“Biblically responsible investing, or BRI, is booming as investment managers who are losing assets to index fund strive to find new niches,” writes columnist Jason Zweig in a recent article for The Wall Street Journal. Evangelicals and other Christians are increasingly seeking investment management and financial planning that aligns with their interpretation of “biblical principles.”
While some gravitate toward socially responsible companies that “recruit LGBT workers or donate to Planned Parenthood and the like,” he writes, “By contrast, biblically responsible investors shun companies that profit from or support abortion, pornography, gambling, or LGBT issues.”
But Zweig argues that, whatever your beliefs, the approach faces broad challenges: “You can salve your conscience, or you can earn higher returns. It isn’t likely you can do both.”
Rob West, president of Kingdom Advisors Inc., and Atlanta nonprofit that educates Christian financial professionals, says that biblically driven clients have been “an underserved majority” and that approximately 1,200 active advisers have been designated Certified Kingdom Advisors to show they have been trained to offer financial advice according to biblical principles. The number has more than doubled since 2014, says West.
“Whether faith-based investing will pay off in this world or only in the next is another question,”
writes Zweig, explaining that the filters used to identify companies can cause a BRI portfolio to deviate from the broader market. “Whether socially responsible funds, in general, outperform is hotly disputed,” he argues, adding, “There isn’t much evidence that socially responsible investing generates significantly higher returns.”
Zweig also points out that investors should be aware that in BRI, like any other arm of investing, there have been “unscrupulous promoters” that have “exploited the trust of the faithful. “Precisely because you might drop your guard with someone who says he shares your faith,” Zweig warns, “you should always check a biblically oriented adviser’s background with extra care at brokercheck.finra.org and adviserinfo.sec.gov.”