April 2, 2019
Gratitude Railroad was pleased to co-host a community dinner in Chicago with TIAA on the topic of Foundations and Endowments: Exploring the Journey into Impact Investing, on March 26.
The evening’s discussion featured Rekha Unnithan, Senior Director & Impact Investing Portfolio Manager of Nuveen Private Markets, a TIAA portfolio fund, to share her insights on the challenges and solutions for endowment and foundation investors.
These investors face unique challenges in order to achieve long-term capital preservation and growth that aligns with their mission and values. Nuveen/TIAA actively deploy capital into a broad-spectrum strategy centered around financial inclusion that spans sectors, asset classes, and regions. The team sources, diligences, recommends and manages individualized strategies dedicated to impact within private equity, private real estate, mortgages and funds. Specifically, Unnithan and her team manage impact investments to execute Nuveen’s commitment across thematic areas of Affordable Housing, Inclusive Finance and Community & Economic Development.
Skepticism and misunderstanding of the market continue to be a barrier for foundations and endowments. Unnithan anecdotally highlighted one investor’s preconception of the affordable housing market to cause misunderstandings on the investable and high potential parts of the sector. The lesson here – impact investors and, as the industry evolves, large institutions, should approach new opportunities with an open mind and limit themselves to incorporating an objective, financial diligence-based skepticism.
Even so, Unnithan explained, in recent years endowments and foundations are beginning to align their capital with their missions, rather than the customary fractional investment. Despite large institutions becoming increasingly active in impact, there is still quite a way to go for the industry. For example, Nuveen, a larger presence in impact investing that has executed on their strategy for 8+ years and dedicated $1B+ is part of a $1T TIAA portfolio.
Set in Chicago’s beloved Boka Restaurant with seasonal and locally-sourced food and warm hospitality, the evening was an enthusiastic gathering of investors committed to shifting even larger pools of capital into impact investing. We extend sincere gratitude to our co-hosts TIAA for their support. Learn more about Nuveen’s impact investing strategies here.