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“Be part of the system”: Equity Invest urges individuals to do the right thing with their money

Richard Hunter, director at Equity Invest, believes investments aren’t all about making profit. He spoke to Alex Blackburne about why people should avoid being greedy and instead be part of the ethical investment system.

Greed is a personality trait that not many people will admit to possessing. Indeed, most would bite at the even a slight suggestion of them being greedy.

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Richard Hunter, director at Equity Invest, believes investments aren’t all about making profit. He spoke to Alex Blackburne about why people should avoid being greedy and instead be part of the ethical investment system.

Greed is a personality trait that not many people will admit to possessing. Indeed, most would bite at the even a slight suggestion of them being greedy.

But when it comes to investments, “90% of the population in the UK”, says Richard Hunter, “will only think of profit”.

Hunter is director of Equity Invest, independent investment advisers based in Wimbledon Village in London.

Unfortunately”, he continues, “only a small percentage of people will say that profit is not actually the most important thing and that the most important thing is that they’re doing the right thing with their money”.

The sacrificing performance myth

As we continue to highlight on Blue & Green Tomorrow, doing the right thing means investing your money ethically, sustainably and responsibly.

And despite a number of misconceptions floating around the space, this doesn’t necessarily have to be to the detriment of your finances.

I’ve been around long enough now to realise that there are periods in history where ethical investments will perform better, and there are periods in history where conventional investments will perform better”, says Hunter.

It just depends when you’re investing, and the risk strategy that you take when you invest.

I’ve had some ethical clients who have done phenomenally well and I’ve had some ethical clients who have done very badly, depending largely on the criteria that they’ve set.

If they remove too much of the market, then sometimes we’re left with a situation where we simply cannot get the returns comparable to the conventional market.”

Blue & Green Tomorrow highlighted several ethical funds – all of which have different investment criteria – towards the end of 2011 and will continue to do so in 2012.

Hunter picks out the Ecclesiastical Amity International Fund as one of his current personal favourites.

I think it’s a great fund”, he says.

Rob Hepworth is a great fund manager. He keeps volatility low, which is something that my ethical clients appreciate, and he’s got a bit of cash at the moment so if we do start moving into a period of sustained recovery, he’s very well placed for that.

If you want to take a medium term view into an ethical fund, that’s one that I would be definitely recommending.”

The “lifeboat” that was the ethical investment industry

Hunter’s own advisory career began in the conventional, or unethical, investment sector – an industry he describes as “cutthroat”.

Realising the field wasn’t somewhere he wanted to spend the rest of his working life, he was introduced to a firm called Holden Meehan. In the early ‘90s they were some of the UK’s leading specialists in ethical investments. He applied for a job at the company and got it.

For me that was my lifeboat”, he says. “The thing that enabled me to stay in the industry and do what I wanted to do.

I’ve always wanted to be in investment, because I believe that capitalism is a process for wealth distribution, and can do its bit to alleviate poverty.

I’m completely committed to capitalism, but I’ve never really appreciated or enjoyed the greed element that goes along with it.

Ethical investment allowed me to find that middle line where you can be part of the process, but you recognise that there are more things than purely making money.”

After spending nine years at Holden Meehan, Hunter left to form Equity Invest in 2001 (“’Equity’ is a pun”, he jests. “People don’t often get the subtlety of that”).

I set up Equity Invest to look after anybody who has got a set of criteria by which they choose to live, and they’ve also got a lump of money that they want to do something with”, he explains.

Our job is to integrate those two issues.”

And like Ian Green before him, Hunter doesn’t force ethical views upon individuals. Instead he cites his upbringing for why he is interested in the sector.

I’m definitely not someone who tells anybody they should have ethics. And I’m not even here to disagree or agree with someone’s ethics.

Because my parents brought me up in the Salvation Army, I grew up understanding that there are a vast amount of people who choose a set of criteria by which to live.

I’m here to try and facilitate those within their investment planning, whatever those ethics are.

As far as I’m concerned, tolerance is the key. That’s the mind-set of the business.”

Apart from the obvious distinctions between the ethical and unethical investment sectors, namely the industries being supported by your money, there are differences too between the individuals who make up the two counterparts.

We’ve got some very wealthy clients who are very pleasant people”, Hunter says.

That’s one of the real benefits of choosing to be an ethical and environmental adviser: you end up with a client bank of genuinely nice people, and that’s really unusual in my industry.”

Indeed, Equity Invest’s website showcases one such wealthy, pleasant client – former world champion triple jumper, Jonathan Edwards.

First and foremost, I know my financial affairs are safe with Equity Invest. I would not hesitate in recommending them”, Edwards, a client of 10 years, quotes.

Hunter expands on his point.

One of the hallmarks of an ethical client is that they are very loyal, and because there are ethics involved, and they want to integrate their ethics with their investments, they do tend to be a little bit more worldly-wise.

They understand that investments can go down as well as up, and that it’s not all about the return.

Profit, profit, profit is not the main objective of most of my clients.

What they want to do is know that they’re getting a better return than if they’d left it in the bank, and be able to sleep at night because they’re not investing in anything they’re uncomfortable with.”

The system needs you

The biggest consequence of not investing ethically is more economic instability, Hunter says, echoing Jeremy Newbegin’s claims.

If everybody’s driven just to make money, then that whole greed thing self-perpetuates, and there’ll be another massive banking crisis, because it doesn’t work.

The whole thing will fall over. It’s about sharing.

We’re a community and a society, and you’ve got to give in to that as well as take out of it. It can’t just be about taking.

The only reason I’m still in this industry is that I’ve found a group of people who are prepared to give and take, because I certainly wasn’t prepared to stay in an industry where clients were simply here to take, take, take. It wasn’t right for me.”

Hunter finishes with a strong message to potential investors.

Good capitalism is absolutely essential for the system”, he urges.

We need people to be employed. We need people to be working, because that’s where you get dignity. We need people to be making things and creating things.

The best way of doing that, if you’ve got a load of money stuck in a bank, is to invest it.

Please be part of the system. Please be part of it because it needs you.”

To find out more about investing ethically, contact Equity Invest. Alternatively, fill in our online form and we’ll put you in touch with an ethical adviser near to you.

About where he’s based

Equity Invest is located in the London district of Wimbledon, a stone’s throw away from Wimbledon Common, and less than a ten minute car ride away from the Green Financial Advice offices, previous interviewees in this series.

The area is perhaps best known for two things: The Wombles, and the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

One of Britain’s brightest young tennis prospects, Laura Robson, was born and raised in the area, as were Laurie and Reggie Doherty – tennis playing brothers who won the men’s singles title nine times between them in the late 1800s and the early 1900s.

Raymond Briggs, illustrator of The Snowman and long-time national treasure, is from Wimbledon, whilst tragic actor Oliver Reed was also born in the area.

The London borough in which it’s located, Merton, is one of the greenest boroughs in the capital.

This is proven by its relatively low carbon emission levels – just 874kt in 2009 – nearly 400kt less than neighbours Wandsworth, which produced 1,207kt in the same year.

The council has taken significant steps in order to alleviate the impacts of climate change, and in March, will host a Green Energy Forum to discuss further measures.

Previous interviewees include

Features

What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?

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shaker kitchen designs

A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.

When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.

1. Modern

New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.

modern kitchen designs

This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.

2. Classic

Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.

classic kitchen designs

With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.

3. Shaker

Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.

shaker kitchen designs

The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.

Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.

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Features

Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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