Making a Pitch for Sustainability

Emily Summers, a junior Business Management and Economics double major, is the Chief Investment Officer of the Brown Advisory Student-Managed Investment Fund.

In December, members of the Brown Advisory Student Investment Fund enjoyed a rare experience—the opportunity to see the president of a publicly traded company make an investment presentation to them.

Jeffrey Eckel, president and chief executive officer of Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure (HASI), visited campus Wednesday, December 2nd to present investment opportunities to Washington College’s Brown Advisory Student Investment Fund. He gave these students the same presentation that he gives regularly to institutional investors. 

Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure is an Annapolis investment firm founded in 1981 that makes debt and equity investments in projects that increase energy efficiency, provide cleaner energy, or positively impact the environment. The firm held its initial public offering in April of 2013, while simultaneously restructuring to a real estate investment trust (REIT) for tax purposes.

“We went public for two reasons,” Mr. Eckel said. “One, we think, and I certainly believe, that climate change is the defining issue of my generation… .  And the second is that it is an enormous opportunity to make money. Basically, we see the opportunity to refinance the U.S. electric power business, which is the most capital-intensive business in the world.” Eckel himself has been the fifth largest shareholder since 2000—and even more notably, Hannon Armstrong is the first Wall Street company in which every employee is a shareholder.

Brown Advisory Student Investment Fund students asked the CEO how he expected HASI stock would perform in a time of declining oil prices. Will companies still adopt sustainable energy projects when traditional energy has become so affordable?

Eckel replied that while oil prices are affecting the transportation industry, changes in crude oil do not impact the necessity for sustainable household and business energy use. Eckel emphasized that HASI can make above average returns “by making disciplined financial investments that are on the right side of the climate change line.” HASI, he said, is able to invest in over 150 companies that many big banks cannot fully fund due to restrictive lending policies.  

One of the Brown Advisory students, Zachary Revak, a junior business management major, said he learned a lot: “I thought Mr. Eckel was a great speaker. He talked about the energy business and how we are trying to make it energy efficient. And I think we need to really consider it, because energy efficiency is going to be a major player in the future.” Hearing a pitch from a CEO was an entirely new experience for the Brown Advisory students; the program hopes to host more local companies for investment talks in the coming semesters.

– Emily Summers ’16, Chief Investment Officer, Brown Advisory SMIF

Last modified on Mar. 16th, 2015 at 8:54am by Hui-Ju Tsai.