Accomplishing the goal of making a difference | Andrew Siwo '08

Andrew Siwo

The Ezra Cornell belief of any student finding instruction in any study is something I took literally. That was very valuable to me."

Andrew Siwo, CIPA '08

Andrew Siwo, CIPA ’08, has focused his career on making a difference in the world – and he’s uniquely accomplishing that goal. Siwo is the first-ever director of sustainable investments and climate solutions at the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the third-largest public pension fund in the United States.

Essentially, the state of New York hired Siwo to oversee a $20 billion investment portfolio of sustainable investments, which have a dual objective of generating a profit and a social or environmental benefit. Siwo focuses his investments on resources and efficiency, human rights and social inclusion, and economic development.

"Climate change, for example, is a known risk, particularly to sizeable investment portfolios," Siwo said. "Investors that are able to effectively address risks and opportunities are better positioned to outperform. My role involves sourcing and underwriting investment strategies across all asset classes that advance the Fund’s goals."

Siwo’s father is a professor and his mother is a medical professional who immigrated to the United States from Kenya. It was their careers in service and his upbringing in East Africa that sparked an interest in forging a finance career that involved an aspect of public service.

"Profit and purpose can co-exist," Siwo said. "Wall-Street’s reputation is still recovering from the global financial crisis that occurred over ten years ago, and sustainable investments have emerged as attractive, risk-adjusted investments that can address large scale problems and meet financial goals consistent with fiduciary responsibility."

Throughout his career, Siwo has worked in three distinct sectors: for-profit, non-profit, and now government. To become an expert in an emerging field of finance often referred to as impact investing, Siwo left his job at J.P. Morgan for the Global Impact Investing Network, a non-profit credited with coining the term “impact investing.” There, he developed the largest platform of impact investment funds that connected asset owners and asset managers, addressing a largely fragmented market. From there, he became the head of mission-related Investments at Colonial Consulting, an investment firm that stewarded the assets of leading foundations and endowments. In January, he joined the New York State Common Retirement Fund.

"The world is transitioning from companies desiring to maximize shareholder value to maximizing stakeholder value," Siwo said. "Since there is only one planet to live on, addressing the scarcity of resources through renewable energy and other environmentally-friendly alternatives are paramount."

In addition to identifying investments, Siwo is focused on pushing for environmental and social change in the companies the Fund invests in. For example, earlier this year the New York State Common Retirement Fund reached a deal with Coca Cola wherein the company agreed to more closely align executive salaries with the firm’s overall compensation philosophy for all employees. "A motivated workforce with proper incentives will likely experience fewer employee-related incidents that can be costly distractions," Siwo said.

"Engagement and advocacy is a powerful shareholder tool that allows investors to improve the quality of their investments by playing an active role in alerting company brass to both risk and opportunities," Siwo said. "Over and over again, we see the consequences of being disconnected to stakeholders. There are numerous opportunities for investors to assist companies they own in avoiding missteps, which sometimes seem obvious when too late to react properly."

Siwo was attracted to the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs master’s program for its multidisciplinary focus. "In addition to core courses, I took classes in the hotel school, law school, business school, labor relations school, and across several academic disciplines," he said. "The Ezra Cornell belief of any student finding instruction in any study is something I took literally. That was very valuable to me."

"In the jobs that I’ve held since leaving Cornell, I have been able to apply these diverse learnings and thinking across a broad range of positions. A Cornell MPA degree has allowed me to pursue a career that is rewarding on many levels and I look forward to surmounting the challenges ahead."

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