Impact Investing Panel

Article contributed by Yuching Chang and Cheryl Tam.

On the evening of Tuesday, November 13, 2018, 24 students from the Nanyang MBA, Fellows MBA, and MSc Accountancy programs attended the impact investing panel discussion hosted by the Nanyang MBA Social Impact Business Club at the MBA Lounge. The event started off with a buffet dinner that was highlighted by the crowd favourite chocolate brownies. This was then followed by the panel discussion moderated by Club Co-Chair, Cheryl Tam. The three panelists came from all walks of life and offered diverse perspectives:

1.       Yinglock Chan, Senior Director of Investments, Garden Impact Investments and Nanyang MBA alumnus

2.       Mark Sayer, Impact Investment Manager, raiSE and CFO, Asia Venture Philanthropy Network

3.       Susan Sy, Executive Director, Head of Family & Philanthropy, Asia Pacific UBS AG


The first half of the panel discussion focused on understanding what is impact investing and its emerging trends. As suggested by Yinglock, imagine if you have a ruler in front of you. At one end is pure social (i.e. traditional philanthropy) and at the other end is pure profit (i.e. traditional investing). Somewhere in between is where impact investing lies because any investments made into organizations or funds must generate measurable social, environmental, and financial return. From UBS’s point of view, Susan noted that there are three main ways to invest sustainably: exclusion of assets from investment portfolios that don’t reflect investors’ values; integration of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) factors in investments to improve returns and reduce risks; and impact investing to generate measurable environmental and social impact with financial return. Mark then added that with the recent proliferation of young social entrepreneurs, impact investors use the 80/20 rule to evaluate investment opportunities with social enterprises, which highlights the importance of a solid business model (80%) and the metrics for impact (20%).

The second half of the panel discussion focused on understanding how to pursue a career in the field of impact investing. While the general consensus amongst the panelists is that the sector in Singapore is small compared to Europe, the good news is that it is growing. A basic level of understanding of finance is important, but a passion for the field is crucial to maintaining the motivation to overcome the rainy days. Furthermore, in order to break into the small and competitive field, one has to be open to different opportunities in the impact investing ecosystem by exploring careers in impact investing management, social enterprises, intermediaries, etc. So don’t fret if you don’t have a degree or experience in finance, you can still have a successful career in impact investing, especially if you already know something about the 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). You are on the way to the impact investing world!

Overall, this was a fantastic first event for the Social Impact Club. The feedback from the attendees were extremely positive and the panelists couldn’t be happier to share their words of wisdom. The event wouldn’t have been possible without the tremendous support of EXCO, GSCDO, and GSO. We look forward to bringing more engaging and insightful events in the future – stay tuned!