By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)
“Pax World is very focused on the notion of gender equality as an investment concept,” said Joe Keefe, President and CEO of Pax World, the first US mutual fund to focus on environmental, social and governance factors (ESG) in investment analysis and decision making.
“Our women’s empowerment platform includes applying a gender lens to all of our funds, while our Global Women’s Equality Fund is the only mutual fund in America focused on investing in companies that are global leaders in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment. Additionally, our proxy voting policy is straightforward: if the slate of directors is all male, we withhold support and send a letter to the company explaining why and encouraging them to embrace gender diversity.”
He continued, “And it goes beyond putting more women in the boardroom or senior management. Investing in women and girls is a critical strategy for promoting sustainable development and alleviating global poverty.”
A Solid Reputation in SRI
Keefe has been with Pax World for five years and was the driver behind the company’s recent growth. He explained, “Before, it was a much smaller, less professionally managed company. In fact, my first order of business was steering the company through a regulatory investigation by and settlement with the SEC. What we focused on during my first few years as CEO was professionalizing the company – improved legal, compliance, operational and fund management.”
He continued, “We’ve built a very strong organization, and once we got the basics right, we were able to grow – we have launched nine new funds over the past three years. But we had to go back to business basics at first.”
Before joining Pax, Keefe was Executive Vice President and General Council of New Circle Communications, a consultancy in the Social Responsible Investment (SRI) space. Before that, he worked for Citizens Funds, and prior to that he practiced law for 16 years.
Looking forward, Keefe said, “In the future, I still see myself here – I love the people and the mission of improving the social and environmental impact of companies and markets.”
Advice for Leaders
Keefe said, “The best advice I ever got was when I was in high school. I was running for president of the student council and my room mate and best friend was running against me – and he was really popular. I was worried I wasn’t going to win. And my uncle said, ‘don’t capitulate’.”
He continued, “That still speaks to me 40 years later. Perseverance, being resilient. If you want to accomplish something, be prepared to be in it for the long term.”
His other piece of advice? “The older you get, the more you realize that attitude is everything.”
He explained, “You’re always encountering crises and you can’t let fear get the better of you. It’s a matter of courage and acceptance over fear and anxiety. It’s a Buddhist-like attitude – it can help you be a good leader.”