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Tweaking the popular career advice to “do what you love and the money will follow,” Ben Malick decided last year to follow his faith. Now he hopes the money will follow.
In May 2016, Malick launched an advisory firm rooted in his religion. He embraces “Biblically Responsible Investing” (BRI) — a process that applies Christian values to investment decisions.
A chartered financial analyst, Malick became aware of BRI principles a few years ago. He liked the idea of integrating his personal beliefs with traditional financial planning, so he left his job as an equity analyst at an RIA firm and started Three Nine Financial in Blue Springs, Mo.
In terms of branding, Malick places his faith front and center. He named his firm after a Proverbs verse, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.”
On the home page of his firm’s website, the first sentence proclaims, “If you believe that God owns it all and you’re simply the manager of what He’s entrusted to you, then you’re in the right place!”
Malick, 31, is not alone. He’s aware of many like-minded financial planners around the country, and he participates in monthly conference calls with them. Kingdom Advisors, a national community of Christian advisers, hosts the discussions.
Building a practice from the ground up takes fortitude for any adviser. But Malick faces additional challenges.
“Anytime you talk about the Bible, it’s a very personal thing,” he said. “You can educate as much as you want, but it depends how that person takes it.”
As a result, Malick markets primarily to groups who are predisposed to accept and admire his approach. For starters, he has spread the word among fellow churchgoers and others in his personal circle.
The whole concept behind BRI is this is God’s money and we’re only using God’s money to own businesses in our portfolios.
He has not attempted to generate leads among the general public. But he’s not concerned about limiting his growth prospects.
“I live in Missouri,” he said with a laugh. “If I was doing this in New York or California, it might be different.”
Still, Malick is not shy about explaining his firm’s mission to strangers. He finds that even those who do not share his religious views listen respectfully when he describes the nature of his business.
“The whole concept behind BRI is this is God’s money and we’re only using God’s money to own businesses in our portfolios,” Malick said. “I haven’t gotten any, ‘Whoa, that’s crazy!’”
Because Malick believes that biblical principles double as sound business principles, he can make a strong case for his investments. But he hits roadblocks as well.
From a business perspective, it’s a really sensible way to build a practice.
Part of BRI screening involves examining the societal causes that drive certain corporations. If an otherwise promising company donates funds to, say, support reproductive rights for women, it can fall by the wayside. He also evaluates to what extent he thinks a company adds value to customers, employees, shareholders, communities and the environment.
“Companies on the frontlines of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] with their employee policies might come through the screen,” Malick said. “But if those companies give money to LGBT movements, they get screened out.”
Malick prefers to limit his portfolio to 25 to 30 stocks (current picks include TrueBlue TBI, +0.00% and Juniper Networks JNPR, -0.07% ), although he notes that hundreds of companies pass BRI screens. Despite its large size, the BRI investment universe has fewer mega-large-cap stocks because those corporations often champion their charitable giving — and the causes they support — more vocally.
Thinking like an entrepreneur, Malick argues that his niche has its benefits. Clients who share his values are easier to retain over time.
“From a business perspective, it’s a really sensible way to build a practice,” he said. “For people who get BRI, it’s on a much deeper relationship level than just having me run a financial plan.”