Almost two years into the pandemic, it is not surprising that many of us are tired of online meetings, webinars, and conferences. I had the opportunity to attend several in-person events in the fall, before Omicron hit, and there was a palpable excitement in being able to meet face-to-face, talk on the sidelines, meet someone randomly, and not worry whether your mute button was on. I didn’t realize just how much I missed that!
I was initially disappointed to have to announce last week that SHARE’s upcoming Investor Summit would once again have to move online in the face of public health concerns. I had been looking forward to seeing all of you in person once again.But our virtual format hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for the event itself, because online or in-person the SHARE Investor Summit has always been unlike any other conference I attend. Here’s why:
1. Designed to Centre Your Experience
If you’re a trustee or investment decision-maker at a pension plan, university, Indigenous trust, foundation, religious institution or other asset owner, the Summit brings together your peers not just to receive information but to participate in creating an agenda for action for the coming year. At SHARE, we’re just as bored as you are with webinars that talk at you rather than learn with you. Together with our partners, we design our conference to enable you to meet with your peers and reflect on the workshops together, and suggest actions that are relevant to your sector and your institutions. We have network rapporteurs that help animate those discussions, and bring back ideas to the whole conference so that we can learn from each other.
2. A Merit-Based Roster of Speakers
There’s no “pay to play” at a SHARE conference; our speakers are selected for their unique expertise and experience, not for their chequebook. Instead, the many sponsors that support the Summit do so because they believe in the work that gets done there. They want to be a part of it, and we are especially grateful to our sponsors for continuing their support through the pandemic and enabling this space for collaboration.
3. Peer-Driven and Audience-Engaged Solutions
SHARE’s Summit is where leaders talk about practical actions, and generate new opportunities to work with peers on solutions. Two years ago, the Summit launched the Canadian Capital Stewardship Network, bringing together pension trustees and unions to address worker rights concerns in pension investments – something that seemed prescient when only a few months later the treatment of frontline workers became a central question in how we struggled through the pandemic.
One year ago, despite our virtual format, action was still front and centre as we launched the University Network for Investor Engagement, a broad coalition of university investors dedicated to climate action that grew out of early discussions at the previous year’s Summit. And our Reconciliation and Responsible Investment Initiative has consistently made action on Indigenous reconciliation a part of the entire conference, embedded across our discussions, not a side-issue siloed in a one-off workshop.
This year’s Summit will continue to lead educational sessions, discussions and planning around some of the critical questions facing institutional asset owners as we re-unite and re-ignite in the wake of multiple crises. How do we understand and act on systemic risks like climate change and economic inequality, which don’t fit neatly into modern portfolio theory? How do we build reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and anti-racism into our own institutional culture, and down the investment chain? How do we engage with regulators to help build modern capital markets, and where are the hidden risks that lie outside of the reach of regulators?
Most importantly, what are the collaborations and tools that will help us all re-ignite our teams and respond passionately and purposefully to the continuing call to build a more sustainable, inclusive and productive economy for our beneficiaries, members, communities and other stakeholders?
SHARE will bring in some of North America’s leading experts to share ideas, but we need you to bring your own expertise and experience to the mix as well. Please come to the Summit prepared to participate, meet peers, plan, and take back fresh ideas for action in the year ahead. Our interactions this year may take place in a virtual format once again, but the actions we co-create are going to have real-world impacts.