Ron Cordes: How To Make Your Second Career Count
Start a company, grow it to tremendous heights, sell it for a boatload of money, retire to an island and work on your golf game. That’s the entrepreneur’s plan, right? Wrong! Many successful entrepreneurs just aren’t ready to hang up their thinking caps—even after a prosperous exit. Instead, they take on another grand endeavor, often one where personal enrichment is not the ultimate goal.
Ron Cordes is one of those who have dedicated his second career to making a difference on a large scale. In addition to setting up his own charitable foundation, he uses the financial services savvy he accrued during the first half of his professional life to benefit ImpactAssets—a $200 million fund he co-founded that connects high value investors to socially-leaning enterprises. Says Cordes: “I’d had this concept in college that the first third of your life was to learn, the second third was to earn and the final third was to return.”
Cordes’s first act was AssetMark, a financial consulting firm for independent investment advisors. He co-founded and grew the company until selling it to Genworth Financial in 2006 for $230 million. He agreed to stay on as CEO for an additional three years but all the while contemplated his next move. Rather than give his money away to worthy non-profits, Cordes chose a more proactive philanthropic role. “I became enamored with the concept of social entrepreneurship,” he says. In a phrase, that’s “impact investing,” or investing in companies and funds that focus on any number of social issues like clean technology, organics, or renewable energy.
Partnering with a civic-minded community investment firm, the Calvert Foundation, Cordes founded ImpactAssets in 2010 to act as an investment/giving machine. Chief investment officer, Fran Seegull, explains: “Individuals, families and others make a donation to ImpactAssets – we are a non-profit – and we start a donor advised fund account for them. So it’s like a family foundation, but the assets are on our balance sheet. Then the donors advise us on how they want their account invested and how they would like to make grants. The Investments team sources and does due diligence on different impact investment options for the donors to choose from.”
Recipients of investment have included Elevar Equity, a Seattle-based private equity fund active in microcredit, low-income housing finance, payment networks, rural healthcare, migrant services and small to medium-sized enterprises. Also SJF Ventures, which bets money on cleantech, renewable energy, organic products and infrastructure tech. Funds can also end up as seed money for startups within Village Capital, an incubator whose companies focus on solving global problems. Any profits donors see go back into the fund.
Through ImpactAssets, Cordes comes in contact with a lot of successful folks looking to make an impact beyond their first careers. “They just happened to work really hard, to be in the right place at the right time, were able to achieve more financial success than they needed for whatever lifestyle they wanted to lead,” says Cordes. “There’s just this feeling that there’s a responsibility and an opportunity to find a way to give back.”
Original post in Forbes