28 episodes

Sloane Ortel and Ashby Monk explore what's holding the world back from investing in progress, answer the questions on the minds of people in the know, and deliver the Brooklyn-Bay Area consensus about institutional investing that you desperately crave.

freemoney.substack.com

Free Money with Sloane and Ashby Sloane Ortel

    • Investing
    • 5.0 • 6 Ratings

Sloane Ortel and Ashby Monk explore what's holding the world back from investing in progress, answer the questions on the minds of people in the know, and deliver the Brooklyn-Bay Area consensus about institutional investing that you desperately crave.

freemoney.substack.com

    The Forward-Looking Statements Episode

    The Forward-Looking Statements Episode

    It’s the time of year when Wall Street analysts take out their Ouija boards and attempt to divine the future.

    There are a million reasons not to do this, ranging from “it’s a performative waste of time” to “it’s devil worship” depending on the particular method employed by the prognosticator.

    So we prefer to make sense of what’s already happened. In this episode, we touch on:

    What the rise of the adult content platform OnlyFans tells us about investment management.

    Why pensions should employ a chief resilience officer.

    Why so many organizations are “all talk” when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

    And lots more! But I’ve got a cold at the moment, leaving me way too fatigued and sneezy to write them all out here. So you’ll need to listen to the episode to hear more, as well as Ashby’s answers to these three listener questions:

    What's the most loco thing that happened this year that you forgot about until answering this question?

    What dubiously plausible thing do you think could happen in 2021?

    What would you say is the most amusing prediction of all time?

    Get on the email list at freemoney.substack.com

    • 49 min
    The ESG Christmas Special

    The ESG Christmas Special

    It’s a Free Money tradition to answer questions from our listeners.

    We generally do this in the Dear Ashby segment at the end of each episode, but upon receiving the very special letter below, we realized it needed a response immediately and in writing.

    But first, we must express our deepest gratitude to each of our readers and listeners who have made this year so special. And also to an editorial from 1897 in the New York Sun that responds to a letter from Virginia O’ Hanlon, eight years old. Her letter asked a simple question: Is there a Santa Claus?

    We also ought to note that you ought to subscribe to our emails if you haven’t already.

    Earlier this month, we received the following missive by mail at Free Money world headquarters.

    Dear Sloane and Ashby -

    I am sixty-eight years old.

    Some of my little portfolio company friends say there is no such thing as ESG.

    Papa says, “If you see it on the Free Money podcast, it’s so.”

    Please tell me the truth: is there such a thing as ESG?

    Sincerely,

    Larry Fink

    40 East 52nd Street, New York, NY, 10022.

    Larry, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe in anything unless it accretes to the bottom line in this quarter. And they think that if their little minds do not comprehend something, it cannot possibly be.

    All minds, whether they belong to investors or management teams, are little. In this great universe of ours, human beings are mere insects - ants - in intellect compared with the boundless worlds around us. We could never hope to grasp the whole of truth and knowledge.

    Yes Larry, there is such a thing as ESG. It exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they give your life its highest beauty and joy.

    How dreary this world would be if there was no ESG!

    It would be as dreary as if there were no Larrys. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make this existence tolerable. We would have no hope that capitalism could be a force for good, not just good investment returns. The eternal lights that innovation and social entrepreneurship fill the world with would be extinguished.

    Not believe in ESG! You might as well not believe in earnings! You might get your army of analysts to watch all the corporate filings each quarter to catch a glimpse of ESG in the making, but what would it prove if they were to see nothing?

    Nobody sees the whole picture with ESG. But that is no sign that there is no such thing as ESG. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor adults can see.

    Have you ever seen companies consistently deliver shareholder value? Of course not, but that’s no proof that it’s not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the modern market economy.

    There is a veil covering the unseen world that not even the strongest person, nor even the united strength of all the people that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and picture the supernal beauty of ESG fully implemented.

