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Leaving things better than we found them

Articles 30 March 2022 4 minute read

I was a very lucky child. I grew up in South Africa. The weather was good, we had space to play and access to some of the most beautiful places on earth. I loved the beach and some of my fondest memories are riding my bike down to the beach and spending all day surfing and hanging out with friends and only returning home when it got dark. There was a sense of freedom, no adults watching over us, but also a sense of responsibility or pride in our beach and there has been a “rule” that has stuck with me ever since.

In essence, we were being told to look after the beach. Not to litter or do any damage and to tidy up after ourselves. And if we found a stray piece of litter, or a bottle washed in by the waves, to pick it up too, so the next person could enjoy the beach as much as we did.

It was ingrained in us from a young age, so much so I have no idea where I learnt it, but the rule was simple; Leave the beach better than you found it.

At Horizon we take the same approach to wealth management. As a profession, we work with our clients to help them lead the lives they desire. And the first rule is to leave their finances in a better place than we found them, be it through a structured plan, solid protection, capital gains or efficiently-organised tax affairs.

It’s a simple approach to a complex business

Likewise, away from our finances, many of us look to leave the world in a better place in different ways. We recycle. We switch to an electric car. We turn off the tap while we’re brushing our teeth. We give to charity. We buy second-hand clothes. We avoid buying from companies linked to exploitation. We start cycling. All this is done to make a difference. To leave a better legacy behind us. To create social value.

Sadly, this is often not reflected in how we think about investing. Performance and cost are put ahead of our values. Not questioning where our money is invested but rather what is my latest value? Value over values.

And unfortunately, for every person who gives up red meat, stops flying, has shorter showers and recycles every piece of card in the house, the impact is only 5%1 as great as if they had shifted their investments to companies with the same approach to our planet and its people.

At Horizon we want to have these conversations with our clients. Going beyond the traditional and talking about our values and what world we want to leave for our children. How we can invest in the world we want to live in and at the same time grow our own personal wealth, a ‘new worth’. We work to grow our clients’ assets while reducing their liabilities. That’s the balance sheet equation. But we also need to consider their effect on the world around us. We have no interest in a healthy pension that has an unhealthy impact on the world.

I believe, passionately, that nobody should treat their money differently to their community. We may want to retire with a nice pension, but we can’t wash our hands of the means to that end. It’s not enough to hand over an inheritance to our kids unless it has contributed to a better world for them.

Our investments shouldn’t involve a pact with any Devil. They should be managed with the same progressive and community-friendly mind-set that we’d expect our children to be taught at school. With the aim of making a positive impact on the world and on our returns. The two can be compatible.

We really can leave the beach better than we found it by taking the same principles to work. And at Horizon, that’s exactly what we do.

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[1] Make Money Matter.

The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds you select and the value can therefore go down as well as up. You may get back less than you invested.

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