Bair Wants Clients to Bring Their Full Selves to the Table

The firm founded by Marci Bair looks to create an environment where clients can be their authentic selves.

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Reviewed by: Advisor Views
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Edited by: Advisor Views

This article is part of a new series from etf.com highlighting financial advisors. 

Marci BairMarci Bair founded Bair Financial Planning in 1992. Her firm specializes in serving the LGBTQ+ community and women who are business owners and leaders. Bair recently spoke with etf.com about the focus of her practice.  

etf.com: What was the underlying ethos that guided you when you launched your firm? 

Marci Bair: I'm a coach. Both my kids are very athletically inclined, so we got to spend a lot of time on different athletic endeavors—baseball, soccer, football, basketball, you name it. I was an athlete myself and a coach at heart. I think this type of business, as a certified financial planner just dovetails perfectly into that.  

I think the origin is just really consulting and helping people out—being their financial coach, being there, as their certified financial planner, and just helping them grow incrementally and [become] more financially secure and realize their goals. That’s been the basis of our firm from the very beginning. 

etf.com: How would you characterize the customer base that you serve? 

Bair: We primarily serve women in leadership and LGBTQ+ community and their allies. It reflects me, and our clients reflect that as well. They’re drawn to us because of that and the type of investing we do.  

We come across in a very consultative and educational manner. We say on our website and when we speak to people that we want this to be a safe space for people to bring their whole self to a meeting, where they can be authentic, bring their partner, so that we can really get to the root of what their hopes and dreams are and do our best planning for them. 

etf.com: How do you use exchange-traded funds in your portfolios? 

Bair: Since we specialize in sustainable and impact investing—our tagline for our firm is “impact investing for sustainable wealth”—so we're really looking for funds that support that and have high scores for ESG.  

Obviously, we want to build around large U.S. companies, and then from there build out into international, emerging markets, smaller companies and such. My business partner Victor Orozco, along with our CIO, is tasked with that—coming up with the universe of funds that meet the criteria. Then they start screening based on what the history of that fund is. How long have they been investing in that manner? What is the scoring matrix that they come up with? 

etf.com: When it comes to ESG, do you prefer passive or active management? 

Bair: We have several different ESG portfolios. One of them is mostly actively managed funds with some individual stocks. We like that approach for certain clients, because they like the shareholder advocacy piece of that. They like that these companies have departments that are focused on shareholder advocacy.  

That's where we feel that we're going to make an impact with not only our dollars, but then also those companies making a shift to operating their company in a more environmentally conscious way, a more socially responsible way and with higher corporate governance. Those actively managed funds have those shareholder advocacy departments, and really, on behalf of all of the shareholders, are able to impact some change that way.  

With our ETF model, those are clients who are looking maybe for a little bit of a lower cost option. But then also, we can get a little bit more niche, if you will, with regards to adding some additional funds, whether that be on human rights and freedom, or women in leadership, or clean water. We can add those to our ETF version. We also have a gender lens portfolio that focuses mostly on companies that have a higher percentage of women in leadership. 

etf.com: Is there a lot of variation in what your clients are looking for in terms of ESG? 

Bair: I would say not. Most of them are more middle-of-the-road in that they’re concerned about the environment and sustainability as well as social responsibility. It's not that they lean heavier towards the environment and less towards social issues, our particular client base is more down the middle in that they're equally weighted.  

They want companies with good corporate governance instead of shady companies doing shady things, and [they want] high quality companies that have good ethics. They want to invest in companies that have good social responsibility, are concerned about social justice and treating their employees fairly [as well as] the communities around them, and [they want companies concerned about] the environment. We may have a little bit higher [leaning] towards women in leadership.  

Advisor Views is a series of Q&A-style interviews with RIAs that is designed to highlight how they use ETFs in their practices.

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