    Is it real? Larry, in all this world there is nothing else so real and abiding. ESG is here in our hearts, and a thousand years from now it will continue to make the hearts of all market participants glad.

    Sincerely,

    Sloane & Ashby

    A few programming notes

    You may have noticed that we have released an episode alongside our response to Mr. Fink’s letter. It’s a great one, featuring a discussion between Sloane, Ashby, Shawn Wooden (Treasurer of CT), Daryn Dodson (Illumen Capital), and Jean Rogers (SASB/LTSE). It was recorded a little under two months ago at SOCAP.

    You’re gonna love it.

    It has also come to our attention that the Free Money Atelier has been closed by Etsy because our products

    • 1 hr
    The Impact Episode

    The Impact Episode

    Hello and welcome to Free Money, a podcast/newsletter from Sloane Ortel and Ashby Monk about how long-term investors can free themselves from the shackles of short-term thinking.

    If you’re new here, thanks for signing up!

    If someone sent this your way or you found this post through Twitter or some other channel, be sure to sign up below. We publish most Tuesdays.

    And now, a look at the world of impact investing.

    Your money does something after you invest it.

    What is that, exactly?

    At some level, the most salient answer is “produces a financial return.” We tend to structure investment programs around such things, since growth in principal is the primary reason people go to the trouble of investing in the first place.

    But it’s not the only thing that matters. Investments are the engine that turns abstract concepts into actual undertakings. And sometimes getting a certain type of enterprise off the ground is what matters most.

    That’s where impact investing comes in. Defined as an investment intended to produce a measurable social or environmental impact alongside a financial return, it sounds absolutely wonderful on paper. And that’s kind of the problem. Remember: this is finance we’re talking about, an industry that’s known to exploit good ideas so much that they produce bad outcomes.

    What’s to stop someone from saying their initiative produces outstanding social and environmental impact, raising a bunch of capital, and actually producing an outcome more akin to the image above where an asteroid permanently and profoundly restructures earth’s surface?

    Third-party verification, we hope. There’s not much of it at present, but a few groups are organizing to give allocators greater transparency into the impact of their allocations. So we reached out to the CEO & Co-founder of one of them, Christina Leijonhufvud, for her take on how the market is evolving.

    Her company, BlueMark, is an independent impact verifier. So we asked the natural questions: how exactly does one do that? What elements of impact are even verifiable? Is the issuer-paid research model truly aligned with investor interests? How does one ensure that the investment’s outcomes align with community needs?

    This being Free Money, we also answered three questions from listeners. If you’d like to ask one for an upcoming episode, please don’t hesitate to reach out to freemoneypod@gmail.com!

    NYC comptroller Scott stringer is facing sharp criticism from progressive democrats for investing in Blackstone PE funds. Has this been an issue in other campaigns? How often? 

    JP Morgan is saying that their full year earnings could swing +/- 15 billion based on the effectiveness of govt stimulus. Should we interpret this as posturing? Their bottom line is helped by stimulus, after all. 

    Zeisberger et al are arguing that venture capital funds are under-performing because they over-diversify. Is a five position vc fund a workable vehicle? Isn’t it just a co-investment at some point?

    Get on the email list at freemoney.substack.com

    • 43 min
    The Markets Episode

    The Markets Episode

    Hello and welcome to Free Money, a podcast/newsletter from Sloane Ortel and Ashby Monk about how long-term investors can free themselves from the shackles of short-term thinking.

    If you’re new here, thanks for signing up!

    If someone sent this your way or you found this post through Twitter or some other channel, be sure to sign up below. We publish most Tuesdays.

    And now, a look at the world’s newest stock exchange.

    If you build a better market, will the world beat a path to your door?

    You’d hope so. Stock exchanges are the heartbeat of most modern economies. They provide crucial liquidity, and help enterprises raise capital at sufficient scale to undertake the sort of complex projects that large corporations are known for.

