Taryn Goodman '00, MBA '09:
A passion for impact investing
by Chrysan Tung '11
"It was literally just a feeling I had that I wanted something more rewarding, but at the time, had no idea what that would look like," she explains.
With this epiphany and a fresh start as a first-year student at the Johnson School, Goodman set out to discover her calling, knowing only that she wanted to do something more socially conscious.
Initially, she decided to look into microfinance. She interned in Kampala, Uganda for Kiva.org, a microfinance institute that lends funds to entrepreneurs to rebuild poor communities across the globe. Although she loved the experience, she felt that it wasn't a perfect fit. So, Goodman began exploring other options upon returning for her second year at the Johnson School. Still unsure of her future career path, she decided to follow a friend's advice and jet off to San Francisco for her fall break to attend the Social Capital Markets Conference.
"[What I learned at the conference] was akin to the light at the end of the tunnel - I just knew that this was a great way to align my social passions with a career," Goodman recalled.
After the conference, Goodman found herself wanting to know everything she could about impact investing, an industry focused on offering financial support to socially and environmentally responsible companies. "The more I learned about the field, the more motivated and excited I became about the opportunities that existed for change, and thus knew this was the path I wanted to take after business school," she said.
During her last year at the Johnson School, Goodman worked as director of community partnerships for BR MicroCapital (BRM), a student-run lending and advisory services initiative aimed at helping small-scale entrepreneurs. Goodman was delighted at the opportunity to venture into Ithaca, the home she has known throughout her Cornell experience, and give back. The BR MicroCapital team has since gained tremendous recognition in both the Cornell and Ithaca communities.
Now, Goodman is an impact investing manager at RSF Social Finance, which offers investing and lending services to individuals and enterprises committed to improving the society and the environment. Goodman manages three impact investing portfolios, and is involved in launching RSF's Program-Related Investing (PRI) fund.
Of the three investment groups she handles, Goodman finds the Transformation Portfolio particularly exciting. Its members come together as a learning group to discuss the types of investments they would like to make and learn from one another's passions for change. In this way, they decide how they want to deploy their assets for social impact and financial returns and thus, "co-create" an investment portfolio.
"At the most recent meeting, [we discussed] an investment in a gum-making co-op in Latin America that provides jobs," Goodman said. Although the co-op provides jobs for women and preserves the rainforest, the group ultimately decided that they did not want to support the creation of a "non-necessity," such as chewing gum. Goodman described this outcome as a difficult decision for the group - members have limited funds and cannot support every investment. Therefore, they must decide whether potential investments will have the impact they seek. "While there will be no 'right' answer, members come to a decision based on their values and choose the investment option that is best aligned [with those]," Goodman says.