cassandraCassandra Laymon –  Beacon Wealth

June 2016

I Found Jesus in the Stock Market

How Biblically Responsible Investing Can Change Your Heart, Too



Donna: Cassandra, can you tell us a little about your background?

Cassandra: As soon as I graduated from college, I got very focused on success and getting ahead.  I started as a physical therapist, then pursed my Master’s in Adult Education and moved up to managing Organizational Development in a large health system. From there I completed an MBA in Finance, and left healthcare to start my own financial practice. The consistent thing for me was always feeling like I wasn’t good enough, and I didn’t have enough. I was in constant pursuit of a goal with no end in sight.  During that time, I also struggled with my relationships. I was married and divorced twice.  When I met the man who would become my husband, I was living with a boyfriend, and that wasn’t going well either.  My husband is also a financial advisor, and he introduced me to the concept of Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI).  I had been away from the church for about 20 years, so I was very skeptical about it.  My book tells the story of my journey as I learned about BRI, and how that transformed my heart and brought me back to the church.

cassandra-headshot-1-681x1024Donna: For those who haven’t heard of it, can you define Biblically Responsible Investing?

Cassandra:  There are actually two sides of BRI.  The first is that we avoid investing in companies that are involved in industries like abortion and pornography, and any industries that prey on the addictions of others, and companies that, in general, go against God’s word. You’d be surprised if you looked at your portfolio to see how much money is invested in – an promoting – those businesses.  The second part is to look for companies that seek to be a blessing. These are companies that treat their customers and employees well, and they are doing great work like curing diseases or just trying to make our world better. They are not necessarily Christian owned companies, but they do operate by the same set of principles.

People often ask if such companies exist. Of course no business is perfect, but we do highlight one company each month on our company blog called the True Wealth Spotlight.  We call these companies “Shining Light Companies” and it’s exciting to share all of the good things that these companies are striving to do in the marketplace and to be a blessing in the world.

Donna: In the book, do you recommend companies you should invest in or do you just walk through the process of how to do the screening?

Cassandra: I talk about the process of how to screen companies in the book. There are a couple of reason why I don’t recommend companies: 1) , there are a lot of regulations and compliance issues that go along with giving financial advice.  Also, there is never a “one size fits all” investment out there. 2) The other reason I don’t recommend companies is that business practices change all the time. There are companies, for example, that might have been big supporters of Planned Parenthood, and then people decided not to invest with them anymore and as a result the company stopped making those donations.  There are other companies that get involved with new business practices that we might not agree with so the information would not really be up to date at that point. We do we have a screening process that we use when people want to know what business practices they are supporting. It is updated constantly because we subscribe to research services who do this all the time. We are constantly updating and making changes not just on how the companies are performing but on the business practices they are involved in.

Donna: Biblically Responsible Investing was new to you, correct?

Cassandra: I knew about socially responsible investing. And, there is some overlap of businesses we don’t support, like alcohol, tobacco and gambling. subset of that with some overlap things like tobacco, gambling, alcohol. BRI tends to also screen out businesses that oppose our faith, such as companies involved in the abortion or pornography industries. The idea has been around for about 20 years but many investors, and even Christian financial advisors are still saying, “I never knew I could invest in alignment with my faith values!” We really want to ignite a movement of Biblically Responsible Investing and let everyone know this is possible.

cassandra-bookDonna: How do you know if your current financial advisor is using Biblically Responsible Investing?

Cassandra: If they haven’t talked to you about it, they are probably not using any kind of screening.  That is not a criticism. First, they might not even know it is possible and second, just like any business owner, you typically don’t start providing products until clients start asking you for them, because you don’t know there is a market for it. The best thing you can do is to ask them about BRI. If they have never heard of it, encourage them to learn more!  There is a section in the book for advisors so they can start to invest this way, too.

Once I realized what businesses I was unknowingly supporting, I decided that I didn’t want to invest the usual way anymore.    I actually converted my whole practice to this type of investing, even though I didn’t know if I had any Christian clients. I decided there are some things I don’t want to invest in and I am not going to help other people invest in them either, because it is just working against God’s greater purpose. I was nervous to make the change, but I really felt that this is what God was calling me to do.

Donna: Did you have any clients who said, “I can’t believe you are doing that?”

Cassandra: I lost two clients in the conversion to BRI. Most of my clients said, “I trust you, I think you are a good decision maker, and if you think this is the right way to go, let’s do it.”