    But our circulatory system for cash could use several upgrades, because it hasn’t been built with the long-term interests of society in mind. Stock markets are famously amoral entities, unable to distinguish between ethical and exploitative earnings.

    What if we were to change that?

    You’d have to hope society would look a little bit different. Today’s marketplaces are entirely unable to distinguish between short-term and long-term activity, which means that speculators have as prominent a voice in corporate governance as long-term shareholders do.

    It also means that companies which focus on building shared value with stakeholders get lumped in with those that don’t. And that stinks. So we decided it was time for a conversation with someone who’s working on changing that.

    Our guest on this episode is Michelle Greene, President of the Long-Term Stock Exchange, which opened for business earlier this month to some fanfare. We talked about what they’re doing, why it’s different from the model employed on existing exchanges, and how their listing standards differ from their competition.

    We also talked briefly about the Free Money panel on rejecting racism and realizing returns at the upcoming Social Capital Summit. It takes place on October 20th, and will feature Michelle’s colleague Jean Rodgers as well as Illumen Capital’s Daryn Dodson and a top secret mystery guest. You can get 20% off your registration with the code SPK20.

    And as usual, we also took questions from the audience:

    The culture and execution abilities of some Canadian pensions haven't lived up to some listeners' expectations. How does the "Canadian Model" need to evolve? 

    We've gotten used to the periodic news stories that dissect the returns of various pension plans and the subsequent "hot takes." What's the constructive way to interpret these news stories?

    The CME and the Nasdaq are launching a water futures contract. Are you a buyer? More broadly, how have investments in water paid off in the past?

    Get on the email list at freemoney.substack.com

    • 44 min
    How To Get Hired at a Pension

    How To Get Hired at a Pension

    Hello and welcome to Free Money, a podcast/newsletter from Sloane Ortel and Ashby Monk about how long-term investors can free themselves from the shackles of short-term thinking.

    If you’re new here, thanks for signing up!

    If someone sent this your way or you found this post through Twitter or some other channel, be sure to sign up below. We publish most Tuesdays.

    And now, a look at how to get hired on the investment staff of pensions, foundations, and endowments.

    Looking for work is no fun at all.

    This is Sloane, and I know because I’m doing it. My consulting business has slowed down dramatically since COVID hit, which means I’ve gone from outright thriving to just surviving.

    Please do reach out if you’d like to chat about a project. But it’s not just my story. Everyone seems to have lost something during the pandemic. And the notion that tech companies are thriving under these conditions doesn’t make much in the way of sense.

    For instance, the startups Ashby is involved with building have variously had to pivot, shift priorities, and postpone investments. There’s just less money out there to buy data, and now that it’s near impossible to make sales in person that problem is compounded.

    None of that shows up in headline unemployment statistics in the United States. These necessarily simplified numbers do not purport to measure underemployment or changes in business’ investment plans, but they do tend to define our perspective of the labor market.

    So after a listener wrote in wondering how to get a job at a pension fund, we felt it was important to respond with a big picture perspective. That’s why we called Charles Skorina, a longtime recruiter of investment professionals and observer of hiring trends at endowments, foundations, and public pensions.

    After talking about a paper Ashby wrote that examined this from the pension’s perspective, we asked the obvious question: how does one go about getting hired at one of these organizations? And we got an empirical answer, rooted in Charles’ study of the various CIO resumes he’s come across in the course of doing his business. We also looked at how career stage, job history, and the power of example can influence this search process.

    You can check out the transcript here or click above to listen in your favorite podcast app.

    We also touched on the lovely goods available at the Free Money Atelier. And as usual, we answered questions from listeners:

    You two talk about the rise of ESG investing like it's a good thing. And I'm sure that's overwhelmingly true. But are there any dystopian consequences of esg's growing popularity? This is 2020, after all. 

