Priya Parrish is an investor in Impact Engine IV and an active impact investor. She has been involved with impact investing both personally and professionally. She currently serves as the Chief Investment Officer for the Schwartz Capital Group, a Chicago family office. Priya also sits on the investment committee for Social Venture Partners Chicago. Read more about Priya’s journey into impact investing and what she looks for in her investments.

You have spent your career in traditional asset management and wealth management. How did you learn about impact investing and become an active impact investor? How is it similar or different to traditional investing?

I began my career at a firm that provided ESG research to investors. At the time, I was fascinated with the connection between financial performance and social impact, but over time grew discouraged by the lack of impact that screen-based investment strategies in public markets could produce. As my career evolved into hedge funds and asset management more broadly, I noticed the growth in impact investing in private markets. It seemed to offer the direct impact that initially attracted me to the field, while also providing the opportunity to earn solid investment returns.

As an investor in Impact Engine’s portfolio companies, can you tell us about the strategies you use when evaluating investments? What are some of the key qualities you look for in the companies you invest in?

Evaluating impact investments is similar to evaluating traditional investments. I try to assess the team, product or service offering, business model, and industry dynamic to determine whether the company will be successful in generating strong financial and non-financial returns. Many of the factors that drive market leading companies also drive high impact companies. There are of course additional considerations, such as evaluating the depth and/or scale of the potential impact and how it can be measured, but the nature of the due diligence process is shared.

You have worked for institutional asset managers and family offices. Can you talk about some of the unique considerations for families in making investments?   

Family offices are among the most unique investor types because no two offices are the same. Investment objectives, strategies, and processes vary widely based on family members’ interests and goals. Managing investment strategies for institutions typically involves a specified mandate that meets the most common needs of the underlying investors. For many family offices, the underlying investors will often prefer a more customized strategy. Many families are also interested in some level of involvement in the underlying portfolio companies.

Why do you think it is valuable to be part of the Impact Engine investor community?

I’ve been involved in impact investing both personally and professionally because I truly enjoy the process and results. The strength of a community that shares similar goals, contributes a diversity of ideas and skill sets, and is motivated to help one another makes me enjoy impact investing even more. It’s simply a multiplier effect. I’ve been part of other impact investing communities, but the local nature of Impact Engine is particularly appealing to me.

In your own portfolio, you have chosen to invest in impact funds as well as directly in companies. Can you talk about how you came to that decision?

My first impact investments were directly in companies and over time I added fund investments. While the process of sourcing ideas, digging deep into a company, and getting involved is satisfying, I find that my fund investments are more balanced by industry, type of impact, etc. Investments in funds also provide attractive co-investment opportunities.

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