Author Archive

Malaika Maphalala

Welcome to my archive of newsletter articles and blog posts. For more information on my service offerings, please go to my advisor webpage.

Explaining the CPWA® Certification

I am pleased to have a few letters behind my name these days: CPWA®, which stands for Certified Private Wealth Advisor®. During 2015, I undertook the Investment Management Consultants Association’s (IMCA®) rigorous CPWA program and successfully passed the exam to earn the title. The Certified Private Wealth Advisor credential is an advanced certification created specifically for financial advisors who work with high-net-worth clients on the life cycle of wealth: accumulation, preservation, and distribution. Intended for current practitioners already working with high-net-worth clients, CPWA designees must have a full five years of work in the field under their belts.

From early on in my career, I’ve been pushed along by a handful of wonderful clients who presented me with the challenge and opportunity to master some of the more complex planning needs that can come along with wealth:

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Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative shows us how it’s done

As Hawaii considers the ramifications of a contentious sale of its major utility companies to giant Florida-based utility company NextEra, Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) stands out as an alternative model of utility ownership, and is leading the way in expanding renewable energy production.  In early September, I visited with Jim Kelly of the KIUC to learn more about the cooperative and its approach.

As a cooperative, the utility provider is entirely owned by its members—its employees and customers—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. With a strong commitment to renewables, KIUC has utilized multiple strategies to increase its green energy capacity. From Power Purchase Agreements made with owners of large renewable energy facilities—including a solar array owned by Greenbacker Renewable Energy, a company in which many NI clients are investors—to directly investing in the construction of member-owned facilities, the cooperative is well on its way to achieving its goal of 50% renewables by 2023.

With the completion this year of its second 12 megawatt solar facility in Anahola,

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A Visit with Vitality Farms

I recently made a visit to Oregon and took the opportunity to tour some of the farm properties held by Farmland LP, an organic farmland fund in which we have a number of clients invested. Farmland LP acquires conventional farmland and converts it to certified organic, sustainable farmland, and its partner, Vitality Farms, manages the farming and livestock operations on their properties. Recently named one of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company, Farmland LP owns about 7000 acres of farmland in Northern California and Oregon.  Nearly 1500 of those acres are in Oregon just outside of Corvallis, an hour and a half from Portland. I drove out to spend the afternoon with Jason Bradford, Managing Partner at Farmland LP and Owner/Manager of Vitality Farms. It was the highlight of my trip! We toured multiple properties so I could see firsthand the wide variety of organic production currently underway after five years of infrastructure development and farming operations.

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Amazon Power

This January, I spoke at La’akea Permaculture Community about new models of green business and finance, and as always, included a brief history of international microfinance as developed by Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank. After my talk, one of the attendees told me that she herself had been a microloan success story, and I’m honored to share her story here with you.

In 1991, Donna Fischer was a poor single mother living in Taos, New Mexico and looking for work. She suffered from health problems and low self-esteem and never imagined that she would one day single handedly found a flourishing solar power installation company.

She benefited first from a job training program that paid half her wages as an electrician’s apprentice; here, she first discovered her deep interest in solar power to meet people’s home energy needs. She then had the good fortune to join a local women’s economic opportunity development program that used a comprehensive microloan program based on Grameen’s highly successful model. She became part of a small group of eight women, all hoping to gain skills to build businesses as a way to improve their economic conditions.

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Gender Lens Investing

This article is highlighted as part of the 100th issue special, celebrating twenty-five years of quarterly newsletters. 

In recognition of the crucial role women play in sustainable development, social stability, and public health, Natural Investments and other socially responsible investors have focused on building gender equality through finance.

By Malaika Maphalala

MM nepal WEBThe Economist lays it on the line: “Forget China, India, and the internet—economic growth in the next decade will be driven by women.” Indeed, it’s already begun, with women’s incomes worldwide growing from $13 trillion in 2009 to $18 trillion by 2014.  That $5 trillion of growth is almost twice the growth in GDP expected from China and India combined during that period, making women the world’s biggest emerging market.  Even Goldman Sachs, while not my favorite authority, says, “investing in women is the single best way to reduce inequality and drive economic growth.”

Gender equality in economic structures will both promote economic growth and make the world a better place.  While the World Bank wants to “make women more competitive in financial markets,” it misses the vital point that financial markets need to be reframed to value the work that women are already doing.  Hence the importance of a new conversation emerging in the investment field: Gender Lens Investing.  Gender Lens Investing says that when we acknowledge the competitive advantage that gender inclusiveness brings to business, as well as the remarkable social and financial impacts connected to empowering women economically, we will make better investment decisions and ultimately transform our global economy.

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Community by Design: New model combines land trust, farmers co-op, customers

By Malaika Maphalala

Out on the edges of Portland, in a pretty suburb called Sherwood, my friend Narendra Varma has established a noteworthy new model of community-based sustainable agriculture.  It’s an interesting, well thought out project that began with the lovely name “Community by Design.”  Having been a founding member of an intentional community, I was very curious to hear the details of the organizational infrastructure that is designed to foster the growth of a land-based, cooperative economic and social system. 

MM OurTable vision map

I came to know Narendra through Slow Money, a national movement to catalyze investment into sustainable regional food systems.  Narendra, inspired by the movement, decided to invest his personal assets into creating a model that could benefit his own family, local farmers, and the greater community. Based on 58 acres of farmland with a pond and year round creek, Narendra’s project is just two years old.  The vision is supported by a constellation of three entities: the Community by Design LLC, a not-for profit land trust that owns the land; a member-owned cooperative of farmers, producers, and local customers called Our Table, which leases the land and manages an integrated organic food production business; and the Manav Foundation, a 501c3 educational non-profit dedicated to promoting a locally adapted culture and economy. 