    The "active ownership" theme is really interesting - how long has it been going on? What's the first action by a long-term investor you're aware of that you would classify as "active ownership"

    The giant "nasdaq whale" that has been hoovering up equity options with a highly unusual appetite was revealed to be... Softbank. Doesn't this prove that asset managers should be more closely regulated? 

    If you’d like us to answer a question from you on an upcoming show, write to freemoneypod@gmail.com.

    Thank you for reading & listening!

    Nothing contained in this website or podcast should be construed as investment advice.

    Get on the email list at freemoney.substack.com

    • 1 hr 2 min
    The State of State Finances

    The State of State Finances

    Hello and welcome to Free Money, a podcast/newsletter from Sloane Ortel and Ashby Monk about how long-term investors can free themselves from the shackles of short-term thinking.

    If you’re new here, thanks for signing up!

    If someone sent this your way or you found this post through Twitter or some other channel, be sure to sign up below. We publish most Tuesdays.

    And now, a look at how state finances are weathering the COVID-19 Pandemic.

    Imagine governing a state right now.

    The best positioned public schools, parks departments, and police forces are merely contending with unprecedented times.

    For most, they are unpredictable as well.

    And neither condition is helped by a near-universal problem: there is not enough money.

    America’s national government can deficit spend thanks to the Federal Reserve’s money printer, which famously goes “brrrrr.” But forty-six states and the District of Columbia have balanced budget requirements. So in the face of falling tax receipts, each must contend with an unpleasant question: how much spending to cut?

    This is a classic no-win scenario.

    In a time of economic scarcity, forced austerity is perhaps the worst thing that can happen. Without a spender of last resort, the snowball effects of recession roll on unchecked. And as mentioned earlier, that is bad.

    We called Tobias Read for a practitioner view of the crisis. He’s the Treasurer of Oregon State, which means he’s responsible for debt management, economic policy, investment management, and acting as a central banker for the state’s agencies.

    We’ve seen requests for state-level aid packages that range from a billion to a trillion dollars, so we started by asking him to clarify what is needed and the creative strategies Oregon has been using to raise funds.

    Then, as you might expect, we started talking about pensions.

    We went through what the state has done to steer its ~$111 Billion investment portfolio through the COVID crisis, including organizational changes and a potential new emerging manager program.

    We also talked about why he hates his Ford Focus and loves #FAnon, the evidence-based conspiracy theory popular among Free Money listeners which involves wide-ranging deep state efforts to design effective policy and serve the interests of ordinary citizens.

    You can check out the transcript here or click above to listen in your favorite podcast app.

    We also touched on the lovely goods available at the Free Money Atelier. And as usual, we answered questions from listeners:

    I've interviewed at some public pensions over the years, and my impression has been that (at least for mid-career/non-CIO investment positions) there is a pronounced preference for promoting from within. Just curious if this impression is accurate, and if is it another manifestation of the organization-wide risk aversion? What are the characteristics of plans that seem to have a greater willingness to hire from outside the organization?

    There's some contention over whether having operations in the west bank - a contested region claimed by both Israel and Palestine - is an ESG issue. What's your take? 

    The federal reserve has decided to allow inflation to go higher than the fed's 2% target during a boom period, which effectively means rates will be lower for even longer. Would enough inflation effectively solve the student loan and debt crises? 

    If you’d like us to answer a question from you on an upcoming show, write to freemoneypod@gmail.com.

    Thank you for reading & listening!

    Nothing contained in this website or podcast should be construed as investment advice.

    Get on the email list at freemoney.substack.com

    • 1 hr 1 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
6 Ratings

6 Ratings

berngall ,

Relevant & witty

Great insights on the relevant conversations surrounding institutional investing. The hosts are effective at talking about some of the difficult challenges & choices facing large investors in a relatable way, couching their incisive perspectives in witty banter and with references to tv infomercials from the late 80s. The guests they have had on are top-notch thought leaders in their respective fields of expertise and it’s been a real treat hearing their perspectives on the issues covered.

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