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“As we’ve been bringing on a more diverse group of investment managers, we’ve been able to not only upgrade the performance of our portfolio, but also align our committee’s strategy with our core values and our identity as an organization.”Herb Wagner, Investment Committee Chair, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston

Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston’s (BGCB) Investment Committee is the only board committee that forgoes recommendations to executive leadership and acts on its own. Tasked with managing the organization’s $80 million endowment during a time of tremendous uncertainty over the past few years, this committee has risen to the occasion and continues to set the tone for how to succeed by prioritizing its core values: Youth First, Integrity, Community, Equity, and Innovation.

“We’re very fortunate to have a team of all stars sitting on this committee,” explained Investment Committee Chair and BGCB Director Herb Wagner. “Yes, they are all best-in-class investment managers, but what is even more impressive is this group’s collective dedication to the mission of the organization.”

Herb Wagner, Investment Committee Chair

Led by Wagner who is the Founder and Managing Partner of Finepoint Capital, the committee includes Brad Balter of Bain Capital, Collette Chilton of Williams College Investment Office, Dave Johnson of Bain & Company, Josh Kennedy of Brown University Investment Office, Mike Krupka of Bain Capital, Tom Niedermeyer of The Office of Thomas J. Niedermeyer, Jr., Saul Pannell formerly of Wellington Management Company, Greg Shell of Goldman Sachs, Lisa Vazquez of Mass General Brigham Investment Office, and Frank Wisneski formerly of Wellington Capital Management. The outcome of this group’s hard work and focus over the past three years is clear and measurable. During a time when many teams were justifiably focused on simply staying afloat, this group dug in and challenged itself to evolve.

We sat down with Wagner for an extended Q&A about how he has seen the committee adapt and succeed, particularly over the past few years.

How did you first get involved with Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston? 

My initial involvement began around 2005 when I visited a couple of the Clubs with friends. I remember specifically visiting the Gerald and Darlene Jordan Club in Chelsea. After hearing stories of how Clubs provided opportunity to children through fun and creative programs and mentorship, I was hooked.

What is your favorite part of this organization? What keeps you involved?

I love meeting the young people whose lives are changed by BGCB’s caring staff and strong programming. I look forward to visiting clubs and being introduced to club members at our board meetings. The kids teach us about the things that matter to them—access to caring adults, opportunities to grow physically and emotionally, and programs like coding and music arts that open up new pathways of possibility. These experiences deepen my understanding of the impact that BGCB has on the lives of children.

The people who work for the organization are wonderful human beings. They work at BGCB because they love kids and they love helping people. On a daily basis, they breathe life into the Clubs’ mission to help children reach their full potential. Each time I interact with BGCB staff at Clubs or in the main office, I am inspired. I don’t meet people like that every day in my professional life. It gives me hope to know the team at Boys & Girls Clubs are on our earth and doing what they do every day.

I also feel fortunate to work with the phenomenal people on the Board of Directors and the Investment Committee. It is a diverse group with broad professional backgrounds. I’ve developed rewarding relationships through my participation.

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What drew you to getting involved in the Investment Committee? 

The former chair of the Investment Committee, Tom Niedermeyer, asked me to get involved. I manage a pool of investments in my day job, so it was something I was very familiar with, and I knew a few members of the committee as well.

At that time, the endowment was relatively small. I was drawn to the opportunity to use my professional expertise to contribute to the organization by helping to grow the endowment. I’ve been Chair of the committee for four years, and that has allowed me to spend time thinking about the strategic direction of the endowment, how we can best serve the organization. I was also attracted to the challenge of aligning the endowment with the values of the Clubs.

What are the goals of the Investment Committee? Have they changed over the past few years? 

The primary goal of the investment committee is to grow the endowment over time and, importantly, to fund the day-to-day operations of the organization.

One of our most important priorities during my tenure has been to invest our endowment in a socially responsible manner. We spend time thinking through how we can ensure that the values of the organization are reflected in the endowment’s portfolio of investments. Ultimately, we are trying to achieve attractive risk adjusted returns by socially conscious means that are consistent with the values of Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston.

Another major area of focus for the Investment Committee is to find best in class investment managers. Historically, the investment field has been dominated by white men, who have attracted a disproportionate share of assets to manage. If you are willing to do a bit of work, you will find that there are firms led by women and people of color that are posting phenomenal returns. I believe that groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in finance are poised to take a larger seat at the table and we want to be a constructive part of that evolution. I am proud that we have brought in a more diverse group of investment managers, that have not only upgraded the performance of our portfolio, but also aligned our committee’s strategy with our core values and our identity as an organization.

What are the Investment Committee’s biggest takeaways from the past few years? 

The coronavirus pandemic has made the work of the Investment Committee more important to the organization’s day-to-day operations. The  economic shock of the last few years has created uncertainty for most organizations that rely on donations and endowment returns for their operating budgets. Out of necessity, this committee has matured and evolved to reflect the needs of the organization. We have learned the importance of being able to adapt and adjust in challenging circumstances.

What are your goals for the Investment Committee moving forward?

We continue to focus on finding best in class managers who align with BGCB’s values. By growing the endowment, we can contribute resources that allow the clubs to provide programming to every child who enters its doors and to provide opportunity to develop as productive, caring and responsible citizens.

Overall, the committee will continue to push to grow the endowment in a way that is consistent with our values. We will also continue to identify best-in-class managers and to broaden our roster to include more women and people of color.  And we hope to grow the impact of the endowment on the organization, providing a growing and reliable source of funding for many years.

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