SmartBe Wealth Aspirations Issue 03.
Shelley Kuipers – perspectives from a financial feminist.
Shelley Kuipers – perspectives from a financial feminist.
SBe: How has the COVID experience been for you? How did you manage?
SK: You know at first it was kind of like terrifying, like when the sh#t first hit the fan, and then you're just like OMG what's going on. But then we moved out of that phase and then it was just Brian and I. And then we just created our bubbles and then that bubble is just getting bigger, and now smaller and smaller. But honestly, I have nothing to complain about.
So things are starting to relax out there and starting to change. What are you doing differently now?
It's just really busy because you're working from home and it's all digital. If somebody goes, hey, I need your advice, or I need your help then you do it and your day is gone. Wake up, coffee, walk down the hallway and sit at our desks until six or so, go from my old lady walk, grab a drink, eat and repeat. I might watch something and then go to bed. It's been kind of routine to be honest. But grandson time is the bright spot of my days for sure.
You're a strong feminist leader. Your multiple roles in Harris Kuipers, The51, Iovia, Adventure Capital give you access to so many interesting people and innovation. What do you see from innovation as well as on the feminist front?
I think what I'm really inspired by is where and how women are innovating. They are going across every category, every vertical, every business model. If you represent 51% of the population and are able to actualize what’s possible from a women’s perspective, then our innovation and spending power will create very different experiences, products, services – everything has an opportunity to be redesigned. Every time I engage with a women entrepreneur I think we are going to touch everything, and the attitude is game f'ing on. It feels different right now. That's really encouraging.
51% of the population is a fact. Where do you think we are on the continuum to 51% innovation and spending power?
I did a podcast yesterday morning with a group called Join the Purse. Jana the host said that there's a statistic that by 2025 60% of all wealth will be owned by women in the UK. That struck me. In Canada by 2030, 65% of the wealth will be controlled by women. The51 got started because 2.8% of venture funding goes to women globally. Canada sits at 4%, so guess what, we are just at the start of what’s possible. In advancing women entrepreneurs, Canada stands to add $ to its GDP. Judy, Alice, I bumped up against our existing system for years. Familiarity and short-term bias are consistently restricting capital to women and additionally women investors are not being invited in as Limited Partners, so there is a two-sided problem, capital in and capital out. We just decided to go. We will be a destination for women’s capital and for women’s innovation.
Changing gears a bit, what is the financial feminists take on Black Lives Matter and other significant social injustices in our world.
Black lives matter obviously needs to be acknowledged, respected and actioned. It’s not a solution if we just say, “I'm not racist” and take no action., What I learned is that you need to be anti-racist. At The51 we came out right away and just said, OK, we're going to call bullshit on ourselves. We are a team of white women with one woman of colour. That's not good enough, so we're seeking nominations for our community council with the goal of full representation of the 51%. Our actions at the community council level will then guide how we are going to change our team, our deal flow, our investing opportunities, where we seek capital…basically everything. We've taken a step and I’ve heard some people talk about listen, learn and act. I've got some books lined up for my weekends to learn more. Taking action is the most important and the hardest. The question becomes how am I actively trying to change the system for the benefit of all?
So how do you think we're going to come out of COVID-19?
I think real change is happening. Scott Galloway & Kara Swisher’s podcast Pivot is my favourite and they think that COVID is accelerating everything. Black lives matter is a really good example of that. The separation of rich and poor is accelerating. Racism is probably accelerated. I think we're going to get the good, bad and the ugly faster. It's an interesting perspective.
What is your relationship with money? Are you a spender or a saver. Is it important to you? Do you ignore it?
I saw this question earlier and I said God, I think I'm extremely generous and then extremely cautious. I'm generous to entrepreneurs who need capital to actualise their vision or organisations in need or people that need financial support. I'm always very quick to go what can we do or redo? On the flip side, once I’m in, I identify problems and am very cautious about spending. On the personal front I'm not someone who likes to spend a lot. We love travel and experiences and I really fight the urge, but I don't always win that battle in our family.
How do you and Brian make investment decisions at Adventure Capital?
It's quite independent. I invest in what I want to and so does Bri. I'm not always convinced about what he wants to invest in and vice versa. If we look back a couple of years at all the investments that we made there's no diversity in the mix, like 0. This made me realize I wanted to play in a whole other world. My investing is focused on those that are under-estimated, where Bri invests where he knows the model really well and can invest in it over and over again. We'll see how that all shakes out overtime. I get ridiculed for some of my investments and I'm like whatever, it’s a starting point.
How does quantitative investing and scientific method fit into your overall philosophy?
I would say it's really new for me. My investing philosophy is very instinctive, I’ve always had a knack at seeing the future which right now it’s grounded in the opportunities coming from powerful women. It just makes sense that women are going to start preferring this new suite of innovation over what they’re traditionally buying because it's been designed and developed by them for them.
What about SmartBe and our ETF? What's your thoughts on our first inning company?