I have a lot of clients who are not Christians, but they respect my convictions and integrity.

Donna: What motivated you to write this book?

Cassandra: I am a member of the C12 Group. They are a national organization of Christian CEOs that come together monthly for business coaching and peer accountability. The founder, Buck Jacobs, encouraged us to start to tell our testimony more often, because we have all been so positively impacted by our relationship with Jesus. I could relate to that – my life has changed dramatically. I felt like he was talking directly to me. I prayed about what that might look like, and kept getting signs that I was supposed to write this book. Once I was convinced that I should write this book, I sat down immediately and went to work!

Donna: You state that most people don’t understand what business practices they are investing in. Why do you think that is true?

Cassandra: In the past, decades ago, when you were an investor you actually knew the person who was running the business. You knew something about the business, so you could fairly determine whether or not you wanted to be a part owner of it. Today, because we have mutual funds and ETFs, it is much more complex. You could have one mutual fund which holds 50 companies, and you have no way of knowing what businesses they are participating in. Even as a financial advisor, I was not paying attention to that level of detail. I just didn’t think about it. Today you also have huge companies, that are involved in many diverse business practices. There may be some things you agree with – maybe they sell diapers and baby lotion – but they might also manufacture abortifacient drugs. It is really hard to figure out what you’re investing in. Because of that, investing has become a very abstract concept.  People have lost the understanding that when you are an investor, you are an owner of that company, and you are a partner in its success. I like to say you are praying with your dollars that the company is going to do more of what they are already doing. Whether it is abortion, pornography or getting kids hooked on smoking in Third world countries, you are saying, “Take my money, do more of what you are already doing and together we are going to make a boat load of money.”

Donna:  Do you have people that do the research that are focused on the company’s business practices?

Cassandra: Yes, we subscribe to several research companies who do this kind of work.  We are then able to enter your portfolio holdings into a software program, and we can tell you the percentage of your portfolio devoted to different business practices. For instance, many mutual funds would show results of 40-60% of the money invested in business practices we would screen out.

Donna : If someone wants to invest in a Biblically Responsible way, and they don’t want to change financial advisors, what advice do you give them?

Cassandra: The first thing I would do is talk to your financial advisor. Find out if they know about Biblically Responsible Investing. If they don’t, at Beacon Wealth Consultants we have a lot of resources and we always tell people to ask their financial advisor to call us, and we will point them in the right direction and help them to invest this way.

There are other groups that bring together advisors and money managers that practice Biblically Responsible Investing, such as the Christian Investment Forum. We can help educate financial advisors because that opens up a new door for them. They may have a number of clients who would be interested in investing this way. We have resources to help them.

Donna: It doesn’t appear that you wrote the book to get clients.

Cassandra: My primary purpose was to educate Christians about this type of investing. Most people I talk to have no idea what their investments are funding and they are pretty shocked when they find out. I have to give the credit to my husband. From the moment I met him, he has been talking about how we have got to ignite a movement of Biblically Responsible investing. That wasn’t my passion initially, but it has become my passion. He works really well with coaching financial advisors to do this type of investing. If, however, someone is looking for an advisor, we would love to have a conversation with them. We have advisors in several different states.

Donna: Have you seen companies change some of their practices based on the investing?

Cassandra: Yes! There are companies that will change their business practices if enough shareholders object to it. For example, with the attention to Planned Parenthood and their business practices in recent months, there are companies that have stopped making contributions to them.

Donna:  What could be the impact of Biblical Responsible Investing?

Cassandra: I think it can make a difference for a couple of reasons. First, as you can imagine, if we all came together and invested this way, we could make a tremendous impact on the businesses in our country and the world. Now, that might feel a little overwhelming. We tend to think, “I am just one lone investor. What difference does my small portfolio make?”  It’s like voting. We vote, even though we know our one vote may not make the difference. But it’s about voting together with others who have the same standards that we do, in the hope that our candidate gets elected and makes changes we desire.
The more immediate and impactful difference for me was how it changed me personally and spiritually. When I started this journey I was not a Bible reader or a church goer, and I really was not that passionate about my work. Because this type of investing has impacted my faith journey, it has made a better person in a number of different areas of my life. I feel like I’m in alignment with my values and my money, and I have to tell you, that feels great! I encourage everyone to learn more so they can experience the confidence and freedom that I now experience due to this transformation.