In this episode of Capital for Good, Roy Swan, the director of mission investments at the Ford Foundation, describes how his childhood aspirations for a career helping people, and his decades of experience in banking, community and economic development, and sustainable finance, have culminated in his work at the Ford Foundation where, he says, “our job is all about making the world better.” Swan recalls his enthusiasm when learning in 2017 that Ford had committed $1 billion of its then $12.4 billion endowment to mission-related investing: “I thought, the Ford Foundation and Darren Walker have just moved the world.” Swan joined the foundation from Morgan Stanley shortly thereafter and has helped shape and execute its mission investing strategy, focusing on private investments that achieve market rate returns and social impact in areas of affordable housing, financial inclusion, quality jobs, and identifying diverse fund managers to deploy Ford’s capital (more recently it has also expanded into biotech and health tech in the global south). Swan says that he has never been more hopeful about the future of impact investing, chiefly because we now have the data that underscore the cost — social and financial — of deep social and environmental problems (i.e., the $16 trillion lost over the last two decades in the United States to racial gaps in wages, education, housing, and investment) and the positive social benefits and economic and financial returns that come from fairness, equity, and responsible corporate behavior.
Mentioned in this episode:
- Mission Investments (Ford Foundation)
- Transformative Capital: How Mission-related Investing Can Deepen Foundations’ Impact (Ford Foundation)
- Closing the Racial Inequality Gaps: the Economic Cost of Black Inequality in the US (Citi GPS, 2020)
- The Economic Impact of Closing the Racial Wealth Gap (McKinsey & Company, 2019)
- The Good Jobs Institute at MIT
- The Good Jobs Solution, Zeynep Ton (Harvard Business Review, 2017)
About Roy Swan:
Roy Swan is the director of mission investments of the Ford Foundation, where he leads the foundation’s mission investments team, managing Ford’s portfolio of mission-related investments (MRIs) and program-related investments (PRIs), and working to expand and strengthen the impact investing field.
Before joining Ford, Roy served as managing director and co-head of global sustainable finance at Morgan Stanley. During his time at Morgan Stanley, global sustainable finance committed over $13 billion in community development transactions. Among his prior experiences, he was the founding chief investment officer of New York City’s Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ), a federal initiative to bring new resources to distressed urban communities, which played a key role in Harlem’s economic rebirth. He also served as CFO at Carver Bancorp, a Harlem-based publicly traded financial institution and the nation’s largest African American managed bank. Over the course of his career, Roy has worked in corporate law at Skadden Arps, investment banking at The First Boston Corporation, Salomon Brothers, and JPMorgan, and finance at Time Warner.
Roy serves on several nonprofit boards, including the Dalton School, Enterprise Community Partners, Low Income Investment Fund, and the Partnership for After School Education. He also serves on the advisory boards of several private equity funds. Roy received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a JD from Stanford Law School, where he was an editor of the Stanford Law Review.