It absolutely needs to exist. If you look at your portfolio and allocations to different assets, I can see how SmartBe fits in and that you would want to park some of your capital in SBEA. But I also think it's not the only thing that I would want to invest in. What would interest me is layering a diversity factor or a female lens on top of quantitative investing. At The51 we put a female lens on early stage investing but I think you guys have the opportunity to do that on the public markets? ESG (environmental social and governance) and EDI (equity diversity and inclusion) would be other examples. Even if you're staying true to scientific method, that would be rich information for people to help make their investment decisions.
What is your retirement trajectory? What's shaping your thinking about passing wealth on to your kids and grandkids?
I have no lens into retirement, I don't want to, it's not on my radar at all. I just think 50s are and will continue to be fantastic, I'm ready for it. Brian and I have a long-term lens around wealth creation and we're getting our kids involved, which is great. Saunder is married and their family is growing, and thoughtful in his wealth creation approaches. Kellen is a passionate and instinctive investor. But what I think what binds us all is a fierce commitment to what needs to be, what is right… there is a social justice theme to our family and how we look at everything. We'd love to leave our kids with a legacy but also ensure that the organizations, entrepreneurs and everything that we're supporting have lots of tentacles so they’re not something that can just be ripped out. It just keeps living under next gen stewardship.
Is that sort of how you see your philanthropic side as well?
Well, we've just set up our foundation in the last couple of years. For a long time, our ‘giving back work’ has been time and effort to help entrepreneurs succeed often times with no skin in the game. Sometimes just to invest in the community. We are moving into a phase of expanding our giving to other areas we are passionate about like nature and kids but they're all connected with the future. I don't think we're going to be putting our names on buildings, we will just quietly slip our money in and let that organization do their work.
There's so many moving parts in society right now but things are starting to stabilize and come back to normal. Is there anything that's becoming clear for you?
I think people have to get on the future bus. There are some people that can actively participate, some are going to fight getting on, and then there's people that will be left behind. What are we going to do to safeguard those that can't define their destiny because the system doesn't support or enable them? What is our responsibility in our communities, our companies, our organizations, in our families? How do we make sure that we're creating something that's more equitable? I think it's going to be really challenging. We need to make sure that the good values that we all share are the winners versus the evil values that a few loud voices can whip up with fear and hatred.
Like if you were running Canada or Alberta, what would you do?
I wouldn't. I would find somebody better. I think there's so many capable people and I would want to convince someone great to go in and do it. Oh, and I have names if you want them.
Who are your role models for you look up to?
I would think right now it's people that are making stuff happen so unabashedly you know unapologetically. I hate that word, but I'm saying it. I think now is the time to be an activist in something you believe in and drive change.
Who do you think is being successful at driving change right now?
So many people. I think black lives matter is a huge example for racism and police reform. The change is being driven by people taking to the streets, and I think we've really under-estimated that – everyday activism – on the streets, in the boardroom and more. That's what's going to happen when people don't feel like they're valued.
You mentioned Scott Galloway and Pivot. Are there any other podcasts, music, TV shows, books that you are reading?
Yeah, there's one. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall is one book I'm going to read. It's about how the feminism movement has been largely for white women. I'm also going to read Invisible Women which is about the fact that the world hasn't really been designed for us. In most design cases women were modeled as the small man. E.g. make sure the seat belt is comfortable and safe for the small 120-pound man. Again, women will redesign everything from their context. I'm a big fan of Kara Swisher. I think if you can listen to her anytime on Recode Decode or Pivot, and now Sway, she's really awesome. TV shows I am watching Normal People right now, which is fantastic. It's so well done. I love it. And then I watched Mrs. America which was really interesting. I didn't really know the history there. It’s my understanding that all 50 states ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Virginia did this year! Only for 5 states to rescind. Can you believe that? Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho, Kentucky and South Dakota.
What's your superpower? What would you put on this earth?
I don't know. I think I'm that person that just says – “it can be better, can be better, can be better”. I'm not good with status quo, I push for ‘better’ in most things. Pretty sure it drives everyone around me – just crazy.
What other practices are you dealing with? Any yoga self care?
No yoga, but lots of walking and hiking and I love my Grandma time on Saturday morning when it works and well there is the new e-bike too – which I also love. All of these are both extremely therapeutic, really important and I try to protect.
Any special lessons that have come through this interesting phase and humanity?
I've consistently heard that everyone is going through a bit of a self-discovery. That's probably been the lesson for me, even though it's been really busy, it's just having that time to be an introvert whether you like it or not and do that self-reflection. Peel back the layers call your own bullsh#t and deal with it.
We like to end our wealth aspirations chat with what are your wealth aspirations?
I don't want this taken out of context, but I think there is an opportunity to create wealth in a non-extractive way and then figure out how to give it back. To create the killer circular economy of capitalism, maybe that’s what stakeholder capitalism is, or ESG? That would be cool to figure out. How do we keep reinvesting in what the Earth, our communities, our businesses need?
*Photos: Allison Seto