Investing & Economy

Growing a Sustainable Garden of Business

Happiness Working from Home Yields Fruit

People working from home report a Workforce Happiness Index of 75 out of 100, compared to 71 for in-office employees, according to a CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey conducted in 2020. What’s more, remote workers indicated they are more likely to report being satisfied with their jobs than office-based workers, by a margin of 57 percent to 50 percent.

HorizonsFS headshotCount Kimberly Griego-Kiel, MBA, AIF® and president of Horizons Sustainable Financial Services Inc. among the converts for working from home.

“I always said for the past 20 years that I could never work at home; I would be so distracted that I’d never get anything done,” Griego-Kiel told Advisors Magazine in a recent interview. “But what I’ve found in the last 12 months is that I have been more productive.”

Although she’s back now in the Santa Fe, New Mexico office about a third of the time, Griego-Kiel reflected on how she’s grown personally and gotten better at balancing work and life. In short, it’s okay to get distracted because breaks can be beneficial.

“Last summer, I had the most amazing garden I’ve ever had in my life,” she chuckled. “I’ve always gardened, but last year it was great. Those 20- or 30-minute breaks to go out and do a few things in the garden actually made me a lot more productive and it was a great learning experience,” she said.

Like her garden, Griego-Kiel’s practice has also flourished. In the past year, the firm’s assets under management have more than doubled, and it’s serving some 300 client households. The new business stems mainly from an influx of work from Investment Advisory Representatives (IARs) that need her company’s expertise in socially responsible investing. Since 1998, Horizons Sustainable Financial Services has maintained an exclusive, laser-like focus in Sustainable, Responsible Impact Investments, or SRI.

“There are a lot of advisors out there who don’t know how to manage certain investments and that’s why they come to us,” she explained, adding, “And we have a reasonable price structure.”

Now in her 23rd year in the financial services industry, Griego-Kiel recalled how she fell into the business by accident. An Oregon native, she moved to Santa Fe in late 1998 on a whim, yearning for a complete change of lifestyle. She took a part-time job as an office manager with a gentleman who had a successful financial practice, specializing only in sustainable investing.

“I didn’t even know what a mutual fund was when I started with him,” Griego-Kiel said. “But I told him this is really interesting. I like this, and I would be interested in getting a license. And he said, ‘Great, I’ll pay for it.’”

She got all her licenses while working at the broker-dealer firm, started servicing clients and gradually developed her own client base. A few years later, the business owner asked her to be his partner and an agreement was formalized. They worked very well together for a number of years, and when he decided to retire, Griego-Kiel bought the practice from him in 2007. The timing, perhaps, could have been better.

“There I was, alone, through the market crash of 2008,” she recounted. “But I managed to maintain the business and started growing it again, working only in the sustainable investment industry.”

Johann Klassen headIn 2013 she brought in a business partner — Johann A. Klaassen, CFP®, AIF®— with whom she still works. With Klaassen as chief investment officer, they’ve grown the practice together into a $120 million assets under management company.

From not knowing anything about finance back in the late 1990s, Griego-Kiel now serves on the board of directors of the US SIF, The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment. US SIF ( is a non-profit, policy-advocating organization in Washington, DC, whose stated mission is to rapidly shift investment practices toward sustainability.
The work being done by the US SIF is significant to Griego-Kiel.

“At the end of the last administration we saw some rulings from the DOL that would have been somewhat detrimental to the sustainable investment industry,” she said. “There was so much concern around that, that some clients were thinking of pulling back from socially responsible funds. But as we’ve gone into this new administration, we’re seeing such rulings put on hold.”

She was quick to point out that the US SIF is now pushing for creation of a White House Office of Sustainable Finance and Business, and for appointing leadership at the SEC and the Department of Labor with knowledge of sustainable investment.

A dedicated social consciousness has been the strongest link throughout the chain of Griego-Kiel’s career. Fittingly, one of the first things a visitor to her firm’s website sees are the words ‘Invest Like You Give a Damn.’ She marvels at the growth of impact investing.

“When I first started, something like one in every 12 dollars was in socially responsible investing, and now it’s one in every three dollars,” she said, “So the demand has grown so much in 20-plus years; It’s phenomenal,” she commented.

“We’re very open on our website with blog posts and content about who we are. The right clients tend to find us. And while we can tailor a portfolio to pretty much any client’s needs, we tend to attract clients concerned about social issues,” she said.

One of the first things she tells prospective clients interested in SRI is that a portfolio will be created around their own values.

“It’s about what’s socially impactful to them, not to me,” Griego-Kiel explained. “Because I can invest what I want in my portfolio, but I want theirs to be tailored to them.”

2020 Trends 1995 to 2020 growth graphic SRI Basics
Toward that end, the firm has a social values worksheet that’s used for every client in order to customize their own portfolio. In addition to the social policy questionnaire, the firm also uses a more traditional financial values worksheet for prospective clients. Where the responses intersect can indicate the sweet spots for the individual clients in starting to build customized portfolios.

Horizons Sustainable Financial Services is a fee-based only practice. There usually is no account minimum because the firm maintains that everyone deserves sound financial advice.
“We want to help people get started—especially young people, the millennials who want to open their first IRA—so, we will help folks on an hourly rate basis.”
In fact, throughout the pandemic, the practice saw a hefty uptick in clients.

“So many people have been moving assets from non-sustainable investments into sustainable investment portfolios over the last 12 months,” Griego-Kiel said. “I can’t say for sure that has a lot to do with COVID — I think most of it has to do with more awareness, which has been building over the last four to five years.”

Client communication has been key in the age of COVID — via phone calls, video conferencing, and blogs and podcasts on the website. For Griego-Kiel, it’s been so effective that many of her clients now prefer not to visit the office.

“It sounds funny, but they appreciate the video component even if they live down the street,” she said. “I think the video meetings may feel a little more secure for them. So many people have become accustomed to the video piece and now prefer it, that I’ve had more success having my clients doing their regular reviews in this way.”
Over the next few years, the firm’s main goal is to expand its offerings to other firms.

“We have several clients where we’re working in the background managing assets,” she said. “Traditional registered investment advisor (RIA) firms have clients asking about sustainable investments, but they really don’t know how to manage their clients’ assets in fully diversified portfolios — but we do.”

Such other firms retain the client, but farm out the portfolio management process to Horizons Sustainable Financial Services. And by so doing, everyone’s garden grows.

For more information on Horizons Sustainable Financial Services, visit:


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