In July of 2008, Tim Nash moved to Toronto ready to take the investment world by storm.
He had just completed a Masters in sustainability in Sweden, after graduating with a BA in economics from Dalhousie University in Halifax. While on exchange in New Zealand during his undergrad, Nash was introduced to triple bottom-line economics, which focused on people and the planet and profit.
“For the first time I started to have a language for all of the problems I was having with all of the economic models I was being taught,” says Nash.
Nash had also witnessed extreme poverty during a recent trip to India and realized that the economic system wasn’t working for the vast majority of people, or the planet. In Sweden, he had worked with the man who (quite literally) wrote the book on sustainable investing, Bob Willard.
“Everything that I was learning was that there’s a business case for sustainability,” says Nash.
Nash’s arguments for sustainability are pretty solid: Sustainable companies use less energy, less water, and less materials. Their employees are more productive because care about the business and there is lower turnover. On the revenue end of things, customers are more loyal and willing to pay a premium.
Back in Toronto, his signature enthusiasm was put to the test.
“Three months later the markets crash, and they keep crashing, and it’s the worst crash since the great depression,” recalls Nash.
He moved back in with his parents in his hometown of London, Ontario. In January 2009 (after “banging his head against the wall for a few months”) Nash made a decision.
“Fuck it,” he thought. “I’m starting my own company.”
His first client was the “radical nuns” at the Catherine Donnelly Foundation, who he met with for tea on the fourth floor of CSI Spadina. The Foundation, whose top holding was previously Exxon Mobil, divested from fossil fuels.
With a glowing recommendation from the nuns to get him in the door, Nash’s plan was to go after big fish like foundations, pensions, and endowments.
“I thought that was my golden ticket, that of course foundations would be lined up around the block to hire me,” says Nash. “Meeting after meeting was no, no, not yet, sorry, no. They weren’t ready.” Nash was broke and had to accept that his business model wasn’t working.
Nash picked up a “side hustle” teaching intro to micro and macroeconomics at Sheridan College two days a week — and an early inheritance from his grandfather — helped him pay off his student loans and credit card debt. With the small amount of money he had left, Nash started thinking about how he would invest it. He was drawn towards the idea of DIY index investing.
“I looked at the companies that were inside these index funds and I was like ‘hell no’,” he says. The list included tobacco, military, tar sands, and pipelines. This didn’t mesh with Nash’s deeply held values. So he started researching socially responsible and green index funds, but it was difficult to find information about them online.
That’s when he launched his Sustainable Economist blog, and posted his first model portfolio, The Organic Couch Potato (riffing off of the popular the couch potato investing strategy).
Then he started getting emails from prospective clients. He says the majority of the messages were “I don’t really understand what you’re talking about but I want to invest my money in this way.”
Nash joined CSI in 2009 on the advice of a friend. The advantages were immediately obvious. Having the address 215 Spadina (with a space to have private meetings that included green roof with a view) gave him instant credibility. Being able to rent rooms for private meetings cut costs dramatically. But it was the sense of community that sold him.
“These were people were working on social and environment issues near and dear to my heart,” he says. His fellow hot deskers made him feel like he wasn’t alone. Seeing them survive and thrive inspired him.
“More than anything, it was someone to high five me when I landed a new client or a big contract … and a shoulder to cry on when I lost a big contract,” says Nash.
Nash received a CSI Catapult Loan to fund a new website for Good Investing, his new brand, which he launched in late October.
Good Investing is based on education and empowerment. Nash teaches his clients the basics of investing, learns about their values, and provides options that they can evaluate together. Clients can focus on gender diversity, renewable energy, or community bonds (for example). Nash calls himself an investment coach, not a manager, advisor, or a broker.
On February 21, 2018 Nash is holding the third annual Good Investment Fair – which he calls “a farmers’ market for impact investments” – at the CSI Annex location. Attendees are given five million dollars in fake money to “invest” on site. Last year over 300 people attended the fair at the Annex location.
Nash describes himself as a big nerd, and proud of it.
“This is my life, this is what I do, I sort of eat sleep and breath it,” he says, eyes gleaming. “I love this shit.”
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