Narendra gathered a great team of people together and drew from several key resources in fleshing out his vision.  The project is based on permaculture and biodynamic principles of farming and land stewardship, and a design team that included permaculture greats Jenny Pell and Doug Bullock of Permaculture Now! were integral in the initial planning stages. The Northwest Cooperative Development Center helped draft their articles of incorporation and provided valuable advice along the way.  

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Living the life, locally

By Malaika Maphalala

This fall brought a big transition back to Hawaii for me.  My oldest daughter started college this year, freeing me up to return to east Hawaii, my home of twenty years. It’s been interesting to come back to Hawaii after three years of being centered in the city of Portland, Oregon.  I’m struck by the changes – once sleepy little Hilo town seems to be having a Renaissance. There are new shops and restaurants and the downtown area is bright, creative, and colorful.  “Think Local, Buy Local” signs are everywhere and the shops are full of beautiful, quality, island-made creations.

Hale logo200pxI can directly see the impact of the work my friend and colleague, Michael Kramer, has been doing in this island community.  He played a critical role in the founding of a local BALLE chapter, called “HALE” – Hawaii Alliance for a Local Economy.  The organization, led by newly named BALLE Local Economy Fellow, Andrea Dean, spearheaded the “Think Local, Buy Local” campaign to increase awareness about the value of supporting local business.  Their website states that “Independent businesses located in communities that have an active “buy local” campaign operated by a local business organization (such as HALE!) experienced markedly stronger revenue growth compared to those in areas without such an initiative.” The results are clear in Hilo.  Andrea also drove the Kanu Hawaii Eat Local Challenge – a project near and dear to my heart because my youngest daughter and her 4-H club made a fantastic video (see documenting their week-long commitment to eat only locally grown foods that culminated with a feast prepared for their friends and families. 

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Book Review: Locavesting, by Amy Cortese

By Malaika Maphalala

I recently finished reading Amy Cortese’s new book, Locavesting – The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From It.  It’s a great read on the development of the movement to build more resilient and sustainable communities by investing in our local economies.  Locavesting takes the Buy Local movement to the next level – Invest Local – and poses the question: what if everyone invested 5-10% of their assets in local and community investments?  

Image MM locavestingAs Cortese shows, Local Investment offers many potential benefits.  For one, it provides another category of portfolio diversification as protection against the increasingly volatile stock market.  Investing in local communities is investment on a human scale and can restore a sense of personal connection to financial transactions that has been lost in the complex, impersonal investments of today’s financial markets.  And, it encourages us to broaden our concept of returns beyond just financial.  

Investing in small, community-rooted businesses is investing directly in the health of our communities and provides a vital boost to the kinds of businesses that are the true drivers of our economy.  Small businesses make up 99% of all U.S. companies, employ half of all private sector employees, provide two of every three new jobs created, and contribute half of private GDP – about 5.5 trillion dollars annually.  Money spent and invested in these businesses circulates within local communities, contributing to their prosperity.  Cortese points out that “communities with a diversified economy comprised of many locally owned businesses have a higher quality of life, civic engagement, and income equality than similar communities that are reliant upon a few large employers.”  Without strong local economies, we can’t expect to have a functioning global economy.  And yet despite the fact that small businesses far outstrip large corporations in job creation and driving economic growth, they’re being increasingly starved of capital, seriously hampering our economic recovery.  

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The Rise of the Local Exchange

By Malaika Maphalala

A thriving local economy includes an entrepreneurial community and a flow of capital to support enterprise growth from startup to expansion. We know that investment into local businesses stimulates local economies and yet opportunities to engage in this type of investing remain fairly limited. As interest in local investing grows, a number of initiatives are working to create a local exchange system that could allow easier access to investment in local businesses. An effective local exchange would address the prevailing concerns around the proliferation of local investing: how to evaluate companies that list their offerings, how to open up access to a wider range of investors beyond high-net worth investors while also offering a means of protection from fraud, and addressing the need for some liquidity in these type of investments.

Two of the most developed local exchange initiatives are brewing in the communities I consider home: Oregon and Hawaii. Neither are intending to be full-blown stock exchanges, but rather aim to be platforms supported by a broker/dealer system committed to expanding access to local investing.

ChangeXchange logoSpringboard Innovation, a Portland based nonprofit that has been supporting social enterprise since 2006, is working to launch ChangeXchange Northwest as a channel for community based investment in Washington and Oregon. ChangeXchange is a comprehensive initiative that combines the use of an online transaction platform with city by city educational programs for entrepreneurs, community leaders, investors, and support professionals in order to build a complete ecosystem to encourage the success of the local investment movement.

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From Grass-fed Beef to Beneficial Banking

By Malaika Maphalala

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Kat Taylor, co-founder of One PacificCoast Bank, a “beneficial bank” newly arrived in Portland.  A fan of banks with strong community-service visions, I was interested to hear about their work, but what really caught my attention was that Kat has spent half her time involved in Regenerative Agriculture.   Here was a woman after my own heart: combining high impact work in social finance with trailblazing work in building sustainable food systems in her community and beyond.

When we got together, Kat explained that she thinks of things in terms of systems.  She believes that our current extractive models of food production, finance, and energy must be replaced with systems that support life. And clearly, she has stepped up as a driver of these changes.

MM TomKatGrazing

Kat and her husband Tom Steyer originally purchased 2000 acres in Pescadero, California as a conservation project aimed at saving a critical watershed from development.  The land, a former dairy farm, was a depleted landscape of coastal scrub and grasslands, interspersed with Douglas Fir.  The couple soon realized that this watershed was in the midst of a vital food network connecting rural agricultural land to the suburbs. Drawing on that systems-oriented way of looking at the world,

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