If you want to explain economic concepts to everyday Californians, you could do a lot worse than enlisting Bill Clinton.

The former president keynoted Banc of California Inc.’s financial literacy event at USC’s Galen Center on Nov. 10, which provided financial skills training to nearly 6,000 at-risk youths from the Los Angeles area. The Guinness Book of World Records was there to confirm that the event set a world record: biggest ever financial literacy training.

Clinton explained the concept to those in attendance with his trademark folksy charm.

“Financial literacy is a very fancy term for saying: Spend it smart, don’t blow it, save what you can,” he said at the event.

The financial literacy training came at a busy time for the Irvine bank, which has lately been making inroads in Los Angeles. Its purchase of 20 branches in Los Angeles and Orange counties – and more than $1 billion in assets – from Puerto Rico’s Popular Community Bank officially closed last week.

The California Reinvestment Coalition, a powerful statewide advocacy group made up of many local organizations, opposed the deal at first, but Banc of California was eventually able to get the coalition’s blessing. The bank got a huge assist from former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who serves on its advisory board and acted as a liaison between it and the coalition. (The Business Journal covered Banc of California’s talks with the coalition in the Oct. 20 edition.)

In an interview at the bank’s Beverly Hills office, Chief Executive Steve Sugarman described the talks with the coalition as a really interesting and rewarding process and said he was pleased with how everything played out. He also reiterated that community events such as the one at USC, where bank Vice Chairman Chad Brownstein also spoke, are an integral part of the bank’s strategy.

“I was really proud to be sitting next to Paulina Gonzalez at the event,” he said, referring to the coalition’s executive director. “What’s been exciting is as we’ve gotten to know organizations like the CRC, they’ve seen that the things we’re doing are real and tangible. That’s building the trust that we need with all of these community leaders.”

Green Backers

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management has started a program called Investing With Impact, which aims to give investors an opportunity for solid returns while doing good. And a local adviser, Chip Stone in Glendale, is one of the program’s main champions.

The Investing With Impact program offers more than 115 different investment products, such as exchange-traded funds, that are structured to deliver market-rate returns while investing in companies that make a positive social or environmental impact.

Stone said that over the last two to three years in particular he’s seen an increase in clients coming to him wanting their investment portfolios to be more aligned with their personal values.

“More and more, that’s been coming up in meetings,” he said.

He said that nearly one in nine dollars managed by financial advisers in the United States, or $3.7 trillion, follow investment strategies that focus on things like social responsibility, environmental sensitivity and good governance. And with so many companies jumping on the sustainability train, investors no longer have to choose between backing companies they philosophically agree with and companies that make money.

“Twenty years ago, if you were giving up alcohol, tobacco – what were considered the old sin stocks – investors had to grapple with the concept that they might be giving up returns,” Stone said. “There’s been kind of a paradigm shift. Because of what’s going on with innovation in environmental and socially conscious companies, you can start to see and expect returns that are comparable.”

Stone said that digging into companies to see where they’re succeeding – or failing – in those efforts only adds to traditional equity analysis.

“You’re basically mitigating risk,” he said. “This is an enhancement on the research.”

C-Suite News

New York finance giant Morgan Stanley Wealth Management has promoted L.A. financial adviser Larry Palmer to the newly created position of senior adviser to field management. Palmer will serve as a liaison between local advisers and senior execs, advising the latter on policies affecting Morgan Stanley’s approximately 16,000 financial advisers. … Erik Velastegui and Deborah Ironson Katz have joined the L.A. corporate banking practice of Atlanta investment bank SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. Velastegui was previously with Birmingham, Ala., bank BBVA Compass; while Ironson Katz was formerly with San Francisco finance giant Wells Fargo & Co. … Fort Worth, Texas, accounting firm Weaver is expanding to Southern California for the first time. The company named Matthew Anderson as an audit partner and has tasked him with launching an L.A. office.

Staff reporter Matt Pressberg can be reached at mpressberg@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 230.

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