelve, then twenty, until we had mentored hundreds of Christian financial advisors from all over the country on what we had learned and developed as best practices for successfully running a high quality, biblically responsible investing firm. God was moving.
And we are still training scores of Christian financial advisors around the globe to this day.
Throughout our conversations with advisors, we consistently received one question, “I’ve built my practice on low cost, index based investment portfolios. Where can I find an index based, biblically responsible solution to use with my clients?”
The answer: “Nowhere.”
The only investment funds available back then were relatively expensive, actively managed mutual funds, with a hit and miss track record of performance. Meanwhile, the mainstream investment industry was making huge shifts toward low cost index funds, and there was no biblically responsible option.
As we went searching for a solution to this problem, some of the largest secular mutual fund firms expressed interest in creating product for our quickly growing network of advisors. But when we got into the details of what we would screen out of the portfolio – abortion, adult entertainment, LGBT activism and the like – the phones went silent. These secular firms simply couldn’t stomach the potential political fallout from managing products that aligned with biblical values.
So one day as our leadership team sat around the boardroom table, we just stared blankly at each other and said, “Well, I guess this means us.” And we embarked down the path to create something totally new to bring the biblically responsible investing movement up to speed with the rest of the investing world.
Shortly thereafter, Inspire Investing was born in August of 2015 with zero assets under management (AUM), offering a lineup of index based portfolios that followed diligent biblically responsible investing principles using what we called the Inspire Impact Score methodology.